Brewed in 1979, winning CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain in 1988, this beer certainly deserves its name. A firm favourite among many and Ringwood’s earliest brew I’m on the hunt to see if this Old Thumber is more hog or rabbit.
I pull the bottle from the cabinet, glared at by the monochromatic boar emblazoned on the bottle. “A Beast of a Beer” makes me feel like half lion tamer, half alcoholic, it is a tuesday night after all. As I gear myself up for what may be a tussle, armed only with bottle opener and glass, I unleash the beast. A musty scent with a not-so-subtle hint of orange roars out at you from inside this solid dark bottle. It pours quite thick, as a strong ale should, and the head is nothing short of meaty.
This beer may well be the old hog its label makes it out to be. That is definitely furthered as the head dissipates vociferously. The noise these bubbles make are more intense than a 16 year old whose been left at home on their own for the first time (partying people, get your minds out the gutter). First sip is an odd one. Almost as if this beer is checking me out, grunting, stomping seeing if I’m man enough to take it. It’s a wash of bitter with an aftertaste of sweet orange. It’s a bit… musty. This ‘Beast of a Beer’ certainly lets you know your drinking it, and whilst I’m only a few sips in I can’t figure out if that is a good thing or not. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we all know there’s only one way to find out.
Considering it is cold and lashing it down outside, and I stubbornly refuse to put the heating on until October, I am warming to this beer rather quickly – and that, dear shiverers, is because it is warming me. I’m not sure how many of you are scotch drinkers here but the sensation is very similar. It slips, smoky, down your throat and begins to warm your stomach immediately, slowly radiating out to your extremities. It’s a lovely feeling, and as I continue down the glass, the taste seems to grow with it. There’s less orange now, more of that roasted malty goodness and hoppy bitterness that make a beer a veritable beast.
If I were to say old-fashioned, I think I’d be doing it a disservice. This is a very relevant real ale, and one that I would very much like to try out of the cask in a pub after a long autumn walk (who am I kidding, pub crawl). Low on fizz, strong in flavour, meaty in the mouth and fiery in the belly – this is a fine ale for a chilly afternoon. As I down the last few drops, I catch sight of those angry, piggish eyes – and if I’m not <
drunk< mistaken, it seems to wink at me in approval. Well, Old Thumper, right back at you.