Royal Oak Pale Ale | O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.

very good
59 Reviews
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Royal Oak Pale AleRoyal Oak Pale Ale

Brewed by:
O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
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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Reviews: 59 | Ratings: 79
Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.35/5  rDev +9%
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 John
4.3/5  rDev +7.8%
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 yeagerbm
4.2/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy orange brown color. I didn't get any head on my pour unlike the other reviewers.
Smell is malty sweet.
Taste starts with a light caramel biscuity flavor with buttery sweetness and is followed by a tangy citrus hop aftertaste.
A very smooth mouthfeel with low carbonation.
Very drinkable at the warmer temperatures. This is a very well made English Pale/Bitter.

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Photo of WesWes
4.03/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a nice golden color with a thick frothy off-white head. The aroma is good. It has a nice pale malt scent with a wonderful array of citrousy aroma hops. The taste is good. It has a solid pale and light crystal malt palate. The citrous hops are present in the flavor and leave a slight aftertaste. It goes down smooth and finishes refreshing. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a medium bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a fine pale ale. It has good flavor and refreshing mouthfeel; a good drinker.

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Photo of ngandhi
3.99/5  rDev 0%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

There's butter in here, poking out from beneath a huge, fluffy head wafting with gentle British hop and grain.

Royal Oak is classic (what else should I expect from O'Hanlon?). Easy drinking, but still adequately hopped. Kind of a buttery/orange diacetyl/fuggles flavor backed by very light British grain and an exceptional lingering bitterness. A little woody. The hop resins even lend some notes of cocoa, but I might be crazy. Green peppercorn. There's a spicy tea element that I'm identifying as Kent Goldings, but I could be wrong. Some alcohol comes through -- this beer isn't always "together" -- but it never really harms the beer. Good malt backbone.

Royal Oak Pale Ale is a great representative of the style and if someone asked me what a British pale tasted like, I would hand them this beer.

Relax, relax.

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Photo of ark57
4.16/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

It is light copper in color with a normal sized head. The aroma smells of caramel malt and grass/hay hops and a fruity accent. There is some caramel maltiness to tastem in this well balanced beer and some citrus as well. It finishes with an earthy hoppiness. It is very appetizing and quaffable. I never had the chance to try this beer while it was still produced by Eldridge Pope, but I glad that it is now produced again.

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Photo of Dantes
4.55/5  rDev +14%
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 Doiv
4.48/5  rDev +12.3%
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 Shiredave
4.38/5  rDev +9.8%
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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Royal Oak Pale Ale from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
3.99 out of 5 based on 79 ratings.
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