I’ve long been an admirer of Bath Ales, but didn’t often have a chance to enjoy their brews. That all changed when Dad moved to an old cottages just outside Bath. Now it’s become a Christmas tradition to visit at least three pubs through midwinter, warming ourselves with strong, wintry ales by a roaring log fire. Or, in the case of one pub, overly aggressive central heating.
That’s not where I had my first Bath Ale this Christmas, however. For that, you have to look back a week or two further, to my office Festive Party.
When a clumsily wrapped package with a misspelled label arrived on my boss’s desk, we assumed it was just a disgruntled former employee sending their collected hate mail, like most years. Much to our delight, it turned out to be something even more amusing.
(Note: my views on Bath Gem are not in the slightest influenced by this being the favourite beer of the man who decides my bonus)
In addition to writing excellent GCSE English texts on porcine communists, George Orwell was also a big fan of beer served in china. Not wanting to waste this opportunity, I enjoyed my own serving (three servings) of Gem from a festive coffee mug.
I can’t comment on whether drinking from china had any impact on my enjoyment of this beer, but enjoy it I did. Gem is a beautifully smooth, malty ale with all those deliciously sweet, biscuity flavours I love. There’s very little bitterness there – just a hint on the aftertaste.
It’s not a terribly exciting beer, but it’s a good one. I can see myself saving it for later: that nice, mellow beer you have once you’re done with the 5%+ strong ales with flashing lights on the labels. 3/5
Playing up to the brewery’s location, fortunately this beer doesn’t use the sulphurous spa water.
This is Bath Ales’s pale ale, so I’m expecting something much hoppier here. It’s an appetising pale gold in colour, with a white, persistent head and a light, fruity aroma.
Is it much hoppier than the Gem? Not really. There’s a hint of some hoppy bitterness there, and some fruitier flavours, though it’s difficult to work out what fruits they are. At different points working my way through the bottle I noted it down as apple, pear, apricot, and, at one desperate point, gooseberry. It’s also a little grassy, and very light.
But more than anything else, this is another malty beer. It’s good – more interesting to drink than the Gem – but it’s disappointingly similar. Or perhaps the Gem is disappointingly similar to this one? Either way, 4/5
Now surely this must be something different. You’d expect some similarities between ales from the same brewer, of course, but Barnsey is a dark bitter. That’s basically a stout, I think. Completely different style. No scope for overlap or similarity here whatsoever.
Barnsey looks a bit like a stout: coffee brown in colour, with a hint of a crema on top. All good so far. So I’m understandably surprised when I take a mouthful. It has a strangely light mouthfeel, with a good amount of bitterness following the usual flavours of roasted coffee and chocolate.
It’s not what I expected, and I wouldn’t go back for a second. But you know what? It’s still pretty good. 3/5