English Bitter in Fine Tradition

The days are getting shorter and the body is beginning to prepare for colder temperatures so our tastes start tending towards warming ales.

Well, mine do, anyway. Today I am tasting a traditionally brewed English ale brewed in Upper Moutere. The beer is called Old House ESB (extra special bitter) and is made by Townshend Brewery in Upper Moutere, Nelson.

Martin Townshend, the owner/brewer, is an expat Englishman who married a Kiwi girl and ended up moving to Upper Moutere in 2002. Martin spent 15 years making fine homebrew before he decided to take the plunge and make the stuff commercially. He has a small 280-litre brewing plant on his lifestyle block and at the moment is making about 800 litres a week.

Being English helps in his dedication to the traditional brewing ways of his homeland. He is focused mainly on traditional cask-conditioned real ale and recommends drinking it from the cask via a hand pump.

Unfortunately all his regular outlets are in the Nelson region, with sporadic appearances in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Luckily for us he also bottles some of his beer, and it is available in select outlets throughout the country.

Martin is right, this type of beer tastes best fresh so, if you can, drink it in the Moutere where it belongs.

The beer is not pasteurised or filtered and is naturally carbonated in the bottle. The presence of yeast in the bottle also helps the beer last longer, and for six months or so it will even get better. The bottles are conditioned for four weeks before being released. Having sediment in the bottle does require that extra bit of care but I found that it was fairly well compacted and even when tipping the last of it from the bottle it was still very drinkable. It should not be drunk from the bottle. If you are concerned that drinking a beer from a glass is not manly enough maybe you should be drinking something like a mass-produced beer.

I poured gently into a large glass, taking care not to disturb the sediment. The carbonation was spot on with small bubbles supporting a close-knit white head. The head settled to a thick film. The liquid was very clear and was a deep amber colour with a golden tinge. The nose was fresh with a hint of yeast. Some subtle caramel malt aromas come through with an edge of hop flower. Initially in the mouth it is soft with a hint of smooth malt sweetness. A crisp edge/bitterness shows itself early to indicate that yes there are hops in this beer. A rich intensity dominates the middle, a mix of alcohol and malt body. The finish slowly moves to the back of the mouth where the earthy hop bitterness and a tannic edge take over. The balance throughout the palate is spot on.

This is helped by the yeast in the bottle which helps the beer develop over time.

It doesn't try to overpower you with flavour or hops. It hits the English ESB style on the head. A very drinkable beer.

Old House ESB
Style: English ESB
Made By: Townshend Brewery, Upper Moutere.
Alcohol content: 5.3% abv
Available: Halswell New World. Fresh Choice Parklands.
Description: Rich malt body with just the right amount of earthy hop character.

BY CARL HADLER 25/03/2010

- © Fairfax NZ News

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