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May 2012

Pedigree V.S.O.P., Marston's

Added: Tuesday, May 1st 2012

Style Strong Pale Ale ABV 6.7%

Marston’s Pedigree V.S.O.P. 6.7%

This beer is a joy to drink – rich, complex, with a fascinating interweaving of malt, hops, fruit, vanilla and wood. Yet, despite the strength, it’s clean and refreshing, not cloying.

V.S.O.P. – Very Special Old Pale -- is a designation used by French Cognac makers for a blended brandy in which no part of the blend may have been distilled less than four years and six months earlier. The beer has not been aged for that length of time and Marston’s title reflects the fact that staves from Cognac casks or barriques have been used to add flavour.

It’s a stronger version of Pedigree and fermented in the classic Marston’s Union Sets. These are large wooden casks linked by pipes and troughs. As beer ferments, natural carbon dioxide drives liquid and yeast up pipes and into troughs above the casks. The liquid runs back into the casks but much of the yeast is trapped in the troughs: the end result is clear, sparkling pale ale.

This version of Pedigree is brewed with Maris Otter pale malt and is hopped with the traditional English varieties Fuggles and Goldings. Goldings and Styrian Goldings are used as “late hops” for additional aroma.

Head brewer Emma Gilleland tells me that at first she placed staves from Cognac casks in the troughs above the Unions but “they did not give strong enough flavour”. She now uses chips from Cognac casks that she puts in maturation tanks, where the beer rests for five weeks.

The beer has a deep, burnished gold colour. Rich toasted malt, spicy hops and hints of wood, smoke and Cognac are evident on the aroma. Bitter and peppery hops dominate the palate but there are strong contributions from vinous fruit, juicy malt and vanilla and wood. Tart berry fruits are evident in the finish, balanced by bitter hops, toasted malt and wood/smoke notes. It’s finally bitter and hoppy.

Malt: high. Fruit: high. Hops: high.


Available from Morrisons and Tesco, £2.15, 500ml., or from Marston’s online service

Pedigree V.S.O.P., Marston's