Royal Oak Pale Ale | Hanlons Brewery

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Royal Oak Pale AleRoyal Oak Pale Ale
Very Good
79 Ratings
Royal Oak Pale AleRoyal Oak Pale Ale

Brewed by:
Hanlons Brewery
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Pale Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by brewdlyhooked13 on 02-28-2004

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Ratings: 79 |  Reviews: 59
Photo of Rochefort10nh
5/5  rDev +25.6%

Photo of cokes
4.97/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Murky burnt sienna topped with a thick stack of whipped vanilla cream.
Frangrant of roses, vanilla nougat, honeyed pears, and clementines, followed through with a orange rind hoppiness with steely herbal pangs.
Enters with a dry maltiness that whispers sweeter things. Like an English muffin sprinkled with hard toffee. Turns nuttier and more persuasively caramelly as it warms. The yeast here is amazing, and carries a variety of estery phantoms, candied pears, peach muffins, plantains, kiwis, and strawberries. Splashes of mineral-laden well water. The hops are aggressive up front, full of lemon- and orange- rind oily, pithy bombast, but eventually quell towards a floral, rosewater bittersweetness, accented by quinine.
Medium bodied, with a melted textural impression that is about as close to a true cask feel as any bottled brew I've tried.
A session is only limited by one's wallet.
It's so dizzyingly complex, and so compulsively drinkable. Expansive in scope, yet balanced in full.
I feel guilty for not scoring it absolutely perfect.

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Photo of Dantes
4.55/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Package: 1 pint, 0.9 oz. (500ml) crowned, brown bottle. “Best before 02 28 05.” Label lists it at 5% ABV. As is common with the O’Hanlon’s labels, it is packed with information: a brief description of bottle-conditioning, the history of its namesake tree, and a description of the beer’s traditional style and recommendation to serve with hearty beef or cheeses.

Cost: $3.99 per bottle

Presentation: Poured into an Imperial pint glass at ~50º

Appearance: Toffee-copper color. Pours very clear. Bone-colored head forms nicely, but is loose, moist, and does not linger long, leaving a thin layer that left some surprisingly substantial lacing. Superfine bubble-threads stream up the sides of the glass. Tiny trace of lees in the bottle.

Smell: Traditionally toasty nose is welcoming and nostalgic. Notes of yeast, fruity and woody esters, and toasty malt with a hoppy prickle. Satisfying.

Taste: The taste delivers on the aroma in a big way. The malts are substantial and complex: the traditional bready, biscuity base supports a substantial hop presence and the dryly fruity and woody notes that float atop. A very “chewy” and substantial beer that belies its relatively low ABV. Less full and round than the bigger Fuller’s 1845, but on a par with their ESB. Shares some characteristics with the winter ales (which is how it was first described to me) from Fuller's and Young's. The refreshingly dry finish is solid, but a bit short.

Mouthfeel: The bottle-conditioning really shows well here. The bubbles are miniscule as they rise to the top and the texture is silky without losing its vibrancy. Pretty damn close to cask.

Drinkability: It doesn’t get much more drinkable than this. Maybe 5% ABV is a bit high for some, but this qualifies as a sessional for me (except for the price, which costs it 0.5 points).

Backwash: Let me start with the good news: This is the quickest and most convenient way to get “Real Ale,” short of BA flight 002! This is a very smooth, totally authentic real ale. It’s warming, complex, flavorful, and very refreshing. Now for the bad news. It almost makes the JFK-LHR Concorde seem worth it. At $3.99/bottle, it is much more expensive than Fuller’s ESB and 1845 (which followed this for comparison). While I know the dollar is weak and this is probably made in smaller volumes, it may be a hard sell, and I want this ale to succeed. Also, despite protestations to the contrary, I do believe that this has been “hopped” up a bit from what I remember. This was one of my all-time favorites when I lived in London, and always found an excuse to find the rare pub that had it. This version seems a bit thinner, lighter in color, and a tad more bitter than the draught version I remember. Anyone who professes a liking for great English Ale, should try this superbly crafted beer. The only reason this isn't a 5 is because I've had the even better cask version. One final note: Phoenix told me they are calling this a pale ale because Americans don’t like the word “bitter,” although I don’t know what the UK labels say. It’s a small quibble, but I’d still call this an ESB or bitter. Major kudos to Phoenix and O’Hanlon’s for taking the time and effort to resurrect this hallowed, handcrafted gem. I hope they get the support they deserve.

