I’d not been looking forward to this pair of Great British Beer Hunt entries, so I decided to try them on a single night and get them over and done with. It’s not that I dislike Batemans, I’ve drunk my fair share of XB and XXXB over the years, I’m just not a fan of gimmicky beers and I’m definitely not a fan of Bock beer; that much should be obvious from the name of the blog.
I started with the Black Pepper Ale, which poured the colour of a good Olde English Marmalade and had a loose tan colour head sitting on top. The head dropped fairly quickly to a patchy covering and then to a ring round the edge of the glass. The nose was interesting, with subtle marmalade malt notes underneath a powerful ground black pepper aroma.
The bottle came with a sachet of pepper to sprinkle on top of the beer, I didn’t use it to start with, as I wanted to get a feel for the base beer. It was nothing special to be honest, a pretty bog standard bitter, without much in the way of the bitter; all malt and no interest. Orangey malt flavours dominated, with a slight hint of mid-mouth bitterness, before an sweet, slightly dusty aftertaste.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the packet of pepper, was I just supposed to sprinkle it on top, or to mix it in; initially I just left it sitting on top. This had the obvious effect of making the pepper aroma even more pungent, but did pretty much nothing for the taste. So I mixed it in, although this again, didn’t really have any effect on the taste, which was a shame.
I thought this beer was going to be an absolute horror show, but it wasn’t quite that bad; I just found it boring and I doubt I’ll be seeking it out for another taste. The notes on the bottles claimed it would be clean and beautifully balanced, I didn’t think it was either of those things; it was far too malty to be balanced and too dusty, with too much character from the Batemans yeast to be clean. Finally, I’m sure some people will love the gimmick of the pepper sachet, but I don’t think it needed it, it just needed to be a bit less boring.
- Black Pepper Ale, 5.1%, 500ml
The B Bock poured a rubyish mahogany colour, with an exceedingly loose tan coloured head. The head frothed, foamed and disappeared completely, within a minute or two. There really wasn’t much to the aroma at all, some slightly stale carbonic notes and a hint of the malt and yeast that were used in the brewing process.
In the mouth it was exactly as you would expect, full bodied and sweet, with that unmistakable Batemans character. It was almost like drinking an amped up version of the Black Pepper Ale, without the black pepper, or any hint of bitterness. There’s nothing much else I can say, it was just malty and sweet and got maltier and sweeter with each mouthful.
Working behind the foreign and bottled beer bar at the various Cambridge beer festivals, I’ve tried a fair few Bocks and Doppelbocks in my time; mainly so I can give the festival goers an honest opinion if they ask what one’s like. This beer is about as far from any German Bock, or Doppelbock, as I’ve ever had, it’s tastes like an overly malty English Ale, which I’m putting down to the use of the Batemans house yeast, rather than the use of a proper lager yeast.
- B Bock, 6%, 500ml
To say that neither of these beers floated my boat, would be an understatement. I’m not saying they’re bad, they’re not, they’re just not for me.