When I left
Rhode Island to live in Georgia, I knew I would be giving up a lot as far as
beer was concerned. Beers with alcohol over 6% in volume would be one of
those things, but just as near and dear to my heart, and indeed perhaps more
so, were my beloved Ringwood ales. Ringwood ales are a tad different from
the lot, and are a hallmark of New England brewing. I’ll quote from an
article I wrote for the Yankee Brew News back in 1997:
Ringwood ales have a noticeably sharp, often buttery profile that is quite unique and hard to mistake.
In the world of yeast, Ringwood is a sort of a Rodney Dangerfield. It gets no respect. Some beer enthusiasts dislike it; others seem to have a difficult time developing a taste for it. Part of this is due to its above-mentioned tendency to produce diacetyl flavors as a fermentation by-product.
Diacetyl is often described as being reminiscent of butter, popcorn butter, or butterscotch. Almost a quarter of the population is incapable of detecting it, so if you have never noticed it, don't panic. It is a quality present in many English ales, however, and is one of the reasons Ringwood, when properly controlled, is capable of producing top-notch English style ales.
I have always felt that Ringwood yeast imparts a decidedly English flavor; indeed, England is the homeland of Ringwood. But, as I mentioned above, Ringwood breweries are few and far between outside of New England, although they do exist. Here in the south, however, they are non-existent.
So, you can imagine my delight in seeing Middle Ages beers on the shelves here in Georgia a few months ago. I immediately snapped up a healthy supply of Impaled Ale , one of my very favorite beers bar none. The other day, I found some Grail Ale, and bought that too.
As you have no doubt guessed, Middle Ages is a Ringwood brewer. They are located in Syracuse, New York. This area of upstate New York is sometimes included as part of New England, sometimes not. Irregardless, the beer pouring from the taps here is wonderful, and also free if you drop by the brewery tap room for a tour and tasting. They brew a wide array of styles, including a Scotch ale named Ye Olde Kilt Tilter. That alone should be enough to get our own Doc Devience on a plane for Syracuse.
Middle Ages describes Grail Ale as follows:
An Amber ale with a ruby red hue, fresh hop aroma, rich malt body and a complex palate. An excellent choice with grilled meats, sausages, BBQ, pizza and pasta dishes. Bronze medal winner at the 1998 World Beer Championships.
Here’s what I think:
As I pour my bottle into a Middle Ages logo glass I bought several years ago at the brewery, Middle Ages Grail Ale pours to a deep amber to brownish color with a very thick and rocky head formation and a buttery, slightly fruity hop nose. A thick coating of Brussels lace follows your beer down your glass as you sip.
At first, the palate hits you with a good dose of wonderfully toasty malt, then a touch of that buttery, mushroomy Ringwood yeast character asserts itself. There’s a light hint of fruit along with a bit of herbal hop character, too. Mostly though the pale malt and yeast flavors predominate. In the finish, a minty-grassy hop bitterness emerges. Fuggles or Goldings come to mind. They leave a lingering bitterness on the tongue after sipping.
This is a wonderful amber, and it’s a fine beer to satisfy my Ringwood cravings. It is a bit more bitter than your average amber, however, only slightly less so than the Impaled Ale. I still prefer the latter, but this is a welcome brew too.
Note: those who would like to read my Ringwood article in its entirety can do so here.
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.