NB: I had a second bottle of this with some Cabrales, Manchego and prosciutto and I have to say this is a killer "cheese" beer.

Update: The more of this I have, the better it gets. Maybe I was too harsh at first, with my anticipation level so high. Also, a little cellar time might allow this to improve even more. I'm upgrading taste to 5.

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Photo of merlin48
4.53/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1 pint .9 oz bottle served at cellar temperature. Initially pours a clear copper body with an enormous billowy offwhite head that takes forever to fall. Body clouds up to a dirty tea color with the second pour, with some sediment in suspension. This ale is, obviously, bottle conditioned. Offwhite head is rocky and pitted, so large it could be scooped with a spoon. Large chunks of lace adhere to the glass as the contents are slowly drained.
Aroma is floral and herbal hops, with toffee and caramel malty notes underneath.
Mouthfeel is soft and satiny, with a medium body and a pleasing mineral note that I love in some of the English ales.
Taste is smooth and complex. Biscuity toffee malt, lilac water, soft herbs of rosemary and white pepper. Apple and pear skin sourness jumps into the middle. A bit of a metallic note from the water adds an interesting component, as well. Finish and aftertaste are slightly bitter with herbal hops. Very tasty.
An exquisite and classic English pale ale, one that I could enjoy any day of the year. O'Hanlon's has created an exceptional benchmark for the style with this one. Very sessionable. Extraordinary complexity and balance result in a sublime sipping experience. Very highly recommended if you enjoy this style.

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Photo of daliandragon
4.53/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wow, as I pour this beer in preparation for the review I am shocked at how damned impressive it looks..opaque caramel color with unbelieveable whale of chunky, tannish head that refuses to's taken me fifteen minutes to fill the glass even two thirds full..quite appetizing.. The title jumped out at me at the distributor's a common pub name in England, including a terrific, ancient pub across the street from the Minster in York where I spent a memorable evening a few years ago. The nose is spicy and malty and almost as enticing as its looks. There's hints of hops and alcohol as well. I didn't love my last O' Hanlon's effort (Rye) but I'm sure ready for this one.
A very strong taste hits the lips..the first discernable flavor is orange peel, then hops and roasted malt. Next some smooth sweetness and a bitter finish. Mouthfeel is classic English pub style..low on carbonation and round as a basketball..flavor lasts for minutes after the swallow too.
I'm almost speechless, this is really, really good, surpassing even my lofty expectations after reading the unanimously glowing reviews. Guess there's something to this bottle conditioning, huh? Can't wait to try this on tap next time I'm in Devon..

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Photo of Dukeofearl
4.5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice, slightly hazy pale brown with a beautiful off-white head that builds into a large merangue that wouldn't even consider flowing down the side of the glass- now that's a head! And it keeps coming; as I refill the glass with the rest of the bottle, the head builds right back up!

Aroma is a nice, British hop but mellowed nicely by toffee, nuts, and a dark loaf of multi-grain bread. Flavor is, well, all I can say is that this is really nice- quite complex. The more I drink, the more I find. Dry, weed-like vegetation notes (you know, the rabbit food in "greens" salads). Woody. Black pepper. It's hoppier than expected, and the dryness/astringency at the end of the swallow is pronounced.

Mouthfeel is almost perfect- if the hops were a tad less harsh and slightly more creamy, I could drink it all day. Drinkability on this is quite good.

Overall, I like this and want to try it again, because I know that I am just scratching the surface of this complex brew. I think my store has a couple bottles left. Excuse me, I have an errand to run.

EDIT: I just noted, on 10/5/05, that this bottle is Best Before: 2/28/05. Well, I haven't had it when it was at it's best, I guess, but it is still quite good. Maybe I can get some more at a discount then!

