Marston’s Pale Ale

Marston’s (low strength) Pale Ale is reviewed by Chris Hall. Probably his angriest review to date.

“…a cynical, poorly thought-out, frankly disgraceful attempt at making lower-strength flavoursome beer…”

Marston’s Pale Ale
Marston’s Brewery, Burton-upon-Trent
ABV 2.8%

After the most recent change in beer tax, brewers have been encouraged to create lower-strength beers to take advantage of the government’s clumsy attempts to get people to drink less alcohol. Marston’s, the traditional and well-respected brewer of beers like Pedigree and Old Empire, has turned out the excitingly-named Pale Ale for this exact purpose. Lower strength real ale can be a dreary category, but there are a few surprisingly flavoursome drops to be found (such as Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter and BrewDog’s Blitz!). I had been eager to see if Marston’s could brew an equally impressive featherweight contender.

The label promises that it has been ‘traditionally brewed for flavour and taste’. That’s right folks, flavour AND taste. They’ve really spared no expense here. Awful marketing and packaging aside, Marston’s Pale Ale is a bright, golden ale that has a lively sparkle and an appetisingly smooth head. Don’t expect too much from the aroma; in fact, don’t expect an aroma. There’s the faintest whiff of banana, or possibly some kind of biscuit, that’s whipped away again as soon as it’s arrived. That’s your lot.

Take a somewhat pensive sip, and you’ll realise that there’s been a hilarious cock-up at Marston’s. You see – mercy me, you’ll laugh too when you’ve forked out money for one – the chaps at Marston’s thought they had to make a beer that had 2.8% of the flavour of a regular beer. So they gave it a barely perceptible, cereal-like sweetness and swapped the hops for what, I think, may be dog biscuits. The finish, such as it is, is a sense of relief that it is no longer in your mouth. It’s almost as though it’s an ale in drag as Skol.

Marston’s Pale Ale is a cynical, poorly thought-out, frankly disgraceful attempt at making lower-strength flavoursome beer for a tax break. If this is the best they can come up, it’s money wasted on making their other beers better. Poor show.

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