Today’s Tour is another Dorset brewery, but at the other end of the brewing spectrum from our previous brewery in the county, 8 Arch.
Beer has been brewed on the Palmers Bridport site since 1794, although it didn’t take on the Palmer name until the 19th Century. Today it is run by the 4th generation of Palmers.
Palmers maintains a fairly small range and although they don’t bottle every beer they produce, they do have four available in take-home form.
Dorset Gold is a 4.5% ABV ‘Golden Premium Ale’. It has quite a deep golden colour to it, with a lingering, fine textured head.
The aroma is full of toffee with touches of blackcurrant and just a faint metallic edge in the background.
In the mouth it’s light and gently foaming with a sugary sweetness and a satsuma fruitiness. The bitterness is subtle but balances the sweetness nicely without lingering. While not the most complex beer, it’s light, refreshing and frankly delicious.
Originally brewed as a summer ale, it’s not hard to see how this beer was promoted from a seasonal offering to a permanent member of the lineup.
Best Bitter is a 4.2% ABV beer, rather confusingly subtitled as a ‘Traditional IPA’.
To my mind, Best Bitter and English IPA (as distinct from the modern American hop-bomb version) are related but different beasts – an IPA is probably paler, often stronger and definitely more hopful(?!) than a Best, in my book. To be fair, both Wikipedia and a number of actual breweries seem to disagree with me, but it still feels odd to label your Best Bitter as an IPA.
Anyway, this is a mid-amber beer with another well defined head and certainly looks the part of a Best Bitter – if not an IPA! The aroma is full of dark honey and hints of roasted barley but with no real hop character showing through.
In the mouth it’s a decent Best – gentle malt with a nicely drying, rather indistinct bitterness. Instantly quaffable, simple and approachable – nothing remarkable, but a solid session beer.
200 is a 5.0% ABV ‘Premium Ale’, first brewed in 1994 to mark 200 years of brewing at the brewery.
The aroma is once again rich with toffee, joined with some earthy hop notes and a hint of dark fruit.
In the mouth it’s rich and fruity – sweet black berries blended with a pleasingly sharp bitterness. It’s reminiscent of a watered down, more sessionable version of Fuller’s Vintage, and I can certainly see how this has become Palmers’ flagship ale.
Finally, Tally Ho! is a 5.5% ABV ‘Strong Dark Ale’.
The darkest and strongest of the collection, it’s a rich, dark red colour with a less substantial head than its stablemates. The aroma is rich and toasty, with hints of black treacle.
The flavour is packed full of darkly roasted grain, and the initial sticky sweetness of molasses is quickly washed away with a deep, burnt bitterness that hovers right on the edge of being strong enough to unbalance the beer. The body is surprisingly light, but overall it’s a tasty dark ale.
I have to admit that as a small, traditional brewery with just a handful of beers I was afraid this was going to be a collection of virtually identical Generic Brown Beers, but Palmers has surprised me. Each of their beers are distinct, well put together and (most importantly!) tasty – not perhaps thrilling, but the kind of beer you’d be happy seeing on tap when walking into the pub.