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Photo of cdwil
4.5/5  rDev +13.1%

Photo of djbeck_mn
4.5/5  rDev +13.1%

Photo of Traquairlover
4.48/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1 pint, 0.9 oz bottle poured into a pint glass.

A = Medium oak brown, slight haze from a sloppy pour, very firm bone white head of about one finger that has absolutely incredible retention, looks almost like meringue, leaves medium to medium-heavy lacing.

S = Maple syrup, light earthy hints of hops, some light spices such as white pepper and dried lemon and orange zest.

T = Fresh muffins, lightly covered with three fruit marmalade, nice tartness that shows up at midpalate and remains throughout for a great finish.

M = Light to medium-light body, great mouthcoating for the body, very smooth level of carbonation.

D = This one is a great easy drinker that I could happily pound several of in a sitting and can envision coming back to again.

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Photo of Doiv
4.48/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I'm glad to see this beer back on offer. O'Hanlon's have done this bottle-conditioned beer proud in bringing it back.

The colour is a golden ruby when poured, leaving a nice off-white head.

It has an immediate, rich, malty, whiskey nose with strong dry hoppy smell. There is a lively, fruity toffee and malt palate made crisper by the intense hoppy bitterness, and a lingering treacle toffee aftertaste - perhaps pear-drops?

On the whole this is a beautifully soft, well-balanced, bitter, full-flavoured pint with considerable complexity in the fruit notes and esters. Too strong, maybe, for session status, but well worth the effort. It would probably go nicely with picnic food like cheese sandwiches or cold meat.

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Photo of canucklehead
4.48/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had this years ago at a frat house in Seattle and it changed the way I thought about beer. This version is not a revelation but I still love this beer.

It pours a hazy orange tan with a monster head that actually had whitcaps on top. The nose is nicely hopped and well, the taste is close to perfect. The hop notes are melded together with a solid backbone of malts and soft fruity notes. This is a classic english pale ale that asserts itself with each sip. Very food friendly, this beer deserves to be put in the same pantheon as Pedigree and Abbot Ale.

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Photo of oxmasterscream
4.45/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Haven't been a fan of English ales anytime lately but this beer is something special. Poured a cloudy amber with a one finger, tan head, which left an incredibly thick lacing as I drank. The aroma was outstanding... very floral and spicy with some citrus and apples. A really wonderful balance. I couldn't stop sniffing the glass. Taste was very hoppy up front, big citrus, floral and spice, then some nice fruit and sweet caramel flavors followed by a medium bitter finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and the solid carbonation makes for a smooth drink. This is a really well-balanced, amazing pale ale, which easily rivals the best the U.S. has to offer in the same category. Flavors and aromas are huge like higher alcohol IPAs but the alcohol is low so it's extremely drinkable. This stuff is top-notch.

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Photo of Mindsquall
4.43/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This bottle conditioned beauty poured a nice cloudy brown with some pretty nice puffy cloudy head, smell is malty, with a slight sour smell, typical of real ale. Taste is great, clean and malty initial flavor with a slight sourness, some hops in the flavor and a profound nuttyness in the finish. Mouthfeel is a thick, smooth and creamy.

A wonderful brew. Hope to see this out for a while.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.38/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance – This ale was absolutely gorgeous! The body is crystal clear orange in color with shades of brown. The head was explosive and went down with utter finesse. It left huge clumps of shaving cream-like foam all around the glass.

Smell – The light fruits came out first followed closely by some nice, biscuity malt. A deep breath drew a balanced bouquet of more brownish-type of malts and some good, citrusy fruity hops.

Taste – This is a very balanced ale. The hops are fruity and play well off of the toasted biscuit malt flavor. There’s a touch of yeast to this one as well. It’s that kind of almost sour taste that you get from dough that has risen and is ready to bake.

Mouthfeel – This is a big ‘un. It’s almost full-bodied and is somewhat chewy. There’s a slight yeasty tingle in the mouth like eating raw quick-bake biscuit dough.

