British Isle Imports vs Yankee Versions: An "across the pond" tasting across the pond

Welcome to our latest beer instalment from our resident beer expert, Natalie. This week she is going head to head with British (import) Beers vs state-side Tap beers with her band of merry men and the odd local. Scotch eggs and cling film spreads included!

In a stroke of genius (or homesickness) I decided to invade my favo(u)rite local haunt. A little brewery nestled amongst car repair shops in Van Nuys called MacLeod Ale Brewing Company. This particular brewery fast became a favorite within my circle of “Beer Enthusiasts” due in part to the easy nature of the owners and staff and very much due to the fantastic ales made and served.

Perhaps the name gives a hint as to the offerings on tap? MacLeod is owned by a Scottish Ex-Pat and his lovely Wife. Both are bagpipers but don’t let that fool you into thinking they are full of hot air. They aren’t. They are ace. Plus they hired a wiz kid of a brewer who works enormously hard at keeping all the real ales, British and very “real”. Andy (The Brewer) as you will see in the rest of the article is nearly militant in his zeal to keep traditional styles traditional and to keep “brewing to style”.

the beer lineup
not even the full lineup

So, in my aforementioned genius (which let’s face it is really just me being a bit sad and missing jolly old England) I decided to do a taste test of imported British Style (English, Irish, Scottish, and New Zealand) beers against the freshy fresh on tap offerings from MacLeod’s and other Local Breweries. I even ventured back into the kitchen and whipped up a proper feast fit for Boxing Day morning. Scotch Eggs and Sausage Rolls with Picalily, assorted “British” treats, and a magnificent cheese board enough to make even Deliah proud.


a proper spread (complete with cling film)

First off I went to a few bottle shops and bought all the imports my meager wallet could afford:

  • Wexford Irish Style Cream Ale
  • Robinson’s The Trooper
  • Old Speckled Hen
  • The Kings English IPA
  • St. Peter’s Brewery Pale Ale
  • Samuel Smith’s Organic Pale Ale
  • Renaissance Brewing Company Voyager IPA
  • Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
  • St. Peters Brewery Cream Stout
  • Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil Black Ale

I also purchased (and pilfered [not really pilfered]) some American versions of British Styled Ales:

  • Eagle Rock, Black Mild Ale (another brewery Local to me in California)
  • Sanctum Brewing Company, Fell the Oak (where I work)
  • MacLeod Ale, Old Toasty
  • Hooligan IPA Doug King Pro-Am winner*

*(the original brewers of this beer are homebrewers and they won a homebrew competition and were able brew their beer with Andy for a large scale batch which was then put on tap, cool right?!)

We had soft drinks too:

Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade and Dandelion and Burdock

Also, a good thing to note is that there may have been a bottle or two of moonshine floating around. Home distilled Rum, Brandy, and Whiskey. They may have come in to play a bit given the low ABV of some of these beers.

Now… let the silly begin:

Wexford Irish Style Creme Ale: 1. Wexford Irish Style Creme Ale: Widget-tized can

Me: Tastes like I’m in a pub.

The Guest: Something like garlic?

The Ginger: Sweeter, vanilla-y.

The Brewer: Long shipping time. It’s just made in Ireland, but it’s not really an “Irish Style”. There are too many things wrong with this. This is yet another degradation of the public’s uniformed idea of a style.

Jersey (joining us later): Mildy hopped, like it’s nobel hopped.

The regular: It’s creamy.

Jersey (nearly in unison): Creamy.

the trooper by robinsons2. The Trooper (Robinson’s)

Me: Meh.

The Darts Player: It’s fine (it tastes like foam).

The Ginger and the Brewer in unison: Yup.

The Brewer: Long shipping time.

Jersey: Very low carb, light malt, light hops, easy drinking.

The regular: I concur.

Me: How do you think this travelled?

Jersey: I think it travelled fairly well, there wasn’t much in it in the first place to be destroyed.

3. Old Speckled Hen

The Ginger: This beer just tastes old.

Me: God this beer is so sweet. Bleh. (But their adverts are so bleeding cute I had to buy one!)

4. The King’s English IPA (which we were not yet drinking)

The Ginger: It’s got a boat on it

The Brewer: Dude it’s got a boat on it?!

(Writer’s note: This exchange is basically foreshadowing for how the rest of the night is going to go)

5. St. Peter’s Brewery

The Ginger: Like tea

The Brewer: Like a bad tea.

-Then we digressed into discussions about tea and which brand is best (The Brewer said Yorkshire whilst I maintained the Saino’s fairtrade brand was superior) as well as the best biscuits (Hobnobs OBVIOUSLY)-

samuel smiths old pale ale6. Samuel Smith organic Pale ale

The Guest: This also smells like old apples (red apples)

The Brewer: Yes, it does smell a bit of apples

-now we’re talking about types of apples-

The Ginger (back on task): Definitely malt driven.

