More like extra bland
A Review of John Smith's Extra Smooth by Caledonian Brewery Co.
Posted on 11/18/2013 by Chops
From the perspective of America's craft beer culture, the English pub scene can seem a bit strange. Not so much in atmosphere because we're all friends at the bar, but more when it comes to selection. English Bitters are the brew of choice and they have been for hundreds of years. These malt-forward pale ales are usually on the weaker end of the strength spectrum (around 3.5% ABV) and are generally easy drinking.

The term ''bitter'' is somewhat of a misnomer these days because the style is far from it. It's easier to just think of ''bitter'' as the English equivalent of ''beer''. Sweet and smooth are terms commonly used to describe these brews. They are the original session ales, in the sense that you can drink them all day long and never get drunk. I sampled many an English Bitter on a recent trip to Manchester, UK. One in particular that kept popping up was John Smith's Extra Smooth.

In the glass, this beer has a copper amber coloration. It comes with a creamy beige head that has really nice retention. On the nose, I found a mild candied malty aroma and little else. Flavor wise, I found simple notes of toffee and toasted bread. Any discernible hop profile is nowhere to be found. The beer has a light body and drinks very easy. Unfortunately the beer finishes somewhat tinny and leaves behind a processed aftertaste that ultimately kills the experience. Up until the finish, the beer was pleasantly unoffensive. Yup, that's pretty much it. Not a whole lot to discuss.

Overall, John Smith's Extra Smooth is a decent representation of an English pub ale. In general, these beers are timid and forgettable, and this one is no different. Aside from the finish, I would have left my pub stool satisfied. This seems to be the quintessential English pub experience: beer as an unassuming social lubrication. And in that arena the average English Bitter shines. But to an American craft beer palate, the blandness is prominent to a fault. We've been trained to brace ourselves when it comes to better beer, so bitters as a whole are often letdowns. Extra smooth? Meh. More like extra bland. Not a bad beer by any means, just lacking any meaningful impression.

That being said, these beers are champs when compared to their American mass-produced counterparts. If beers like John Smith's Extra Smooth are the English baseline, then Coors and Anheuser-Busch should take some notes. It would be nice to walk into a convenience store and find something that doesn't taste like rancid toilet water.

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John Smith's Extra Smooth by Caledonian Brewery Co.
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