Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Samuel Smith's - Old Brewery Pale Ale

Allow me to start by stating that my experience with true Pale Ale's (a.k.a. "English Pale Ale") is far and few between to say the least.  It is much more common to find IPAs or American PAs than anything else.  So while I am used to the style's variations, I cannot claim great familiarity with the original style.  Other styles you rather know what to expect: stouts are dark roasted and coffee-ish, hefes are cloudy, creamy, and spiced.  With this style relatively unfamiliar to me, I am really going to have to use my palate and sniffer to find out just what exactly I am tasting.  Wish me luck.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 10/12
A sweet, sweet smell arises from this brew.  Thankfully, it is not the beat-you-over-the-head hop scent that the offshoot styles prefer.  There are apples and an extremely floral scent.  Very appropriate for this springtime when everything is budding and blooming.  The hops are there, but unaggressively so, which is appropriate for the style.  A very pleasing aroma.

Appearance 3/3
This beer may have the longest head retention of any I have had the pleasure of sampling.  I pours a lovely amber color with a healthy-sized beige head.  Everything is up to par here and rated accordingly.

Picture is my own.

Flavor 17/20
A superbly balanced beer!  I can see where the offshoot styles seize their inspiration.  First to the mouth is a buttery, almost nutty toasted malt.  Its sweetness is mild and is matched perfectly by the complimentary, not overstated, hops.  Although the hops are not floral nor sweet as they were in the aroma, they blend perfectly with the malt allowing it a sweeter finish before truly making their dry and bitter presence known in the aftertaste.  It is a very neat sensation.

Mouthfeel  5/5
Initially high carbonation quickly yields to a style appropriate level.  A smooth, medium-bodied beer with great drinkability.  No flaws here.  Keeps it simple and does it right.

Overall Impression (8/10)
It is hard to judge this beer because it is simply that: beer.  There are no gimmicky flavors here.  This is straight up, old school beer with classic ingredients and a near immaculate balance.  It is so fundamentally strong that it does not need gimmicks to cover up a lackluster flavor or flaw.

Total (43/50) Excellent
This score places it near the top of the "Excellent" category.  This is just a superbly made, simple beer.  If you're not going to experiment with the style, then you better nail it to the wall and Samuel Smith's does exactly that.  Samuel Smith's is commanding more and more of my respect with each brew of theirs that I drink.  They are not flashy, but they perfect authentic styles and tell you how it is supposed to be.  Definitely a session beer and an true authentic sampling in a time where craft beers too often turn to copious amounts of ingredients.  These simple ingredients blend perfectly (I cannot stress that enough) and should be a lesson to others in the art of balance.

This will not appeal to those seeking crazy, strong flavors, but it is hands-down a technically fantastic beer.  It would also be an excellent gateway to those entering into the world of "hop heads."  Best to know your roots before you sally forth, boys.

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