7. Eagle Rock- Black Mild Ale (Yankee beer)

The Brewer: This beer is definitely smoked.

The Ginger: -reading the label in his poncy voice to raucous laughter-

Me: This is too smokey for me.

macleod old toasty8. MacLeod Ale- Old Toasty (Yankee beer)

The Brewer: This is old toasty, made properly, I detect iced latte

Me: Super roasty and smooth. Very malty. I agree with the iced coffee but for me it’s no latte.

The Ginger: Gorgeous, clean, base note of golden promise, delicious dark malt.

Me: I would suspect you’re all a little biased… But yea, this is frickin’ ace.

9. Hooligan IPA Doug King Pro-Am winner (Yankee beer)

The other Dart Player: IBU’s were probably round 40-50 I don’t like IPA because I’ve been hit with the market of the super hoppy beers and they ruined the palate.

The Brewer: I would even call this a modern IPA because the bitterness is too high as is the alcohol.

10. The King’s English IPA aka The Boat Beer (now we’re drinking it)

Me: I no likey

The Brewer: No hops. There are probably hops in there but they are probably so below the threshold we’re used to.

The Ginger: The malts just dominate.

The Brewer: I should like this. It has a f***ing boat on it.

Me: This tastes just like a normal regular bitter I’d drink at the pub.

renaissaine brewing IPA11. Renaissance Brewing Company, Voyager IPA

Me: What are we thinking?

The Ginger: We like this. It has citrus and grapefruit.

The Brewer: Yea, it’s nice. But it’s got the wrong hops.

-More laughter-

12. Sanctum Brewing, Fell the Oak

The guest: Tastes like D’anjou pear.

The ginger: Highly estery.

-bj seque-

-back off the bj seque-

The Brewer: -now ranting because I said Scottish Style means less hops because the Scottish are cheap-

-Father Ted banter-

13. Samuel Smith’s oatmeal stout

The Brewer: Very vineness. Like fruit cake

The Ginger: I remember this beer very differently. When it’s fresh it’s much nicer.

The Brewer: I get a lot of sherry.

The Ginger: Like a dried plum. Which for some reason sounds much nicer than Prune.

Me: Tastes like molasses or black treacle. I don’t hate it.

14. St. Peter’s Cream Stout

Me: It’s like over roasted coffee.

The Other Darts Player: Yeah, it’s like coffee sat in the pot on the burner for too long.

-fun fact: ecclesiastical salvage means something blah blah blah di blah or is a short term for pillage-

Me: Kinda like cherry coffee (the coffee fruit and bean).

Harviestoun engine oil15. Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil Black Ale

Me: This is surprisingly light.

The Other Dart Player: This is much lighter and easier than the previous.

The Brewer: It’s a good beer. It’s a black ale. It’s black. It’s an ale.

The Ginger: This is probably the most balanced we’ve had.

coors light

At some point a Coors Light made it’s way into the mix.

The Ginger: How am I supposed to know when to drink this unless the mountains are blue?!

The Brewer: -caressing the can and opening it with much flourish-

the sequence of sarcasm

Me: Oh god this tastes like water.

The Ginger: It’s lighter in color than the rinse bucket and that IS mostly water.

The Other Dart’s Player: I bet the rinse bucket tastes better.

Me: -taking a sip of the rinse bucket (please note this is a rinse bucket, not a spit bucket)- GAH! ROSE LEMONADE mixed with water and beer. Blech!

-laughter and decisions on the bet-

The Ginger (paraphrasing The Brewer)- “You don’t taste beer you just feel it.”

Finally we started to clear up and drank the Fentimans Dandelion and Burdock:

Me: Sweet and delightful. Put some of that moonshine in it.

-fade to black-


More about Natalie

10373074_10152640411075115_2212059960748907531_oShe is a homebrewer. She write sometimes too.  She mostly just sits in a corner and broods. Much like a cat. So in this the first of her ramblings here on Rothfink we would like to welcome here to the Rothfink stable. If you’re still reading then here is a bit more gumph for you:

I am American (not sure if that translates at all via my writing [and you Brits say we don’t understand sarcasm]), I started homebrewing in November of 2013. Since that time I have acquired a job in a delightful craft brewery in Pomona [Sanctum Brewing Company], I am now on the board for the Maltose Falcons Homebrewing Society (the oldest homebrewing club in America), I have an oft ignored blog where I chronicle my journey from noob to not-so-noob, and I have somehow wrangled myself into the position of writing for you lovely folks. Not bad for a crazy single mum, eh?

All of the opinions and tastebuds included here are my own and I would suggest taking my views with a grain of salt or better yet, form your own perception through careful “research“.

Check out Natalie at her blog at https://brewgirlsocal.wordpress.com/ or check out Sanctum Brewing.