Marina is an unlikely place to find authentic English ales.
Thursday, September 21, 2000
The first question on most people''s minds is how a brewery located in Marina, California can claim to make authentic English beer. The answer is that English Ales Brewery is brewing off contract to Hampshire Brewery in Romsey, England. The Hampshire Brewery is well known among beer makers for having won the coveted gold prize in the Brewing Industry International Awards 2000, a competition that began in the late 19th century and is held in high esteem among industry personnel.
Since English ale is typically non-pasteurized and therefore very fragile, Hampshire has opened satellite breweries in the United States. Hampshire collaborated with Pete and Rosemary Blackwell of Monterey to open up the west coast extension, resulting in the English Ales Brewery, at 223 Reindollar.
Enough historical rubbish. Let''s get to the fun part: How do these ales taste? I would suggest (from personal experience) that you do not go into the small bar in the brewery and sample every single type of ale they make in one day. (Remember, Monterey is third in the nation for busting drunks.) These ales swing between a low of 4.8 percent alcohol content to a high of 6.0 percent. With names taken straight out of old English lingo, ales like Pendragon, Ironside and Black Penny have a taste that should be very different from your standard pasteurized ale.
Watch out for one ale in particular; 1066, a strong ale with a light hop scent and a smooth clean taste. With its addictive flavor and an alcohol content of 6.0 percent, it could be used as rocket fuel. Pendragon is an amber malt with a good balance of different hop flavorings. It''s like drinking a loaf of light bread; sustaining and not as bitter as most strong ales you might find elsewhere.
Black Penny is a dark, rugged porter that borders on having a kind of barley wine aftertaste. It certainly sat differently on the palate than many of the other English Ale brews, but some locals (not me) might be delighted to find this is the dark beer they have always yearned for.
Ironside is English Ales'' standard bitter ale; it''s crisp, and at 52 degrees is nearly as cold as most Americans like it. It makes a good replacement for many other European ales, but if you''ve already gone through a 1066 you might not even care which one.
Because each beer takes at least two weeks to brew, English Ales is only now catching up to the amount of product it needs to start supplying the local pubs. The best place to find all of these ales is at the brewery itself, but if you can''t make it that far or are afraid you''ll never make it home alive, you can also check out the Mucky Duck on Alvarado, which carries a selection of all four of the brews previously mentioned.
Soon these ales will be springing up in bars and pubs around the region, but until California palates start catching on, the new beers remain something local that just might be worth trying. Just remember to play it safe with the 1066.