Thursday, March 24, 2011

Marston's Old Empire IPA

Beer: Marston's Old Empire India Pale Ale
Brewery: Marston, Thompson and Evershed (Burton, UK)
Type: English IPA
ABV: 5.7

This fellow here is part of the LCBO spring release, which so far I have to say has been a bit disappointing - certainly not as exciting as the fall and winter release, at any rate.  For those not knowing what the hell I'm talking about, each season the LCBO releases a few new beers that, in recent years, have been nicely tied to the season itself.  Pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers in the fall, spiced ales and barleywines in the winter, and so on.  These are brews that probably won't make it to regular rotation, nor should they, as many are seasonal brews by their nature.  Just something new to try for a short period of time.  In between these general releases are also brewery-specific releases, like the Danish Norrebro series a couple months back (for those interested, Rogue Brewery of Oregon will be a summer featured brewery - keep an eye open!).  But after two great seasonal releases, the Spring 2011 edition wasn't all that exciting - a few good ones (Southern Tier Gemini; Tree Hophead DIPA), some that are seasonally appropriate (Amsterdam Bock, Der HirschBrau Doppel) - but a lot seem to be repeats of brews they've carried before.  Good ones to be sure, but repeats.  For someone looking for something new every time he walks into an LCBO, this isn't that encouraging.  But if you're looking to try some new, rare brews, checking out the seasonal release list is a good way to go.  You can find it first on or the beeradvocate forums, or later on the LCBO website itself.   Gives beer geeks like me something to look forward to every few months.

Admittedly, when I saw Marsdon's IPA on the list I wasn't too thrilled - or at least, I wasn't as thrilled as I would be if the entire Founders or Oskar Blues lineup found its way into LCBO stores (please, please, PLEASE!!)  Another English style IPA?  We've got so many already.  Still, I figured I'd give it a go, as I always end up doing.  The bottle certainly looked handsome, with its old naval imagery and engravings.   Still, after sampling a number of power-hopped American IPAs, it will be nice to return to the styles roots for a change.

Also, the head looks like Italy.

Poured into a Wellington brewery nonic ale glass.  A lovely pale amber-golden hue - very light on the IPA colour scale range - with an inch-thick big bubbled head that survived as a thin ring.  A bit of lacing at first, but this doesn't last long.  No matter.

Nose is caramel, toffee, tea hops, floral notes, and a strong butterscotch hit that might be diactyl, but smells pleasant nonetheless.   Diacetyl is a chemical compound that, in beer, creates a distinctively "buttery" or "butterscotch" odor, and is a byproduct of the brewing processes.  Some brewers like a little bit of diacetyl in their recipes, as the flavors associated with it offer a nice compliment to the malty background of ales and stouts.  Overdo it, or use it incorrectly and you get something horrid.  In this case, it smells just fine.  (for more info on diacetyl, check this out!)

Tastes pretty good actually, caramel toffee and butter open things off, and the brew exits with a tart hop finish coupled with that distinctive Burton twang. Not terrific, but certainly drinkable.

Thinner bodied, strong carbonation.

A drinkable little IPA. Certainly not the best example of the style, but whatever kind of brew that found its way into my pintglass is nevertheless enjoyable and is going down rather well. The strong buttery character I'm sure is the result of the bottle or shipping or some-such; regardless, it's not a flavor that I'm averse to. The hops linger in the back, providing a nice kick that doesn't overpower the brew, but aren't realy indicative of an IPA. Still, my favorite Marston's brew thus far.  (Grade: B)

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