Wednesday, March 24, 2010

267. Boddingtons Draught Style Pub Ale vs. Tetley’s Draught Style English Ale vs. Belhaven Draught Style Scottish Ale

Today we’re having our Second Annual Widget Draught Can Drink Off. Yes, we know annual means once a year, and we did the Murphy’s and Guinness Drink Off less than a year ago, but too bad. It’s our website, so don’t get all semantical on us. Today’s contestants are Boddingtons Draught Style Pub Ale, Tetley’s Draught Style English Ale, and Belhaven Draught Style Scottish Ale. Boddingtons is made in Luton, England, Tetley’s is made in Leeds, England, and Belhaven is made in Dunbar, Scotland.

Boddingtons has a dry, slightly chalky, and slightly fruity nose mixed with some sweetness; it pours a crystal clear gold (well, once it settles out), and has a rich creamy lingering white head—got to love those widget draught cans! The beer opens with creamy sweet front; the middle is a bit thin, but has pleasant bitterness. While there is no hop flavor in the middle, the bitterness does come through nicely in the middle, and lingers on into the end, which is dry and clean. Boddingtons is medium to light bodied with a creamy thick mouthfeel; the carbonation, while present, is rather light on the palate—it helps build the creaminess, and rounds the beer across the palate, creating more of a consistent evenness than any sort of bite.

From the can: “Since 1778 when it was first brewed at the Strangeways Brewery in Manchester, Boddingtons has been renowned as a unique, pale-gold ale. In English pubs, Boddingtons is served using the traditional hand pulled method which mixes the air with the ale as it pours, producing a distinctive creamy head and smooth body, with little gassiness. Ordinary packaged ale cannot match this quality, but the new Draughtflow System does. By releasing millions of tiny bubbles when opened, Draughtflow cans give the creamy head and authentic fresh taste of Boddingtons Pub Ale. ”

ABV: 4.7%

Tetley’s pours a clear copper with a thick thick ivory head that laces the glass profusely. It took a little sucking to break through that head when we were sipping on it. The nose is a malty caramel—kinda hard to get to it through the head. Opening with some caramel malt and a touch of toffee in the front, Tetley’s moves into a soft and lightly bitter middle with more of the toffee and caramel before finishing dry and with a bit of corn flavor—it mostly just fades away. Much like the Boddingtons, the body is medium to light with a creamy thick mouthfeel that is also dry on the palate. The carbonation is similar to Boddingtons—dry and even, although creamy. Tetley’s has more caramel flavor and less hop bitterness than Boddingtons, leaving it a bit less balanced as a whole.

From the can: “A uniquely smooth taste. For best results; serve cold from the fridge, pull the tab, listen to the surge & pour down the side of the can in one smooth movement.”

ABV: 3.6%

Belhaven pour a hazy brownish copper—there’s a bunch of small bits floating in it—with a creamy and thick ivory head. Elli wanted to know if the small bits were from “widget-conditioning.” Starting malty sweet with caramel and some biscuit and roasted flavors, Belhaven Scottish Ale shifts into light roasted chocolate in the middle, which is also accompanied by nutty and fruity flavors. The finish is creamy, malty, and lightly roasty, with a touch of smokiness to close things out. Belhaven is medium bodied with a creamy but also dry mouthfell, and a bit more carbonation presence in the mouth than the other two beers

From the can: “The Belhaven Brewery is Scotland’s oldest surviving independent brewery dating back to 1719. Belhaven Scottish Ale is a fully rounded ale, a complex mix of malt and hop producing Belhaven’s easily recognised malty and nutty flavor.”

ABV: 5.2%

Aroma Advantage: Belhaven gets the nod here; while it is a bit bigger of a beer, the complex aromas are able to cut through the thick creamy head and make their presence felt.

Appearance Advantage: Tetley’s comes out on top here; the slighter darker color with a touch of red in it made it stand out, and the thick head was impressive. Tetley’s does also have some sort of larger widget inside the can than the other two beers—it is attached to the bottom, and as the can tells us, “listen to the surge.” We did, and the results were good.

Flavor Advantage: We have a split decision here: Elli likes Boddingtons, while I like Belhaven. Since we’re crossing beer styles, the arbitrary factor is on the upswing. Elli favored Boddingtons because it was the only one with any real hop presence, even if it was only in the bitterness, and because it has a clean and simple malt profile. I like the darker, richer malt profile of Belhaven, and the nuance as it ran across the palate.

Mouthfeel Advantage: Elli favors Boddingtons; I see it as something of a toss-up—since all three are draught cans, there is a certain similarity in the mouthfeel that is a bit homogeneous. While the flavors are more distinct, the mouthfeel seems less so here.

Label Art Advantage: Tetley gets last place here—the little dude holding a beer and the multiple fonts leaves this can a bit busy overall. The Belhaven is nice and simple—the color arrangement is good, and the use of the natural aluminum color is clever. But we’ve got to go with the classic bees on barrel of Boddingtons. Classic design and packaging.

Overall Advantage: We’re again split down the middle: Elli goes with Boddingtons, and I go with Belhaven, so I guess we’ll have to call it a draw. But Tetley’s doesn’t get to be in on it.

(3/24/2010)

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