Beer Review: Robinsons - Old Tom Strong Ale

  • ABV: 8.5%, Style: Strong Ale
  • Best before end July 2013
  • Brewed in Stockport, UK
  • Served: 330ml bottle poured into Anchor Steam US pint shaker
  • £2.09 from Tesco

Robinsons - Old Tom Strong Ale

Continuing my survey of Robinson’s beer, I picked up an Old Tom. Despite winning a prize at the 2009 World Beer Awards, any beer which proudly claims “The World’s Best Ale” will struggle to be taken seriously. Old Tom is one of the few Robinson’s beers which strays away from the category of standard English bitter and so it’s interesting.

Robinson’s is the closest brewery to my house and one of the few old town centre breweries that’s still functioning in it’s original location, although they’ve only achieved this by putting an additional facility out in an industrial estate in Bredbury.

The Old Tom bottle claims that the recipe goes back to 1899. I’ve only been aware of it for about 5 years when I saw it on tap at The Castle. The barstaff were always somewhat nervous of it’s strength and would only serve it in half pint measures. I think I had one, found it to be a bit strange and moved on. Since I’m paying a bit more attention to what I think of beer now, I figured it’d be worth a revisit in the privacy of my own home.

Aroma: Molasses, treacle and spice. Smells like it’s going to be very sweet.

Taste: Very heavy malt, molasses, hint of liquorice. Not that sweet considering the abv. The liquorice grows in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, rounded. Very drying finish.

Overall: While not a beer that I’d ever want more than 1/2 of, I think it’s got much more to recommend it by way of flavour than anything else that I’ve tried from Robinsons. It’s got a lot more flavour than most beers from a lot of the older English brewers for that matter.

I think if someone was excited by malt as I was by hops they’d be very happy with this beer. As it is, I appreciate that it’s a good beer but it’s far to malty for me. 4/5

The good news is that the overtones that the Unicorn had aren’t present in this beer. Since my Brew #2 is aiming for about 7.5% abv I’m hoping that it might have overcome the off tastes that Brew #1 shared with Unicorn!

Robinsons - Old Tom Strong Ale

- 27th March 2012, Sustainable Alcoholic

Beer Review: Robinsons - Unicorn

  • ABV: 4.3%, Style: Premium Ale
  • Best before December 2012
  • Brewed in Stockport, UK
  • Served: 500ml bottle poured into a festival imperial conical pint
  • £1.75 from Morrisons supermarket

Unicorn is dull. It’s the best bitter of the brewery that’s closest to my house. There are loads of Robbies pubs around here and it’s a standard tipple.

I’d like their beer whole lot more if they accepted that they are saving money by serving locally and passed that on to the customer. Holt’s pubs do that and I don’t understand why Robinsons don’t. Anyway, the fact that it’s a rather standard pint and it’s not ever very cheap have led me to have a bit of resentment for Unicorn.

I picked this up for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a bottled variant is going to be as good as it’s going to get from the brewery - no landlord tampering or bad bar hygiene to offset the flavour - so I thought I’d try to give it an even handed review. Secondly, as this beer is probably made from the same water as my beer and I wanted to know if it had a similar taste.

Aroma: Not a strong aroma. A little malty with a hint of hoppy spice.

Taste: Hints of treacle, metal and banana. There is a finish there but it is dull and drying without really leaving much in the way of noticeable flavour.  Sweetness and bitterness balance out quite evenly.

Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation, medium bodied. Large bubbles typical of UK bottle conditioned beer.

Overall: It’s been brewed since 1896 but overall it’s a pretty average ale. I suppose most Victorian recipes seem insipid to today’s tastes so it’s hardly a surprise. Also, it definitely doesn’t taste of unicorns. 3/5

The interesting thing for me is that there are similar notes in both Unicorn and my Brew #1. I did a side-by-side tasting and it’s unmistakable: the metallic tinge and the hint of banana come through in both beers.

So, unless I start using bottled water or turn chemist, my beer is destined to have a taste of Robinsons.

- 26th March 2012, Sustainable Alcoholic