The Beer Nut: Grab a pint glass and try a smooth-drinking Batemans from England

Norman Miller

Sure, just like a lot of other beer geeks out there, I can't wait to try that next ultra-complex beer, the one that challenges my palate while I try to pick up all of the little nuances in flavor.

But sometimes, I just want a good, solid beer. It may not be the complex or loaded with six types of hops or exotic yeasts, but just a darn good and drinkable beer - something I can just sit back, enjoy and watch a good game on TV.

Lately, I find myself turning to Batemans Brewery from Wellfleet, Lincolnshire, England, one of those breweries that just makes good, solid beers.

Although Batemans isn't new - the brewery was founded in 1874 by George Bateman and today it's still run by the Bateman family - the beers are new to me.

I started drinking Batemans beers last year, and I have not been disappointed in any of them.

First, before describing the beers, here's a little advice about drinking English ales (and most beers).

You don't want the beer ice cold. You want the beer to be in the high 50s. That temperature will allow more of the flavors to come through. If a beer is too cold, the flavors are muted.

Also, don't swig the ales from the 500 ml (16.9-ounce) bottles. Grab a proper pint glass - or better yet, a 20-ounce imperial pint glass - and pour the whole bottle into the glass. Don't frost the glass.

Now, on to the beers.

The Combined Harvest Ale, a 4.7 percent alcohol by volume English pale ale, may be the most unusual of the beers.

Although most beers use malted barley as its malt, the Combined Harvest uses a oat, rye and wheat combination.

The beer is an extremely light golden color, probably one of the palest ales I've ever seen.

However, despite the lack of color, it has a great aroma thanks to the various grains, which also gives it a slight fruity flavor.

With the first sip, it tastes sweet, but it seems to mellow the more you drink. It has a bready flavor, and a slight spiciness in the background from the hops.

It's a well-balanced beer and easy to drink. A perfect "session" beer, or a beer you can have several of in one sitting without worrying about intoxication.

The XXXB is Batemans' best beer.

It's an extra special bitter, coming in at 4.8 percent ABV.

It has the classic English-style bitter flavor; a biscuity aroma, blended with toffee and caramel. The aroma carries over into the flavor, with toffee- and caramel-like flavors throughout.

The hops don't add much in the way of bitterness, but provide a good spiciness to keep the beer from getting too sweet.

Although a little light, it is nicely carbonated.

Again, as it is with all of the Batemans ales, it is an easy drinking ale.

One of the newest offerings from Batemans is Mr. George's Ruby Porter.

The beer gets its name from George Bateman, the former chairman of the brewery who died in 2007 and was referred to by employees as "Mr. George." His children still run the brewery.

The Ruby Porter is almost jet black, with flavors of chocolate and a slight roastiness to it. At 5 percent ABV, it is not overly strong. It's a good after-dinner beer.

The final Batemans ale available locally is the Rosey Nosey, the brewery's winter warmer.

An excellent example of the style, it's malty, a little buttery, has a good spicy hop presence -- more than the rest of the beers -- and even a little fruitiness to it. There is even a little taste of honey in there. The hop spiciness makes this a good food beer; maybe something like chicken or pork would be a good pairing.

Batemans brews several other beers, including spring and summer beers and a stout called Dark Lord. I hope more of their beers make it over to this side of the Atlantic. They would be welcome additions for those who like a good session beer every once in awhile.

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