The cold months are upon us! Not that they ever really leave these fair isles. Perhaps it's not quite time for the stouts and porters to take prominence, but certainly the malt monsters are on the march, hence why tonight's review is of a 'Beast of a Beer': Ringwood's Old Thumper.
I've had pints of this from the cask and it's always a fantastic, meaty ESB that I can really sink my teeth into. There are few things I enjoy better than a hearty ESB, especially in these chill autumn months, so when I saw this in my local Sainsbury's (at an 'introductory' £1.36(!)) how could I resist temptation?
Blurb: Hampshire's New Forest was historically the hunting ground of legendary fierce wild boar, the prize kill of an English King, Ringwood brewery celebrates this heritage with a real beast of a beer in 'Old Thumper'. It delivers a deep brown strong ale with a spicy fruity hop aroma and a warming malty finish. The distinctive taste has made it a champion Beer of Britain, popular at home & abroad.
I should note, that the bottle boasts being a CAMRA Beer of Britain Winner in... 1988... Let's see if it stands the test of time.
Old Thumper pours an effervescent amber with not much head to speak of but it never fully disappears. What there is leaves a sparse, oily lacing. Despite this, there's heaps of carbonation in the glass.
The aromas are really thick and malty with lots of spicey, peppery notes, some herbal hop undertones in there and a great toasted malt character.
It sips like a true animal. It pulls no punches. It's straight-up malt mania with more of that spiciness, lots of fruit and strong caramel notes before giving way to a dry roasted malt and grassy hop bitterness that tugs on your tongue harder than a teenage boy does his penis. After the climax - the post-coital cigarette - there's a lasting biscuity aftertaste at the front of the tongue with the hop sting giving all it's got at the back and sides.
Despite the initial carbonation, this doesn't come through too strong on the palate, which I find allows more freely for the flavours to develop on the tongue. The mouthfeel is actually quite soft, with just a touch of freshness from the fizz. It's medium in body, so it doesn't leave you feeling weighed down and it doesn't leave your palate feeling thick and sticky, just wanting more.
Old Thumper, for me, is a step-up from Ringwood's standard bitter. It's everything an ESB should be: full, warming and packed full of flavour. It's the Best Bitter on 'roids, if you will. Sure, it's 5.6% so it's a touch high for a true session bitter, but I wouldn't hesitate to try!
Post scriptum. St. Augustine once said: "post coitum omne animal triste est". If I could say the same thing for beer, I would readily apply it here.