Nicholson’s Summer Ales

Nicholson’s pubs have been very busy in 2012. Not only did they bring out two new ales in the spring, but the East End-established pub chain has now been kind enough to bring out a range of new summer ales to take you through the coming months as well.

Founded by William Nicholson in London during the late 1800s, the chain initially focussed on Lamplighter Gin production before casting a wider net, revitalising dilapidated pubs into mighty ale houses. Whilst World War II rationing killed off the gin production, Nicholson’s pubs continued to grow to this day, now surpassing 80 pubs in the UK, with over half of those in London.

One might suggest their success is due to a close relationship with brewers, and this certainly seemed evident after seeing the groups of brewers who travelled far and wide to promote their ales at the tasting evening I attended, Walrus and Carpenter, Monument.

Melissa Cole, prolific beer author and member of the British Guild of Beer Writers led the tasting, beginning by commenting on the tendency of wine writers to say beer has no terroir – a sense of geography, geology and climate that a location instils within a product. ‘Nonsense,’ she added, stressing that the vast arrays of hops and other ingredients that emanate from all around the world would clearly take in a great deal from their surroundings.

The first ale we tried, Robinsons Globe Hopping hammered this home straight away, being packed with a mix of goldings (UK), cascade (USA) and green bullet (NZ) hops that imparted their own flavours to every sip. Coupled to the subtle hints of papaya (more banana on the nose) and rice (you’ll notice if you’ve ever tried Thai cocktails), we were off to a flying start.

The other ales came thick and fast, including:

Cropton Hawaii 340: A mix of English malts with hops and tropical fruits added in for good measure. Not as aromatic as the Globe Hopping, but solid and deeper in taste.

Inveralmond MBU: A self-deprecating description by the makers as ‘wet rain on dry pavement’ was all-too accurate, with a flat character and little to enjoy overall.

Moor Natural Beauty: The only unrefined ale of the bunch (i.e. no ‘isinglass’ fish bladders used to clarify the ale, if you really wanted to know), it was also the clear winner for me. Wheaty, citrus flavours with a definite pineapple note made it extremely quaffable. I had three.

Thwaites Sunshine and Lollipops: A pungent sulphurous beer that, should you get past the smell, was actually rather tasty, with a nice finish.

Sambrookes Lavender Hill: Named after the Lavender Hill area, and packed with honey taste and a hint of lavender. Delicious, with a real undercurrent of honey. A strong contender to the Moor.

Red Squirrel Hoppy Horatio: A pale ale with lychee and grapefruit notes. Fairly aromatic and a nice easy drinker, but still lacking oomph.

Roosters Welsummer: The final ale was a well-rounded mix of American hops, again with an easy drinking feel but lacking the complex flavours of some of the more aromatic beers.

Overall, the Moor Natural Beauty and the Sambrookes Lavender Hill stood out for me – packed with aroma and a real depth of flavour. That being said, the Nicholson’s range is extensive, so I’m sure there’s something for all tastes.

For news and information on Nicholson’s Pubs visit their website.

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