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You know, a popular misconception is that the Scots hate England and all things English. This is simply not true.... it's more of a friendly, neighbourly... loathing. However, there are many good and great things to come out of England (the road north to Scotland notwithstanding) and if I've ever got a spare two or three minutes, I'll write about every single one of them. One of the things that would come top of my list of 'Good English Stuff' would be the beer. Not all of it, but a very large proportion. The English brew some wonderful beer - lots of diversity of styles and some of the tastiest session ales around.
But enough of this Anglophobic praise, let's get to the point. One of the very best, or one of my favourites at least, of the English brewers, is Youngs.
'Young's Ram Brewery in London, a family concern since 1831, is world famous for it's adherence to tradition. Young's have won countless awards for their range of beers, some of which are: St George's Ale, Waggledance, Double Chocolate Stout, Acclaim, Oatmeal Stout, Young's Bitter, Winter Warmer, Dirty Dick's, Ramrod and this one, Youngs Special london Ale. According to theri website, this beer is brewed using Maris Otter pale ale malt, prodigious amounts of Fuggles and Goldings hops while yeast is added during the bottling process which ensures the beer keeps on maturing in the bottle.
A drunk staggers into a church and sits down in a confessional and says nothing. The priest coughs, still nothing; then the priest knocks on the wall 3 times to get his attention. The drunk finally speaks up saying, "No use knocking mate, there's no paper in this one either."
Back to the beer......
THEY SAY: "Golden brown strong ale. Vinous hoppy nose. Powerful flavour full of hops and fruit. Lasting bitter finish giving way to toffee notes."
YSLA pours with a fairly active carbonation which is due to the bottle conditioning, not the result of pumping gas into the brew. This leads to a white rocky head that soon subsides but doesn't entirely disappear and leaves a respectable, if not generous amount of lacing on the glass. There's a bit of sediment in the bottle and this should be swirled in the last inch or so of beer and then poured - we don't want to waste any of that yeasty goodness now, do we? Unfortunately, this means that the appearance of the beer changes from a clear, rich golden colour, to a slightly hazy, amberish hue, but them's the breaks.
There's lots going on with the aroma. There are traces of caramel malt, masses of fruit - particularly vine-fruit, banana and orange - a healthy dollop of bread-dough yeastiness and a faint trace of aniseed. All this is firmly held in check by a spicy, peppery hop aroma that gets stronger as the beer warms.
The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, and the initial taste is of a dry fruitiness. This leads into a more pronounced, tart, lemony zing and a spicy and peppery, yet floral hop tone. There's plenty of malt profile in this beer too, with caramel and crystal being most noticeable with a light toastiness and the meerest suggestion of chocolate. There's lots of fruity yeast character buzzing around in here as well which all adds up to one amazingly well-balanced beer. The finish has a lovely alcoholic warmth with a slightly dry, gently bitter, yet somewhat sweet, aftertaste.
At 6.4& ABV, This is a beauty. It's got lots of rich, malt character - which I love, but the hop profile balances it to near-perfection. It's big, it's bold, it's wickedly complex.....it's what beer should be. This is no easy-drinking thirst-quencher (although it fits that bill too) but a beer to sip and enjoy every glorious mouthfull. It will go nicely with traditional English Pub grub such as: Shepherd's Pie, Steak-n-Kidney Pie, Bangers-n-Bash, Chicken Tikka Massala or a nice Ploughman's. Personally, I wouldn't want to interfere with this beer in any way. It's a meal on its own.