Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quaff Review #26: Betty Stogs

Aside from the usual suspects, Fuller's and Tetley's and St. Peter's and so on, it's not particularly easy to find English beer in Canada--particularly my part of Canada, which is almost as far away you can get from England without starting to get closer to it again. As in all things, though, if you keep your eyes open for long enough, eventually you're going to come across something you never expected to find. So it was that at Legacy Liquor Store, occupying a space formerly used as the prayer room for the 2010 Winter Olympics, I came across bottles from an English microbrewery that I'd never seen before.

Skinner's is a family-owned brewery in Truro, Cornwall's only city, and they've been working the brews for fifteen years now. They brew a number of seasonal ales, but their flagship beer is something apart, "the Queen of Cornish Ales," Betty Stogs. She rather resembles Britannia's Cornish understudy on the bottle label, a label which strangely doesn't tell us how many units of alcohol you'll find inside it. It does, however, tell me a few important things. First, it's 4% alcohol by volume, so fairly chipper in its own right. Second, its name didn't come from nowhere. Betty Stogs is a character from Cornish folklore, a lazy woman who neglected her infant and had it briefly abducted by faeries--a cautionary tale against alcoholism, perhaps?

Whatever the case, the beer Betty Stogs is looked upon rather more fondly; back in 2008, it was recognized as a CAMRA Champion Beer of Great Britain, winning a gold in the Best Bitter category. In North American terminology, that's an ordinary pale ale. It's been a while since I've tried new pale ales, or really anything that identifies itself as being bitter; I've recently shied away from them, especially IPAs, because so many of them taste like liquified hops in water. Is Betty Stogs different?

I'll have to say that it definitely wasn't what I was expecting.

Betty Stogs took me by surprise from the very start. I poured it the standard way, into a stein held a bit askew, and no head formed. Once I'd finished pouring and set it on the table for the picture above, a bit of foam bubbled up from the beer's depths, but only that slight amount, and it didn't take its time disappearing. I didn't find it particularly aromatic either, with no detectable smell at uncapping or after pouring.

It's got a nice, clear amber body, though I was at first disappointed by the taste--my notes call it "hoppy and watery." Still, I've had watery beers before, and if watery beer is a good enough reason to stop drinking beer, the United States would have been dry long ago. It was the hops that made me keep on, and in Betty Stogs the hops work far better with the beer than other pale ales I've tried. Rather than a hop flavor that dominates the beer and lingers past its welcome, the hops in Betty Stogs are transitory things--they brush against the back of the tongue but are quickly washed past, leaving little aftertaste. It's a nice way of doing it, actually.

The bottle says it's an "easy drinking copper ale," and it doesn't exaggerate. At first I found it flat, but this beer has a way of endearing itself, it seems.


Previous Quaff Reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment