I originally bought the Welkin Ringer ESB clone kit on a whim at Beer & Wine Hobby. It was the first time in awhile I bought a kit for a style of beer I was familiar with and had brewed before. I intended to do a side-by-side tasting of the clone and the real beer, but couldn’t find any after putting a low to moderate level of effort in looking for it. On Untappd, it did not appear there were a lot of recent check-ins.
The beer pours medium copper in color with a small, mousy white head. The low carbonation level contributes to the small head. To compensate this is a beer that benefits by being poured a little more violently. Instead of pouring along the side of the glass, pouring the beer in the middle causes the head to rouse. Not unlike how real ale is almost sprayed out of a beer engine. The beer has brilliant clarity for a beer that was unfiltered and is quite bright. The S-33 dry yeast gave the beer a perfect appearance.
As I suspected the malt aroma is quite strong. The hop aroma is present and blends seamlessly with the malt. Overall the aroma is herbal, with notes of English tea and blackcurrant.
The flaked maize provides a touch of sweetness up front. It helps cut through what would otherwise likely be an overly malty beer. The flavor balance is decidedly toward the malt. The English dry amber extract that came with the kit would have been made with crystal malt in addition to base malt. Most English Pale Ales will have some crystal malt, this beer I suspect has more than most. The aromatic malt took the malt flavor to the next level and made the beer distinctive. There are very light black licorice notes in the middle of the palette.
There is enough hop bitterness and flavor to not make the beer a malt-bomb. Northern Brewer might be my favorite hop because it is so versatile. Its characteristic woody, almost minty flavor makes itself known. The beer also has a fruity flavor in the finish. S-33 might not have the unique esters of WLP023 Burton Ale, or finish quite as fruity as 1318 London Ale III, but the esters blended nicely with the caramel malt.
I don’t brew a lot of recipe kits, but this might be the best one I have ever brewed. It is a tossup between this and Northern Brewer’s Speckled Heifer.With a couple of minor changes this recipe would make an excellent English Brown Ale. For an impulse buy I couldn’t be happier. As a brewer I think it is important to not try and reinvent the wheel on every batch. Here, I brewed a beer with ingredients I never would have thought to include in an ESB. While making an excellent beer I gained valuable experience as a brewer.