When thinking of European beer, certain countries leap readily to mind. Britain, Germany, and Belgium in particular are well regarded as the centers of European beer. Even Scotland and Ireland have their fans when it comes to certain styles and producers of beer. One country that seems to fly under the radar however, is Wales. Perhaps this author needs simply to get out more, but not many Welsh beers or breweries leap readily to mind. Until recently that is, when a couple of breweries began making their presence known on the shelves of local beer stores.
SA Brains Brewing’s history traces its way back to 1882 when Samuel Arthur Brain partnered with his uncle to buy Cardiff’s Old Brewery. Over the next five years they expanded, purchasing another brewery and more land next to the Old Brewery with plans to expand their operations. In the 1920s, the brewery began building a real name for themselves with the introduction of Red Dragon Dark. “Dark” as the beer was best known, became so popular the red dragon became the brewery’s trademark.
Today Brains’ line-up has expanded to include a half dozen brews such as their flagship brews, Brains Dark and Brains Bitter. The Reverend James is an English bitter carried over from Brains’ merger with Buckley. Reverend James pours crystal clear and deeply copper in color. Beer throws a dense, cream colored head that is thick and lasting.
Aroma is a little more rich and lush than I would have expected. It’s deliciously malty, caramelly, and nutty all at once. In the middle there’s a bright fruity quality, fresh and ripe. Fruitiness is a little bit jammy, with qualities of apricot. Finish is short and sweet, not showing a huge hop presence.
Reverend James is moderately full in its mouthfeel. As it was in the nose, flavors of malt and nuttiness run across the tongue. Smoothness in the foreground carries the malty notes quite nicely. As the beer moves across the middle of the tongue it carries just a bit of butterscotch before moving on to the back. As the beer finishes it becomes just a little bit dry which accentuates its bitterness. The finish gives the pleasantly peppercorn bitterness of an English bitter or pale ale.
Overall, Reverend James is a 7.75 out of 10. It’s a pleasant tasting, nicely balanced English pale ale. The only thing it really lacks (if you can call this beer lacking) would be a more pronounced hop presence on the nose and maybe a slightly more bracing bitterness in the finish.