Review of "John Smith's Extra Smooth"

published 15/02/2007 | ndwoodruff
Member since : 26/11/2003
Reviews : 4
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Pro An improvement on many other canned bitters
Cons Not much actual taste, draught version worse than most other bitters
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"No rough edges, not much flavour either"

John Smith's is a Yorkshire brand now available pretty much UK-wide, but particularly prevalent in its traditional North England heartlands. The introduction of the Extra Smooth Bitter has not, unfortunately, done much to improve on its range.

The recent surge in smooth bitters has had an effect on the drinking landscape and it's now becoming rare to find a pub or bar that doesn't feature a smooth bitter of some kind. John Smith's Extra Smooth is usually priced at a lower level than even the cheaper lagers and it can be an attractive prospect in a loud neon-filled darkened establishment. However, in a more traditional pub the chances are there'll be something a lot better, and quite probably a bit cheaper, a few feet down the bar.

The canned version is very similar to the draught and that, perhaps, is its greatest strength. A long held certainty amongst drinkers of the world was that you couldn't get a beer in a can that was as good as it was on draught (with the exception of the legendary canned McEwan's Export - a beer that seems oddly better in a tin than from a tap) but John Smith's Extra Smooth manages to break that rule. Trouble is, the draught version isn't that great to start with.

Coming in at 4.0% ABV there are no rough edges (unsurprising, given the name) and you might be tempted to think it would be something of a session beer, but, after 2 or 3 a strange thing happens and it becomes a bit of a chore to drink. Hard to explain but you just end up yearning for something else.

I went on a tour to a brewery where something very similar was being trialled a few years ago and got to try their version out. I had exactly the same feeling about that brew as this one. That beer never got as far as the market in the end as the brewery in question decided it was just too bland to bear the company name. Mind you, they've now gone bust and John Smith's is a booming brand so it's pretty clear who had the last laugh...

This beer is most likely to appeal to the committed lager drinker looking to broaden his or her horizons towards bitters and ales.

Appearance - Not bad as it happens, initially suggests a colour that's perhaps slightly insipid, but the head lasts really well and it looks the part all the way down the glass.

Tasting Notes - The first sip feels great, lovely texture, slips down a treat. Fair enough. But then, if you try and think what it tastes like it's really difficult, because it tastes like, erm, paper, is about the closest I can get. A bland drink that struggles to engage the drinker at all and becomes an unappealing proposition fairly quickly.

Finish - Not really any to speak of. No hoppy aftertaste, no residual flavour. After a couple, a slightly bloaty feeling pervades even though it's not particularly openly gassy.

Summary - Whilst this isn't the worst example of a smooth bitter it's not the best either, in a field that isn't exactly full of stars to begin with. However, there was a gap to be filled in the canned bitter market and when it comes to the home drinker who wants to flop in front of the TV and have a couple of cans from the fridge there is a case to be made.

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Comments on this review

  • Julieshobs published 17/02/2007
    good review. Jules.
  • bagoproverbial published 16/02/2007
    I hate bitter (dark brown muck as I call it)... very good review though!
  • darkangelwing published 16/02/2007
    Along with Tetley's the cheapest top brand bar beer, not for my pallett, but a top notch review.
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Product Information : John Smith's Extra Smooth

Manufacturer's product description


Product Details

Type: Ale

Manufacturer: John Smith


Listed on Ciao since: 27/10/2001