Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bateman's is back!

Awhile back I learned that Bateman's Ales had returned to our shores. I was quite happy about this as I have some fond memories of drinking Bateman's back in the 1990s. My interest in Bateman's came about after watching the British episode of Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter series produced by the Discovery Channel. Jackson interviewed George Bateman who was a bit emotional while relating the story about saving the brewery. Whilst getting rather choked up, he told Jackson about "old age pensioners" sending him "10-pound notes to help save the brewery." Mr. George (as he was known) was quite a character in this video and piqued my interest in the brewery. I can't remember exactly when I first tried a Bateman's ale, but when I saw them at the store I had to try them. At the time, the XXXB and the Victory Ale were available. I grew to like these beers so much that I bought a mixed case of pints of both of them for something around $15 to $18 back in 1996 (a heck of a deal, even then) for a fall weekend trip to Michigan with a good friend. (We even brought Imperial pint glass with us -- such geeks!) We drank most of the case that weekend and since then I've associated Bateman's with the fall season.

It seems fitting then that today I found Bateman's at Binny's (was Sam's, but that's another story) in Downers Grove. I picked up a bottle of XXXB and Combined Harvest. The XXXB tasted just like I remember: a fairly pronounced toffee flavor combined with a complex fruitiness leading to a dry finish spiked with a bit of mineral-like character. The hop character is a modest (by a American standards) 38 IBUs and is balanced well with the malt. The alcohol content by volume is 4.8 percent. It's not quite as red as in the picture, if fact I didn't think it was really that red at all.

The Combined Harvest is a new multi-grain product. The label calls it a "bronze pale beer brewed with pale and crystal barley malts combined with malted wheat, oats and rye and hopped with Phoenix and Target varities (hops)." The bottle mentions the "superb aroma", but I found the smell of Combined Harvest to be a bit lackluster. Perhaps this has to do with the voyage from England? However, I did enjoy the taste of this beer and I like its graininess and tart fruitiness. I suppose it should be noted that the brewery states that this beer is "vegan friendly." A new marketing angle?

I think both of these Bateman beers are fine examples of English ale. They have plenty of flavor couple with a low alcohol content that allows the drinker to enjoy of few of these pints without any effects the next day. The seem a touch expensive though at $4.79 for a pint bottle. That said, I'm hoping I see a keg or cask show up in the Chicago area soon!

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