Master Bateman's XXXB (L&M 3)

Dec 7, 2004 (Updated Dec 16, 2004)

The Bottom Line XXX

I've been visiting a Wetherspoons pub lately which has been causing me no end of problems. Although it's not because I'm spending too much cash...or drinking to excess...or getting my head nipped by my bitter half.
No. The reason it's causing me so much grief is that they always have at least 8 different real ales on offer - which they consistently change. This means that before I can get round to trying some of them, they've been swapped...sometimes never to be seen again.
Anyway, one I did manage to nail before the cask rolled off into the sunset, was a nice little ale from Batemans.

Speaking of the pub...

A guy in a bar notices a woman, always alone, come in on a fairly regular basis. After the second week, he made his move. "No thank you." she said politely. "This may sound rather odd in this day and age, but I'm staying a virgin until I meet the man I love." "That must be rather difficult." the man replied. "Oh, I don't mind too much." she said. "But it's pretty tough on my husband."

Back to the brewery...

Batemans brewery of Lincolnshire has been around (in the same family) since 1874 and in all that time has consistently brewed top-quality beers in both cask and bottle form. However, for the purposes of this review, I'm only going to tell you about one of them, their flagship brew, XXXB.
Apparently, the name XXXB is a throwback to the days before mass literacy when the strength of a beer was shown by numbers or symbols being branded on the barrel. XXXB sounds as though it might be particularly strong, but it's not. It's 4.8% which is well within the boundaries of a session ale.

"Superb strong bitter with a complex palate,
consisting of a delicate aroma of hops delightfully
balanced by a prominent malty character.
5 times 'Premium Beer of the Year' at
CAMRA's Great British Beer Festival."


XXXB pours a lovely dark amber, ruby colour which is topped by a thick and creamy, tan-coloured head that refuses to go away and consequently leaves a good lace pattern on the glass.

The aroma is noticeably hoppy, with lots of leafy tones, maybe a little tea-like. It's fruity - mostly raisins and plums, and faintly spicy with a touch of cinnamon. From the malt, it's slightly bready and biscuity, with some traces of toasted nuts too.
It has a smooth mouth feel with only moderate carbonation and a medium body. The taste follows on in much the same pattern as the aroma with lots of malty, fruity tones. It's somewhat spicy, yet also sweet, and you can't miss the instant hit of aniseed. Apart from the aniseed, the hops are not so prominent on the palate as the nose, although there's still a background leafiness. It's bready and fruity - dark and vinous, but the aniseed tends to almost overwhelm everything else. The finish is pleasantly dry and clean with a refreshing bitterness.

• The Verdict •

At 4.8% ABV, this is a beauty. The initial hit of aniseed might be slightly off-putting for some, but it soon sweetens up a little and mellows out to a very tasty and well-balanced brew.Besides, I like aniseed! For me, this is what English ales are all about (although it's a little light on hop profile), it's eminently drinkable and beautifully satisfying. I'm not sure about food pairings, it has quite a distinctive flavour which might clash with some foods, but if you stick to basic pub grub, I don't think you could go too far wrong.
Batemans XXXB is widely available on draught in pubs, and can be found in bottle form in probably every supermarket and off-licence chain in the country. A 500ml bottle should cost around £ 1.49, but I paid just under 2 quid in the pub for a pint. Smashing value.

Would I drink it again? - Too XXXBing right I would.

This review has been brought to you by sleeper54 and his Lean-n-mean III W/O.


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