The Nicholson's London Ale trail runs through Soho and Oxford Street, Theatreland, Piccadilly to Westminster, the Financial District, historical Blackfriars and London Bridge to Tower Bridge, in the city centre.
Add another three sites just outside the centre of London, and there's 43 pubs to sample the delight of Great British ales.
|Left to right; Cask ale expert Ben Lockwood, The Clachan manager Greg Yates, |
and yours truly
On notifying the bar manager that we weren't just dossers taking an afternoon off to tank up on the super selection of ales on offer, but that I was there to review the festival, we were offered our first sample - a pint of the 24 Carat Gold, a Liverpool-brewed ale.
And a great start that was! The ale was lively and refreshing, the orange notes very clear in the pint, a superb selection from manager Greg Yates.
After finishing a meeting, assistant brand manager and cask ale expert Ben Lockwood joined us at the table - and after being briefed of his experience and enthusiasm for his line of work, I expected a 40-years-old + gent to be joining us.
I was wrong, as shuffling down next to us was a youthful smartly-dressed chap, who, similar to me as I am a youthful, smartly-dressed chap, was 28-years-old.
His knowledge and history in the trade was fascinating, his pride and dedication very evident, and it helped that he asked us questions as well as us quizzing him, and it made it a nicely-settled atmosphere.
After some interesting conversation, Ben decided that we would crack on with sampling some of the ales on offer. And here's how they went down, with scoring courtesy of myself, my home-brewing ale expert Andy, and some geezer we met on the way (joke) Greg.
Taste: A powerfully hopped golden bitter that explodes with citrus grapefruit flavours
It is always difficult to score an ale when it is first (discounting our pre-drink) on the menu. Yet all three of us were confident this would be right up there. The ale was crisp, the flavours of the hops spicy, yet not overwhelming, and it left a really strong mouthfeel.
Andy - 9
Greg - 7
John - 8
|There were certainly a few ales to get through...|
Taste: Roasted malts, fruity and hoppy
This beer is brewed in memory of founder William Nicholson, whose original homemade gin, before trying his expert hand to ale, was called Lamplighter. The citric aromas, mixed with an earthy aftertaste made it seem all ends up a sure-fire house ale. The taste however, seemed like it could be of a seasonal nature, perhaps more an autumn/winter warmer, which affected the scoring.
Andy - 8
Greg - 6
John - 9
Taste: Refreshing, balanced, light and fruity
Admittedly, I went into this taste-test with a bias insofar that Batley is close to where I was brought up. However, this ale turned out to be my least favourite. Nothing to do with its qualities as a blonde ale, but simply that I prefer a heavy, dark ale. We all felt it tasted very 'light' and hit little effect on the palate - but perhaps it is an acquired taste!
|I had a go at pulling my own - apparently it was the 'perfect pint'|
Andy - 5
Greg - 5
John - 6
Taste: Roasted malts giving a unique rich and luscious flavour
Again I wanted to be biased - Skipton is a lovely place not far from my home in Leeds. So I naturally scored it high - but for good reason. I found the ale very flavoursome, like a well-nurtured desert, very grainy and caramel-like. Sadly, I think my colleagues were getting full up as shown in their scoring.
Andy - 6
Greg - 6
John - 8
|Think the lads were happy with the afternoon's entertainment!|
Taste: A fantastic wheat beer that holes any passing thirst
A really refreshing beer that had a very special zest that makes you forget that it contains any alcohol. This is certainly an ale you could spend a night on and be happy with your choice. However, it might lack that special edge that others might bring.
Andy - 6
Greg - 7
John - 7
Taste: The three hops give a delightful citrus nose
Now here it was, the final ale, from my home town, Leeds. And I was not disappointed, and neither were my colleagues, who had no bias whatsoever! This was the clear winner! It is a real thirst-quencher, containing a different sensation on each taste. It was a complex taste with many different flavours on the palate, but each one discernible. A sure fire winner!
Andy - 9
Greg - 8
John - 9
And so we were shortly on our way. Well oiled for the evening, but with a realisation that we didn't want to ruin it with sub-standard alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, as we didn't frequent any more Nicholson's pubs on our tour of London, we knew there was no point trying the ales of other establishments as they wouldn't match up. So we decided to stay on water for the evening to as to not spoil the palate.
Well, that might not be wholly true, but our ale-tasting session at The Clachan was certainly the highlight of our meeting. Bravo!