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Classic Beer of the Month October 2017: Robinsons Old Tom

Robinsons Old Tom, 8.5%

A beer that has been CAMRA’s Champion Winter Beer on two occasions certainly merits a feature at this time of year.

Robinsons Old TomRobinsons Old Tom, according to brewing records, was first brewed on 1 November 1899.

While waiting for the wort to run off or the boil to finish, the brewer, Alfred Multon, also had time to draw a sketch of the brewery cat as it wallowed in the watery autumn sun.

The cat’s name was Tom. Putting the two together, this potent old ale was born.

How much truth lies in this tale is hard to say, but it’s certainly been a good yarn with which to market the beer and a cat still features on the label today.

In fact, the cat has become the label. In a recent revamp of its packaging, Robinson’s has filled the whole front of the bottle with an intricately-drawn close-up of a cat’s face.

Old Tom is made with pale, crystal and chocolate malts and seasoned with Golding hops. It pours a deep ruby colour with a light beige foam and, from the first sniff, you know where you are with this beer.

Heady Aroma

It has a heady aroma, vinous and fruity with dark berries and liquorice in the mix. Those sweet dark berry notes are also a feature of the taste, sitting nicely on top of a drying dark malt character that gives hints of chocolate and more liquorice.

The defining feature, however, is alcohol. This is a bold, punchy beer with a peppery warmth and strong ester notes.

Personally, I find it a bit too boozy, certainly in bottle, but I know many people really appreciate a good smack of strength and warmth and this continues into the spirit-like, gum-tingling finish. Liquorice on the swallow is followed by some lingering dark fruit and it all ends dry, bitter, warming and peppery.

The Old Tom range has now been extended to include Ginger Tom, which will please anyone who is a fan of ginger snap biscuits, and an easy-drinking Belgian-style blond – brewed with Belgian yeast – called Blonde Tom, which is my favourite of the trio.

But if it’s the original you like, you can find it all year-round in both cask and bottle.

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