I first encountered this in a trendy wine bar in Oxford; a wine bar so trendy it had a small list of ‘craft beers’. I enjoyed a chilled bottle or two after a long day at somebody else’s office.
I’ve reviewed a few Sharps brews for The Brewclub, way back when, a couple of brews developed in association with the chef Rick Stein. As I recall I was not overly impressed.
Sharp’s were founded in a town appropriately named ‘Rock’ on Cornwall’s north coast back in 1994, – for those that are unsure, Cornwall is the bit at the bottom right of the UK that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Their ‘Doombar’ bitter is the largest selling bottled ale in the UK; so successful that it’s now being brewed and bottled in Burton upon Trent in ‘the Midlands’ some 250 miles north east of Rock? I should perhaps add that Sharps were purchased by Molson-Coors back in 2011. Cask Doombar is still brewed in Cornwall.
It pours a pleasant enough golden colour, but suffers another fast fading head, I’ve had a few of those lately – and I clean my glass scrupulously. The nose is subtle, yes there are some hints of citrus, but it’s not ‘in your face’.
Similarly the flavour has citrus, but not as many as I’d expected, there are hints of lemon and lime in the mix, but not the grapefruit or mango that American hops – indeed any brew named ‘Atlantic’ would lead you to expect. It’s refreshing and pleasant enough, but nothing special.
The label reads ‘Exceptional Pale Ale’ and, to be honest it’s not.
It’s okay, and compared to something like Doombar, yes it’s crisp and pale, but there are plenty of really ‘exceptional’ pale ales out there. Just ask Thornbridge, Brewdog or Sirencraft.
That said, if I find myself again in that Oxford wine bar, I might go for it again, unless the beer list includes something from Thornbridge, Brewdog or Sirencraft!