Premium Old Style Bitter is reviewed by Craig Heap
Premium OSB (Old Style Bitter)
Hurns Brewing Co
Let’s face it, most Welsh ale is the same. It adheres to a specific formula, or style, in as much as you can expect a stout to be black, full bodied and strong, Welsh ale typically has a sweet maltiness, with caramel, biscuit and spice notes, almost no head, and though balanced it is rarely bitter or hoppy. SA Brains, Felinfoel Double Dragon and Conwy Welsh Pride operate within these parametres . The formula is a good one, and makes for very sessionable beer, but when there’s such a lack of variety, people will generally go for the most available version. Cardiff based Brains is Wales biggest brewery, and while their beers don’t travel well into England, they happily fill that Welsh ale niche at a good price.
A short kick of the rugby ball up the road is Tomos Watkins, situated in Swansea. Their OSB won an award in 1999 at the Great British Beer Festival, is on cask and in bottle, so it could be seen as one of their front running expressions. Can they break through the Brains hegemony?
OSB pours a dark copper colour in the glass with a light head. It presents the curious sniffer with a sweet, subtle smell; pleasant, if unsurprising, notes of toasted malt, caramel and fresh biscuits.
The foretaste is sweet and malty. Before those looking for variety can become disappointed, a citrus, orangey bitterness comes through. The taste profile then opens up to a slow reveal and dollops slice after slice of cake flavours onto your tongue; a sugary sweet cake made with dried fruit and citrus zest. A rounded hop-hit in the finish prevents this from becoming too sweet. The finish is also quite dry and warming in its bitterness.
Here and there, I picked up rogue flavours of toasted Belgian waffles and soap. The beer also left a biscuit sweetness on the lips to savour between sips. While I wouldn’t go quite as far as to call it a complex taste profile, it was definitely rewarding. It strayed just far enough from the text-book Welsh ale profile to please those aiming for something a little different, without going too far to upset those who love the formula.
If you like Brains but want something a bit different, Tomos Watkins OSB is worth a try. If you haven’t had a Welsh beer before, start here. You might be converted.