Drinkability – Talk about your session beer. I love American Pale Ales and IPAs but if I had to go on a drinking marathon (someone twist my arm) this would be the one.

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Photo of Shiredave
4.38/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Expire date: 02 28 05
My first taste of this "new edition" of an old favorite. Its been a long time since I had a Royal Oak, and while the Brewery, bottle and label have changed, O'Hanlons seems to have done a fine job of re-creating this classic.
Slightly hazy medium amber color. Yeast trub stays firm in the bottom of the bottle and nearly the entire contents poured fairly clear. Slow, steady carb. bubbles are visible as they rise to the tan head. Drippy lace droops to the foam film that hangs in to the end.
Rich, dark malt aroma is earthy and floral with hints of apricots and licorice.
Up front flavors of creamy malt and grassy hop - full compliment of subtle flavos ; melon and leather - caramelized brown sugar and more licorice, charred wood and bitter endive.
Tongue clenching , piney bitterness and warm fruit linger in the finish all dry and smokey. More roasty, toffee character than a Special or ESB.
This was a very fresh bottle and this batch should mellow nicely for a year or more.
Bring on the casks!

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.35/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: John O’Hanlon teamed up with Dan Thomasson, the former head brewer at Eldridge Pope, to recreate both Thomas Hardy's Ale and Royal Oak. From what I read they have used the original 1896 recipe for the Royal Oak, so this is no clone-brew or rebadged beer hopefully. The revived version comes to the US in a 1 Pint, 0.9 fl.oz. (500ml) bottle with one main label that runs continually around the body of the bottle. The label is a completely new design, on the front the words Royal Oak are in blue text on a white banner set against a background of acorns and oak leafs. Underneath the Royal Oak banner, the words ‘brewed in Devon’ are noticeable. Listed as ‘Alc. 5% Vol’ and Best Before 02-28-05. The reverse of the label has a detailed history of the beers name as well as a short explanation on the reason why O’Hanlons are now brewing it. This is a Bottle-Conditioned brew though, unlike its predecessor. One curiosity is that it is labeled a ‘Pale Ale’, whereas for me it is more of a Premium Bitter, or maybe even heading into ESB territory.

Appearance: Pours with a dark amber body, hazed due to my impatience to drink this magnificent Ale, the body had a clotted cream Devon toffee appearance. Big frothy tan head, one pour had the whole bottle in my imperial Pint Glass, complete with a small dark brown yeasty patch where the dregs were ejected onto the already formed 1” thick head.

Nose: Warm toasted malts, sun soaked oak, a mixed fruit bowl of Apples and Pears and some yeast and hops in the back end. Smells great.

Taste: Just as it smells, it tastes. Toasted malts with some grain in the start, warming lightly roasted malts in the middle mix with luscious fruits and some leather in the latter third. Apples and Pears mix in and out at times with baked bread and the dry bitter finish, which is stronger than I remember. A solid brew that is quite complex in its own way.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and rich, almost chewy at times. This is a hearty brew that would stand up against most of the stodgy foods that the British can throw at it. It goes particularly well with a Roast Beef Sunday Lunch because it can withstand a fierce Horse-Radish sauce, but it is equally at home with strong Cheeses.

Drinkability: 5% is reasonably high for most UK beers, but I recall the original EP version had a seriously high Drinkability. In this respect this is a perfect recreation. A wonderful brew, it has a rich palate of tastes including some toasted malts, tangy fruits and astringently bitter hops that lend a massive quaffability to this marvelous English Classic.

Overall: Right here and now I have to state that this is a job well done. I had an extremely high expectation of this once I saw it on the shelf. Maybe I am looking at this through Rose-Tinted Glasses perhaps but I do note a few differences from the original. It was always much better from the Cask than the Bottle or Can (yes you could get Royal Oak in Cans!). The original Eldridge Pope Royal Oak was the first premium bitter that I had when I legally entered a Pub in the South of England for the first time with my Dad. It altered my whole perception of premium Ales and remained a firm favorite ever since. I recall that on draft it was listed at 4.8% and had a slight ruddiness to its dark amber body and wasn't as bitter in the finish. It had a very memorable and impressive off-white ceramic Pump Clip that had the words Royal Oak set against a purple background with a picture of the Charles II underneath surrounded by dark green hops. Royal Oak was probably one of the greatest sub 5% Premium Bitter Cask Ales that I have ever had from the South of England. I can taste it now and recall its looks as I examined it closely and berated my father for drinking some processed lager crap. This is the recreation of an old classic that is extremely welcome, I would love to see how it develops with a few months under its belt, and I for one will certainly be interested in having a few more bottles of this, though it is way too expensive to keep more than one or two of these in the fridge.

