I haven’t done any product reviews in a while except for Martens 10 recently, so will do a few serially resulting from my recent London trip. By this I mean, for beers I brought back. I tweeted regularly impressions of beers I liked during the trip.
(There were many beers I didn’t like, but I tend not to feature them mainly because taste is relative and also, generations often reverse preferences, as to sour or cloudy beers, say).
We spent a day touring Gloucestershire in Cotswolds and I took the opportunity to try the cask bitter of picturesque Donnington brewery. It’s run by the Arkell family who also operate the Arkell brewery in another region. I tried two Arkell’s beers at the Great British Beer Festival last week at the Olympia, and very sound they were.
Donnington’s draught BB, sampled in Stow on the Wold in a pretty stone pub, was average at best imo. True, at under 4% abv one doesn’t expect a lot but it was watery and just this side of tart (although seemingly in good condition).
I doubled down by buying the bottled Double Donn, stronger and advertising classic English ingredients such as Maris Otter malt and Golding hops.
This was most acceptable, not the best bottled pale I’ve had, but with a good malty/spicy taste that seemed almost a brown ale, the “brownest” of the brown bitters I’ve had. It’s ideal for drinking at shelf temperature, as anything colder than “cellar” really takes away the essential character.
As with most British-styled beer including craft examples, one always wants “more”: more hops, more malt, but what I got was well-made and enjoyable.
This is the older style of U.K. bottled top-fermented beer, filtered and perhaps pasteurized.
If this beer had been on draught that day, it would raise a thumbs up from any beer fan. Not every beer has to be outstanding, gastronomic, aspirational. It can be good, solid. An Ontario equivalent to this beer, not the same in taste but parallel in character, is Upper Canada Dark Ale.
There is a house taste I could connect to the BB cask but the bottled was, in our estimation, much better. Often the reverse is true, the draught exceeds a similar beer when bottled.
The world of beer has continual surprises.
P.S. I didn’t try the Gold version of Donnington cask seen in the image above.