Review Date 6/4/2003
If you are
wondering why a small English brewery would call itself Freeminer,
you should know that the moniker pays homage to the local coal industry. The
association between the brewery and what was once the leading local economic
engine goes beyond just a simple connection, however. The tradition of
freemining has a lot in common with the microbrewing revolution.
According to local tradition, Anyone born in the Forest of Dean within the Hundred of St. Briavels, and who has worked in a mine for a year and a day, may open up his own coal mine. (this according to the brewery). Freeminers are allowed to operate on their own, digging small mines that they operate and then selling the coal themselves.
Microbrewers are a lot like freeminers. That’s because just like the freeminers, they like to do things for themselves. In an increasingly crowded beer market, new microbreweries still pop up all the time. Somebody always has a better idea, and because of this beer enthusiasts are continually treated to a steady parade of new and interesting brews.
In England, small breweries are not exactly emerging at the pace they do in the United States, but there are a few of them. The Freeminer Brewery of Cindeford is a classic example. Brewing distinguished, flavorful, and complex ales, Freeminer is as fiercely independent as the entrepreneurs for which it is named.
One of those tasty ales is Trafalgar India Pale Ale. A hearty, robust brew with a firm malt body and plenty of hop character, Trafalgar is made with only the finest Maris Otter malt and Golding hops. This is an interesting English IPA, with a bit more hops than I’ve found in any English example of the style so far. A distinctive American Pacific-Northwest influence asserts itself in the chewy caramel body and slightly citric hoppiness.
Trafalgar IPA is named for a famous naval battle that occurred during the Napoleonic Wars. Lord Nelson’s stunning defeat of the French fleet off the coast of Trafalgar was such a rout that it ended Napoleon’s plan to invade the British Isles.
Trafalgar IPA is brewed and dry hopped with Goldings. The end result is a beer of 50 IBUs, though the chewy Maris Otter and crystal malt body balances off some of that bitterness. It has an alcohol content of 6% by volume, putting it at the lower end of the scale for India pale Ale, which usually ranges between six and seven percent.
Freeminer Trafalgar India Pale Ale pours to a bright orange amber color with a thick creamy head formation and a heady caramel nose. The palate is rich and full bodied with a big chewy caramel base and an emerging, slightly citric character. The finish is long and dry with a pronounced grassy hop bitterness that lingers on the tongue after sipping. The contrast of hops and malt here is very well done and provides for a full-bodied beer that hopheads will surely enjoy.
The only negative about Trafalgar is the price: at $3.99 for a half-liter bottle it is, in my opinion, overpriced by about a dollar. That won’t stop me from enjoying a bottle from time to time, however. If you’re looking for an interesting English India Pale Ale, don’t let it stop you either.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.