Great British Beer Hunt: Pumphouse Pale Ale and Manchester Star Ale

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Sambrook’s Pumphouse Pale Ale wasn’t supposed to be in the final twenty, but was a late replacement for City of Cambridge Atom Splitter, which was given the heave ho due to already having a listing somewhere else. It poured a light copper colour, certainly not the golden the bottle stated, with a very loose white head. The head started out nicely compacted, but morphed into large bubbles and then collapsed to a patchy covering within a couple of minutes. There didn’t seem to be a lot going on aroma wise, not until you took in a lungful anyway. Then some really faint and subtle malty marmalade notes made themselves known, but other than that, there was nothing much.

It felt nice in the mouth, medium to full bodied and nicely balanced between the malt and the hops. What was really nice to see, was little to no real influence from the way the beer had been bottled, no overly forced carbonation remnants here. In fact, it was nice and soft in the mouth, with all the prickle feeling like it was coming from the hops, rather than from the carbonation. The bitterness started pretty much immediately and weaved in and out and around the malty flavours, never dominating and never being dominated and lasting long into the aftertaste. I really liked the flavours in this beer, especially the aftertaste, it was all soft and gentle bitter orange marmalade, with a bit of added spiciness and sweetness towards the death.

A really, really nice pale ale and a crying shame it only got in due to another beer being kicked out. Given some of the beers I’ve tasted so far, it would have been a travesty if this hadn’t been in the final twenty, quite possibly my favorite so far.

According to the side of the bottle, JW Lees Manchester Star Ale is a recreation of a recipe from 1884, when the brewery was only 51 years old. It poured a pretty much impenetrable mahogany brown, even holding it up to the light only allowed for fleeting glimpses of the colour. Having said that, once you got down the glass a bit, it became slightly less impenetrable, especially as the glass tilted for your next mouthful and you could easily see the mahogany colour in its full glory. The tan coloured head was really easy to form and got quite large, quite quickly. It didn’t hang around though and dropped fairly sharpish to a thin covering, before dropping to a ring round the edge of the glass.

The nose was massive, there were even hints of roasted chocolate during the pour, but once it was all in the glass, it was like sniffing a stewed fruit pudding that had bitter dark chocolate grated all over the top of it. The longer it sat in the glass however, the less intense it appeared to get and you really had to start taking in a lungful to get at the aromas.

This beer was only ever going to be full bodied and it felt massively chewy in the mouth and massively sweet as well. The sweetness pretty much ran all the way though from the moment it hit the tongue, till the aftertaste had died, definitely not a beer to drink if you don’t like sweet things. It felt quite soft in the mouth, with lots of rich dark stewed fruit; think plums, figs and stuff like rumtopf (without the rum) and you’re getting close. I was going to say that the fruit segued into some bitter dark chocolate flavours, but it was more like the fruit was smothered in a dark chocolate sauce, but think Cadbury’s Bournville, rather than Valrhona Abinao. The mouth was then treated to a nice wave of bitterness that prickled the cheeks, before being subjected to another load of lingering fruity sweetness.

  • RateBeerJW Lees
  • Manchester Star Ale, 7.3%, 500ml,%, 500ml

An interesting beer, big, bold, massively flavourful and ridiculously sweet. I have a sweet tooth, but this was borderline too sweet for me and just left me craving something pale and bitingly bitter. I was also quite surprised at how little roasted character there was, I was expecting a bit from from all those chocolate flavours, but it was just all soft and sweet.

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