Henley-on-Thames is one of those places that many people will have heard of, mainly because of the famous Regatta. One of the various places I have lived in was quite close to Henley and I still remember going on a school trip to the area and being told about the various legends of the white hart, including a story about Richard II and his huntsman called Herne. Henley also happens to be where my elder brother works, and is the home of the Lovibonds Brewery - well it had to be done really didn't it? So I duly asked my brother to pick up a couple of bottles for me, and being the top bloke he is, he turned up for Christmas with a bag of goodies - not just Lovibonds stuff either, but we'll get there in due time.
So on to the beers themselves, first up was the Henley Amber. Doing my Rolf Harris impression here, can you guess what colour it was? Quite right, it was amber, with a loose white head that threatened to disappear but then clung around doggedly. Described as a premium pale ale, it was certainly very refershing and nicely hoppy and with a long bitter finish which was just a delight. With the merest hint of sweetness in the background, and a light carbonation, I could happily drink this beer all day long, and at 3.4%ABV would drink many! Mrs Velkyal also heartily approved of it, pointing out that it was very similar to her beloved Primátor English Pale Ale.
One of my aims over Christmas was to try as many porters as I could lay my hands on as it is style I really want to understand and get to grips with. Lovibonds' porter is Henley Dark, and dark it is, pouring a very deep ruby colour topped with a big fluffy head. The nose was great, smokey coffee all over the place. Again this a grand beer to drink, the coffee wasn't overpowering, the body was smooth, velvety and laced with chocolate, and there was excellent dry bitterness with just set everything off nicely. Again I would happily sit in a pub all night drinking this, preferably near a roaring log fire and with an Irish wolfhound at my feet.
I have a very minor gripe, and it is a gripe I have made about many beers, but half a pint of these beers is simply not enough! Especially when talking about beers with the kind of ABV that makes them ideal for drinking pint after pint over an extended period of time.
I discovered Lovibonds when reading comments on Stonch's blog - I am a big fan of Web 2.0 and like to read the conversations that go on. The comments in response to this post were discussing the relative merits of cask ale over kegged, and Lovibonds' owner, pointed out that the incredibly diverse world of American craft brew uses primarily kegs, so the whole idea that cask is good and keg is bad was a pile of outdated pants.
So if you are in the Henley area, you can find these lovely beers at any of these places. I strongly recommend you try them.