Looking forward to baron rating Dark Star Hophead

I grew up in Brighton down on the south coast, which is original home of Dark Star Brewing Co. Shame I wasn't into ales at that point as otherwise it might have been hard to leave there...

Dark Star have been very good to the baron over the years, with guided tours, free swag and also a chance to try their latest bottled ales as soon as they have come off the bottling line. That's pretty much what happened last week when their new bottled ale, Hophead arrived:


Dark Star Brewing Co.
  • Hophead - 3.8% perfectly balanced light ale, straw coloured finest malted barley and delicate fruity Cascade hop flavours
This is Dark Star's number one cask ale, accounting for around half of the brewery's annual production. Not really a surprise when the cask version is excellent - an extremely tasty sub-4% beer which is completely sessionable. Once you've got a taste for it you don't move from it for the rest of the evening! Let's hope the bottled version is as good, it's got a lot to live up to!

Look out for baron ratings for these Dark Star Brewing Co. beers soon, and a big thank you to James (@darkstarbrewco) for sending them through to me!

Buy Dark Star ales direct

Central Coast Catch 23

Not can conditioned
Central Coast Catch 23 [baron rating 5/5] - 7.5% black ale,roasted malt fresh green hop smell,roasted burnt coffee taste,fresh hoppy finish
Thank you to Paul Kruzycki from Ales By Mail for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Central Coast ales from Ales By Mail

Looking forward to baron rating Stringers gluten-free Outlook ales

Stringers Brewery from Ulverston, Cumbria. One of my favourite breweries who brew one of my top ten beers and possibly my 'desert island discs, take only one beer' beer - Stringers IPA.

Jon and Becky are great people working very hard to brew great beer which is now not only available in small independent places but also in the North West's Booths supermarket chain. They have a solid range of bottled ales and have now come out with two new ones both of which are gluten free:

Lovely looking bottles but why the same name?
Stringers Brewery
  • Outlook - 4.9% Gluten-free amber ale, brewed with pale & crystal malts, Northern Brewer & Cascade hops with flavours of caramel, herbal & spicy
  • Outlook - 3.7% Gluten-free golden ale, brewed with pale & wheat malts, Northern Brewer, Challenger & Mittelfruh hops with flavours of light lemon, herbal & honey
These beers are "Crafted to remove Gluten":

Our brewing process removes Gluten. Proper beer, made with barley malt, but less than 20ppm Gluten.

I really like the look of these new Stringers beers, they have taken a step away from the round style (see brewery logo above) which I still love, but these labels appear fresh and clean with a classy look. What I'm not happy with is the choice of the same name for both beers, is Outlook trying to be a gluten-free brand within the Stringers brand? I can see conversations like this:

"Get me some Stringers Outlook please as it's really nice"
"Yeap, they had some, here you go..."
"Oh no I didn't mean the X ale I meant the Y one!"

Jon, if you've got any comments or reasons for the labeling then please get in touch and I'll update this post with your input, would be useful to see the reasoning from the brewery's eyes.

Thank you to Jon (@StringersBeer) from Stringers for handing this over for a baron rating!

Buy Stringers ales from Source Deli, Booths & Holborn Ales

Tap It Ale Camino

Not bottle conditioned
Tap It Ale Camino [baron rating 4/5] - 5.5% amber ale,sweet brown bread smell,rye brown bread bittersweet taste,long dry mild toasted finish
Thank you to Paul Kruzycki from Ales By Mail for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Tap It ales from Ales By Mail

Beavertown 8 Ball can

Beavertown 8 Ball can [baron rating 5/5] - 6.2% dark amber ale,rich candied caramel smell,malty big bitter taste,bitter dusty rye finish
Listen to what Chris and the Baron have to say about it

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Thank you to Paul Kruzycki from Ales By Mail for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Beavertown ales from Ales By Mail

Cumberland Corby Fox

Cumberland Corby Fox [baron rating 2/5] - 4.7% brown ale,raisins malt loaf smell,balanced raisin watery start taste,long malty finish
Listen to what Chris and the Baron have to say about it

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Thank you to Siobhan from Beer52 for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Cumberland ales from Beer52

Gayant La Goudale

Not bottle conditioned
Gayant La Goudale [baron rating 3/5] - 6% gold beer,earthy yeasty straw smell,sweet buttery apple/pear taste,light juicy fruity finish

Fourpure Amber Ale

Fourpure Amber Ale [baron rating 3/5] - 5.1% amber ale,mild clementine smell,mild candied sweetness bit bitter taste,too bitter dry taste
Listen to what Chris and the Baron have to say about it

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Thank you to Paul Kruzycki from Ales By Mail for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Fourpure ales from Ales By Mail

Baron on Tour: Old School Brewery 'Meet The Brewer'

We rarely get 'meet the brewer' nights in Ormskirk, most of the previous ones I've helped arrange... This time I found out about it from my mate @Judging_Jester who spotted that the Cricketers pub in town was hosting one with Old School Brewery.

