My shout: English Ales just aren't the same without company

MY FATHER always told me it was not a good look to be drinking by yourself, and I have largely lived by that advice ever since.

If nothing else, this has enabled me to tease my wife, who will have a single glass of wine when by herself, that she has a drinking problem.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is that Hugh the Neighbour has been in for the 60,000km service and come out with a new hip.

While all has gone well on the medical front, Hugh's sojourn in the care of the hospital has forced me to sample this week's offerings of brew solo, and frankly it goes against the grain.

In fact, I reckon it changes the taste.

Drinking is, after all, a social act and probably has been for millennia, so please take this week's comments on the understanding that the tasting conditions were not perfect.

I tried two English Ales this week - the Hobgoblin Extra Strong Ale from Wychwood Brewery in Oxfordshire and the St Peter's Ruby Red Ale from Suffolk.

Not having much experience with English red ales, both were a bit of a surprise for me.

The Hobgoblin is the stronger at 5.2% alcohol volume, and displays some lovely toffee notes on the nose.

You can sort of pick a hint of fruit on the nose and it certainly has a lovely reddish hue in the glass.

The Ruby Red Ale is a much richer colour in the glass and is a little more complex to taste.

It seems to be a bit more hopped with caramel notes coming through in the after taste.

At 4.3% alcohol content it is closer to Australian beers in strength and is not unpleasant.

One disappointment was that neither beer seems to hold much of a head in the glass; indeed they both tasted a bit flat to me, although, as I mentioned earlier this may have been due to the lack of company.

In the end, both were drinkable, although really different to the American west-coast style red ales I have probably drunk more regularly (thinking Strauss Red Trolley Ale here).

They are fairly expensive, so you probably won't make a habit of taking them home, but they are worth a try.

Make sure you try them in the company of the like-minded - I reckon it will make all the difference.

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