Itchen Valley Fagins (500ml, 4.1% ABV)
On the bottle and pump clip it’s Fagins, accompanied by an illustration of an appropriately evil looking crime boss, resting his pint on the head of a hapless orphan. On the web site it’s listed as QED, or Quality English Draft. Is it in the throes of a rebranding? Or is the villain of Dickens’ Oliver Twist trying to hide behind a more innocuous moniker? Gor blimey, guvnor, for the life of me I couldn’t tell ya.
It’s a copper colour in the glass, with little head, and features the classic English ale double-punch of Fuggles and Goldings hops, plus some First Gold to give it a bit of extra orangey fruit. One of your five seven ten a day? Alas, probably not.
The aroma brings to mind milk chocolate. This is carried over to the taste, where it’s joined by a malty richness and toffee character, balanced out by the bitterness from the hops, which stop it from getting too sweet. The finish is, just as it says on the bottle, crisp – the beer equivalent of a nice cup of tea.
It’s about as classic an English ale as you could find. Not a beer that shouts, this is one that reveals more of its character with each sip, so that what seems quite mild at first is rather satisfying by the time you’ve got to the end of the bottle.
‘Please, sir, I want some more.’