I've heard of OSB before but never tasted their beers and with the added incentive of £2/pint a few of us headed down on a Tuesday evening to see what they were like. I arrived at 7pm to find a 'new bar' constructed within the pub, three OSB handpulls on offer and glasses full of malt and hops. No one from the brewery appeared to be around and the extra bar had no bar staff yet so I opted for an OSB beer from the normal bar - Detention - a 4.1% golden bitter, mild sulphurous smell with a lovely creamy zesty taste with a touch of spice at the end. The finish was a long-lasting bitter finish, spicy with a touch of herbalness, very drinkable and quite a 'hop forward' bitter.

This was the first 'Meet The Brewer' event for the pub and it seemed to pull a decent crowd, it was pretty busy in there considering it was a Tuesday night in October. The brewery didn't really do much in the way of 'meeting' the drinkers, the mic was switched on and basically said "come to the bar, get some beer and talk to us if you want" - that was it, no discussion about the history of the brewery, nothing about the beers or brewing process, etc. As I know a bit about my beers I was comfortable speaking to the owner and brewers there about different topics, but I wonder how many 'normal' people actually went up and asked questions or engaged with the brewery. I think these MTB events are a perfect way to get customer loyalty based on showing that it's run on a down-to-earth, making-an-honest-living type way but none of this came across as there was little or no forced interaction from the brewery.

To be fair, maybe the brewery was nervous about such an event with it being such a 'spotlight' on their beers and brewery but I felt let down that it wasn't more engaging. The other guys I was with that night also expressed the same sentiments.

That aside it was very nice to be able to try most of their range for a great price as well at talk to the owner Ren about where the brewery came from (14th century old school) and to find out that they are brewing with Lancaster Brewery's old kit (12bbl). So onto the beers...



Textbook - 3.9% gold ale, no aroma off this one at all, has a 'delicate' mild spicy weak orange squash taste and a creamy wheaty finish - not really my cup of tea at all.



Playtime - 4.2% pale gold ale, had a mild citrus smell and a nice fruity spicy taste, a nice taste pale ale but the Detention had more going for it and was only 0.1% stronger.



Absent IPA - 5.5% amber ale, now this is more like it, fruity chewy malt-lead IPA but with a great bitterness to balance it out. Burnt toast, caramel and big malty flavours were there and a good bitter finish to round it off.

OSB owner & brewer
I had a great night at The Cricketers and I hope they continue to host 'Meet The Brewer' nights, I only hope that the brewery engage with the audience more, most people will feel intimidated by the brewery and so need more forced interaction to be able to get more out of the evening.

I wish every success to Old School Brewery, they have a fairly stable lineup and sound like they know what they want to brew - there was talk about an imperial stout and double IPAs (I think!).



Harbour Pale Ale

Bottle conditioned with perfect carbonation
Harbour Pale Ale [baron rating 5/5] - 6% copper ale,citrus tropical smell,balanced fruity bittersweet taste,dry grainy finish

Skinner's Porthleven

Not bottle conditioned
Skinner's Porthleven [baron rating 4/5] - 4.8% pale gold ale,grapefruit smell,zingy zesty bitter citrus taste,refreshing bitter lemon finish

Black Wolf Coulls

Not bottle conditioned
Black Wolf Coulls [baron rating 4/5] - 4.2% pale gold lager,grassy smell,crisp balanced peachy smooth taste,pretty dry mild fruity finish
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Thank you to Siobhan from Beer52 for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Black Wolf ales from Beer52

Butcombe IPA

Not bottle conditioned
Butcombe IPA [baron rating 3/5] - 5% amber ale,caramel spicy apple smell,balanced spicy peppery prickly bitter taste,dry bittersweet finish

Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout v2

Bottle conditioned with perfect carbonation
Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout v2 [baron rating 4/5] - 7.5% black ale,vineous mild choc smell,smooth winey choc taste,bit thin finish
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Thank you to Paul Kruzycki from Ales By Mail for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Bristol Beer Factory ales from Ales By Mail

Thwaites Crafty Dan

Not bottle conditioned
Thwaites Crafty Dan [baron rating 4/5] - 6% copper ale,spicy zingy tropical smell,peppery spicy lime taste,lingering caramel bitter finish

RedWillow Heartless

Bottle conditioned with perfect carbonation
RedWillow Heartless [baron rating 4/5] - 4.9% black ale,70% dark choc smell,berries burnt mild astringent taste,long black coffee finish