Robinson’s featured rather well in our recent Alcoholic Ginger Beer test, taking both first and third place in the ‘beery’ section of the review. So it seemed only sensible to grab hold of the rest of their bottled range and see what the brewery has to offer.
They have quite an extensive range of draft and keg beers listed, but sadly only four which make it into bottles – the majority being variants on their Old Tom strong ale.
We’ll start with the only 500ml bottle in the range, Unicorn. Coming in at 4.3%, this is the bottled version of their draught Best Bitter (which is slightly weaker at 4.2%).
It has an impressive, lingering head out of the bottle and a nice rich amber colour. The smell has a lot of that raw, unfermented malt that I associate more with a brewery than with a beer. In the mouth the fizz is a little aggressive and there’s a slightly metallic tang to the flavour. It’s fairly light and watery, with some gentle if rather bland sweetness. There is no real hoppy notes to it but it’s got a fair level of bitterness going on, especially at the end.
It’s a pleasant enough session beer, especially once you let it stand for a while and allow the overfizziness to dissipate, but there’s nothing remarkable about it.
On then to the 330ml bottles, starting with Old Tom, a strong ale at 8.5%.
It’s almost totally black in the glass, with a thin but lingering fine bubbled head. The nose is sweet and rich, with dark fruits lurking. In the mouth there’s a delicious, almost creamy texture and a distinct hint of alcohol burn from the strength. In terms of flavour it’s like a sticky toffee pudding, sweet and rich with a real dark treacle hit.
The strength makes it warming on the way down, and it goes down very quickly! It’s a very tasty big beer and I can see why it’s won so many awards.
Next up is Chocolate Tom, lighter at 6.0%. A dark reddish brown in the glass, I confess I was a little surprised at how much lighter in colour it is in comparison to the Old Tom, especially as Robinson’s describe it “Old Tom with the addition of the finest cocoa”.
Leaving the look aside, the nose is overwhelmingly cocoa. There’s more of a fizz in the mouth, lots of sweetness with more of that cocoa twang. There’s still a slight alcohol kick to it, but it’s much tamer than the Old Tom – it almost seems to be a watered down version. It’s one of the more successful chocolate beers I’ve had though; they often promise a lot on the nose and then forget to have any real chocolate flavour to them.
Finally Ginger Tom, also at 6.0% and the winner of our Alcoholic Ginger Beer test. It’s almost as black as Old Tom in the glass, but not quite and has a generous, slightly more open foamed head. The dark fruit nose is still there, with a nice spicy ginger hit on top of it.
In the mouth, both the ginger flavour and the heat comes through nicely (a trick too many ginger beers miss) and again that sweet, syrupy almost molasses-like malt makes for a exceedingly well balanced beer. It tastes above it’s strength and is more to be savoured than gulped but I could happily savour a crate over an evening!
Overall, a tantalising glimpse into the Robinson range. Their Old Tom, and it’s derivatives, are seriously impressive beers but I was unmoved by the Unicorn. Hopefully some day I’ll be able to track down some of their other beers on draft – if they’re anything like Old Tom I’d be a very happy man.