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Photo of Realale
4.33/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Full copper. Very rocky, sticky head sits at stays at a regal 3/4 of an inch coating the glass with nice, chunky lace on the way down.

Plenty of bready malt on the nose, supported by a touch of Burton-ish sulphur, and a nice woody/piney hop note. Classic.

Well-balanced in the mouth with lots of bitterness to counter all that malt. Much more bitter than the nose would lead one to expect. Touch of diacetyl, but very well in check. Good length and a crisp, minerally finish.

Lovely bottle-conditioned mouthfeel, hampered only by the agressive mineral treatment. Easily drinkable in large quantities. Happy to have this one back, and brewed by a caring brewer.

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Photo of stoutman
4.32/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Glad to see this one back in the states! Loved it back in the 70s-80s. Tastes a little different to me now. The flavor is mild and woody - but it is good and refreshing. Sports a thin head over a dark orange body. Light hop aroma - maybe some heather or herbs. But still way above average! This beer is an interesting example of a bitter, with strong cask characteristics, and more yeasty than I recall. Delicious.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.32/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a lovely cloudy gold with a great head and nice lacing that remained throughout.

The smell is definitely malt mixed with of the nicest aromas of any Pale Ale I've tried.

The taste is malt with sour undertones that represent the fruity smell I spoke of and is pretty long lasting. A very nice ale for sure and one that I'd visit again.

PS: This bottle's best by date is 02/28-05.

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Photo of John
4.3/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

An exciting find for me at Beers of the World. Exciting because of the anticipation I've had waiting for this and the Thomas Hardy re-launch. After holding onto fond memories of the Eldridge Pope Brewery's Royal Oak Pale Ale, I was a bit tentative when I first opened the O'Hanlon's Brewery version. I am pleased to say that when I poured the bottle and tasted this brew, I found it at least as good as I remember the original. This classic ale reborn pours a hazy amber. A meringue-like cap adorns this fine beer. Aroma consists of floral hoppiness and an estery fruitiness. Toasted multi-grain goodness tempts. The flavor is a well calculated balance of toasted, light caramel, fruity esters and evident but reserved hops. Mouthfeel is medium translating to a satisfying brew whether it be two or twelve. A brilliant recreation of a classic. Cheers to O'Hanlon's and Phoenix for bringing this and the Thomas Hardy brews back to life.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.3/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

from notes:

Rusty orange/brown with a huge pillow/billowy head of off white. Aromas of a nice proper English pale ale/bitter ensue with toasted malt, and a nice hop in the back palate. Taste is not very hoppy but very malty and complex, yet simple at the same time, if that makes any sense. Mouthfeel is smooth and fantastic as is the drinkability. Super duper solid enligh pale right here.

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Photo of woodchip
4.25/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of Durandal_777
4.25/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of Sellen
4.25/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of silver0rlead
4.23/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clody orangish-amber hue with a large, frothy white head, a nice looking pale to say the least. The aroma is a light floral hop smell with a sweet candied apple smell in the background, well balanced smell. The taste, begins with a slightly sweet malt profile and the sweetness is similar to caramel apples maybe? Then you get a really light hops bitterness that fades quickly and you get a good taste of those fruity british yeast esters, with tastes of apples, oranges and strawberries. The finish is dries out and leaves little aftertaste. Really a superb english pale, probably one of my favorites, beating out sam smith's easy...quite an excellent brew.

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Royal Oak Pale Ale from Hanlons Brewery
Beer rating: 3.98 out of 5 with 79 ratings