Advantages It's by possibly the best overall brewery around, it's relatively cheap
Disadvantages It's a mix of better Youngs beers, and the sum of the parts don;t make the whole, it's also exclusive to Sainsbury's, which means a 14 mile drive for me!
St George – patron saint of England. Symbol of English spirit, bravery in the face of adversity, stiff upper lip. What better personification of this great land to choose for a thoroughly English ale? And so we have Young’s St George’s. Never heard of it? No, well neither have I!Having seen this ale mentioned in the hallowed lists of ciao, I felt pangs of guilt that I hadn’t even heard of this ale. Even worse was that it was brewed by the fair hands of Young’s, whose Double Chocolate Stout, London Ale, Waggle Dance and Old Nick all feature regularly in my beer cupboard restocking (yes, I do have a cupboard just for beer!) The shame of it. Would people point and whisper behind my back if they knew I hadn’t heard of this ale? Would ciao members in their hundreds turn their backs on my ops, even those loyal few who know of my addictions to Kate Bush music and Christina Ricci films? I decided enough was enough, and I must seek out this elixir of life!
Well, could I bloody find it? Someone should have warned me that it was an exclusive brew to Sainsbury’s, that supermarket that I rarely step into on grounds of lack of money, and coming from Yorkshire it’s not really my style. However, an exclusive it is, and perchance I found it, and for a very reasonable £1.59, it now languishes in the glass next to me as I write these very words.It certainly looks the part, with a striking label depicting St George, in shining armour and mounted on his brown steed (brown? You’d have thought he could afford a white one) piercing the nasty dragon who is breathing fire over the rest of the label. And of course, we have the St George cross in the background – how terribly patriotic. And those wonderful Young’s bottles with the ram on the neck – as Young’s ales are brewed at The Ram Brewery in London. It’s pedigree is superb – Young’s brewery is without doubt one of the most consistently good of breweries, and a personal favourite of mine. I couldn’t wait!
But hang on … exclusively for Sainsbury’s? Doesn’t that make you worried? Why would a brewery like Young’s take great care and love over the brewing of a brand new ale, just to sell it in Sainsbury’s, which let’s face it, has lost out to Asda and Tesco these last few years. Are they really going to spend lots of money coming up with something special … or just stick their old brew in the bottles and slap a different label on the front?And alas, dear reader, I feel this very thing has indeed happened. It saddens me to say, but my palate is finely tuned through many bottles of Young’s beer, and no sooner had this ale passed my lips when I detected a mixture of London Ale and Old Nick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not either of these two fine ales. Oh no, that combination would have been nectar indeed. This is strictly a 5% patriotic occasional laddish strength (“Why ay, this is 5% like, ahm drinking proper beer now y’know!”) – a far cry from the 7+% barley wine of Old Nick, or the 6+% of London Ale. But the similarity is without doubt.
So what do you get? Well, no aroma for a start. Maybe I’ve a cold coming, but the only smell you get is a slight sherry alcohol nose. You pour the beer to a gassy head (unavoidable with bottled beers which are not bottle conditioned) and a deep brown (not red-brown) almost like Newcastle Brown Ale, but with a more coppery tone (close to London Ale here).The taste is very pleasant. Definite hints of aniseed and liquorice come through immediately, followed by a malty, dry taste of red-berries and spices, the latter of which lasts as the beer slips down your throat. Very satisfying indeed. Given the relatively lower strength, you also get a surprisingly warm glow in your tum as you drink it, and this is certainly a beer which demands to be drunk slowly, sipped as one reclines in front of the fire on a cold winter’s night, while you reminisce about winters past.
Are you detecting conflicts in my opinion? First I’m cynical, and now I’m telling you how good the taste is. Well, there’s no doubt this is a good beer that will please anyone who drinks it. It’s just that this beer is very obviously based on Young’s other, well-established, very respectable and not at all exclusive to Sainsbury’s, beers London Ale and Old Nick. And the problem is, it’s not as good as either of them. It’s a weaker mismatched version of all that is good in these two beers. It’s a shame. It’s Bjorn Again when you long to see an ABBA performance. It’s good … but not good enough.I cannot fault this beer as it stands alone. It’s far better than most bottled beers and you won’t regret buying it. But I plead with you. If you really want to sample just how good Young’s are, and indeed just how good beers can be, go and buy a bottle of Old Nick. And then buy a bottle of London Ale to go with it. Quality shows.
End of sermon.
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