Saturday, February 12, 2011

St. Peter's Gift Pack

This review comes from a lovely two pack gift set I received for Christmas (thanks Mike), that came with a lovely tall St. Peter's glass.  I've had, and enjoyed, two other brews from St. Peter's - namely, their Winter Ale and Cream Stout - so based on that I can safely assume that this should be a treat.

St. Peter's is a lovely little brewery in Suffolk that does something a lot more microbreweries used to be able to do in the past, but are not always able to afford to do so, and that's serve their product in unique and exciting bottles.  When microbrewing was in its infancy, a different bottle served as another form of advertisement, a way to distinguish themselves from the bigger fish in the pond.  Naturally, producing one's own bottles (and, if possible, retrieving them) is an expensive process, and thus a lot of breweries over the years have opted to eschew this method and go with the standard brown bottles we all know and love.  Because of this, I don't hold it against a microbrewery that its bottles are the same sort that I see everyday, but whenever a brewery is able to set themselves apart with an interesting design (Wychwood, Beau's, etc.), much kudos is in order.   St. Peter's utilizes an adorable little stubby bottle for their brews that seems to hearken back to times of yore, like something one would have seen in the satchel of an 18th century yeoman.  Sure enough, a quick visit to the brewery website reveals that the bottle design is in fact a direct copy of one used in American Revolutionary-era Philadelphia, which was "produced for Thomas Gerrard, an innkeeper with a tidewater inn on the Delaware River."    While Gerrard's bottles were originally intended to house gin - that most inherently "British" of all the world's distilled spirits - it works equally well for beer.  Early Canadian brewers saw the advantages of such smaller, squatter bottles as a means to cut shipping costs - hence the ubiquitous "stubby" bottle - so it comes to no surprise that a British brewer would come to the same conclusions. 

But enough about the bottles - lets see what's inside!

Beer: St. Peter's Golden Ale
Type: English Pale Ale
ABV: 4.7

Poured into that lovely St. Peter's glass that came with the set.  True to its name, the Golden Ale has wonderful colour for a pale ale, a tawny-golden hue that glistens in the glass.  I consumed this in the late evening, so the photo might not do it justice.  But take my word for it: this brew looked terrific!  The pour produced about a half-inch of foamy head that receded nicely into a thick ring, leaving behind some lovely icicles of lacing up and down the glass.  Looks great!

Nose is soft malts, butter, tea, caramel and a bit of fruit, perhaps apple or pear.  Certainly opens up after warming.  Inviting.

A sturdy, slightly sweet, but damned drinkable English pale. Malty and bready, with a nice sweet, buttery palate.  Notes of caramel and fruit.  Finishes with a hopped bitterness and a touch of smoke.  Very flavorful, easy to quaff.  Smoky bitterness lingers long after the finish.

Like many an English pale ale, the carbonation is predictably low, with a slightly creamy mouthfeel and a medium body.

The English pale ale is a style of beer with which I'm sort of going through a bit of a rough spell; this little brew will certainly go far towards rekindling our once powerful romance.  An easy-drinking pub ale, full of flavor and brilliant-looking in the accompanying glass.  Great stuff.  Wish this was available more often in single bottles, as the seasonal gift pack has thus far been the only time I've ever encountered it in Ontario.  (Grade: B+)

Beer: St. Peter's Ruby Red Ale
Type: English Bitter
ABV: 4.3%

Now, after praising the Golden ale for possessing such a beautiful hue, would their Ruby Ale be able to achieve the same result?  When poured into the glass and held into the light, I would certainly say so:

But when the brew was moved away from the window, the result was far from spectacular, as it took on more of a murky chestnut hue, with only a few streaks of red when the light hits it.  Considering the fact that English bitters are traditionally consumed in darker pub / home environments, the name becomes somewhat inapt.  The pour left behind a thin layer of off-white foam, which receded into a thin ring.  Some flecks of lacing near the top of the glass.

The nose is quite pleasant and full: malt, caramel, chocolate, earthy notes and cream. Not bad at all.

A bitter, almost astringent mineral taste pervades the beer, which is fine I suppose, but tends to hurt the soft, but tasty malt and hop profile lurking underneath.  Still, this isn't a bad-tasting ale at any stretch, its just a bit tart - and not because of the hop content, as one might expect.

Thick mouthfeel, a bit bready, with mild carbonation.

Not a bad beer, went down pretty well, but the tartness is becoming a bit over-powering. Tone that down a touch (perhaps on cask or in a fresher bottle it would do better?) and this would be a great English bitter. As it stands, this is merely a good English bitter, which is fine by me. (Grade: B)

Two brews that seek to define themselves through their colour, yet only one truly does the job properly.  Still, despite the big deal I've made this post about appearances, both bottle and beer colour, I have to say both of these brews were pretty tasty.  In the end, despite all the marketing and packaging, the beer inside has to be good, and in this case I think St. Peter's is a brewery that consistently delivers on that front.  Thus I encourage all of you if ever you come across a delightful squat St. Peter's bottle to pick it up and give a try - chances are, the product inside will be pretty damned good!

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