Okay, I’m going to start this review with another confession – bear with me. I’ve been so caught up with the new wave of craft brewing here in Blighty, that I’ve overlooked some of the classic British breweries.
Marstons are a case in point, originally founded in Burton upon Trent in 1834. Burton upon Trent in ‘the midlands’ is considered the home of British brewing, as the soft water was ideal for brewing pale, bitter ales and there are still eight breweries in the town. Marstons are the only brewery to still use the ‘Burton Union’ method of brewing, where the mash is pumped around wooden brew-vats, rather than the stainless steel mush tuns employed almost everywhere else.
In 1999 Marstons were bought by the Wolverhampton and Dudley brewery, and the group – now proudly bearing the Marstons name – now operates five breweries around England, brewing such tap room staples as “Marstons Pedigree”, “Wychwood’s Hobgoblin” and “Jennings Cumberland Ale”.
Their Wychwood brewery in Oxfordshire also produces the Status Quo ‘Piledriver’ Ale which I reviewed here at The Brewclub recently.
Anyway, somebody at Marstons read my Piledriver review and got in touch, offering to get the beer pixies to send me something interesting to review. A few days later a case of their ‘New World Pale Ale’ arrived on my doorstep.
The beer’s website (here) describes it as “a golden ale…that’s up front and straight to the point with a burst of peach aroma.” and “Using a base of lightly kilned pale malt, New World Pale Ale is lavished with an abundance of new hop varieties such as Galaxy and Topaz that give the beers its signature character.”
Before I talk about the beer, there’a nice touch on the bottle, there are small compasses embossed on the glass, to reflect the compass design of the label. It’s a nice touch, and one that’s beyond the capability of smaller breweries. Maybe you could also do the bottle cap to match, guys?
It’s a mid-gold colour; until recently that would spell ‘lager’ in most British pubs, but the growth of ‘golden’ ales in recent years has blurred that particular distinction. There’s a rich, foaming white head, that leaves a hint of lacing.
The nose is crisp and fruity; while the website lists those Galaxy and Topaz hops, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some Nelson Sauvin in there, the nose is pure Sauvignon Blanc – gooseberries and, umm, well you probably know the rest (if not check here).
The flavour starts with those new world hops, up front and tickling your palate. There’s tropical fruit in there; melon, peaches and pineapple, with pale, but old school, malt backing up those hops, providing a reassuring sense of stability.
It’s not a ‘craft beer hop-bomb’ but nor is it an old man’s bitter. As such it serves as an excellent bridge between old-school and hip. The more I drink this, the more I enjoy it.
This is beautifully balanced brew, and does exactly what it sets out to, it’s a golden beer, brewed with new world hops, but old world traditions. Marstons have worked with Shipyard Brewing in the past, and it shows, they’ve achieved what at least one old-school brewer has failed to, they haven’t let tradition hog-tie the recipe.
And at around 4% ABV it would be an excellent session beer choice.
As such I’m happy to award it four and a half Brewclub stars.
All Marstons Ales are available for delivery – in the UK at least – from www.classicales.co.uk