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I cracked open a bottle of Young's Special London Ale a short while ago, whilst settling down in front of the TV to watch David Suchet on the Orient Express. Excellent programme with some superb scenery, and some equally superb restored 1920's carriages.

It's a shame I can't say the same about the beer. What on earth has happened to this former classic? It seems someone has forgotten the hops. You used to be able to smell them as soon as the crown-cork was released, and when the beer was poured it was like drinking in a hop-garden! Somewhere along the line, this once excellent beer has lost its essential character.

I suspect this "dumbing down" occurred after Young's shifted their brewing operation to Bedford; throwing in their lot with Charles Wells. However, I'm still not certain why this change should have come about, but feel it's unlikely to be just down to the different water and brewing environment in Bedford. Did the company feel that the beer was just too hoppy and decide to go for a safer, more mainstream market?

I used to be a big fan of Young's beers back in the late 70's and 80's. Sadly this is no longer the case, and Special London Ale is now anything but special, so far as I am concerned!