I’ve been reviewing barleywines the past few weeks, and I’ve got another one queued up for next week, but I decided to take a break and try something a bit lighter. I have a soft spot for session beers, and this week I grabbed a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Organic Best Ale.
Best ale is another name for a special bitter, which is one of the classic styles of English pale ales, and this just so happens to make it the baby cousin of the barleywine. These beers are typically served under no pressure on hand engine and at cellar temperature to boot. A pint glass is definitely the glassware of choice, and this is a pretty versatile beer as far as pairings go. It’s traditionally paired with British bar food, but it actually reminds me of lager. It will pair with a good chicken Caesar salad or a cheddar burger.
Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery was opened by Samuel Smith after he inherited the brewery from his uncle, William Smith, in 1886. The brewery itself dates back to 1758, having been the home of several different companies since that time, and it is considered to be the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and the only remaining independent brewery in the city of Tadcaster. The brewery still draws its water from its original well and has continuously used a strain of yeast since prior to 1900. Samuel Smith’s is noted for consistently producing very good beers, which typically serve as benchmarks of their respective styles.
The beer poured a beautiful gold color, dead clear without a hint of haziness. The head formed as a half finger of moderately fine, pure white foam, which dissipated quickly without leaving any lacing behind. The aroma was quite light, with a cidery smell; it actually reminded me of apple cider vinegar. The body is surprisingly thick, although that is enhanced by the low carbonation, but it also lingers a bit. Not an unpleasant amount, to be sure, but definitely lingering. The truly odd thing about the mouthfeel, though, was that there was a bit of rather coarse, sparkly carbonation. The taste was sweet up front, with a finish that was simultaneously sweet, malty and bitter. In between was a nice, light, biscuity malt profile.
Overall this was a truly excellent session beer. It’s perfect in that it’s a pleasant, neutral pale ale; it just disappears into the background while you are drinking it. The whole point of session beers is that you can drink a ridiculous amount while doing something else, such as watching a football game, and this beer succeeds marvelously in this regard. Definitely try this out if you get a chance, and if you can find an American version, let me know because I don’t run across them too often.