Ten Penny Ale

Olde Burnside Brewing Ten Penny Ale
One 4-Pack, $6.49 ++, 5.6% ABV

Purchased at Liquor Depot, Simsbury


I’m finally reviewing the flagship beer of Hartford county. I have no idea what took me so long, and Odin knows I’ve had plenty over the years that I’ve been doing these Connecticut beer reviews.

Those of us old heads in the Connecticut beer scene should all have a soft spot in our hearts for Ten Penny. This is an important a beer to us as any other. It is a stalwart, a survivor, and a veteran. Ten Penny is the beer that we ordered in the early-to-mid part of the 00’s at the Spigot and other neighborhood bars to show the bartender and those within earshot, “hey, what’s up. I’m drinking local and my beer is very most likely not only better looking than yours, it’s flat-out better.”

So as you can see, this is a special beer to me. Is it in the top echelon of Connecticut beers in 2014? No. But the Ten Penny still is, and always will be, an important local brew. No matter what you think. Punk.

Ten Penny is so ingrained into Hartford’s beer culture, than a majority of beer drinkers think “Ten Penny” is the name of the brewery. Furthermore, until recently at least, I’d bet that over 90% of Ten Penny drinkers thought that the Ten Penny was the only Olde Burnside beer.

For years, local choices on tap ‘round these parts were Ten Penny Ale and Hooker Blonde. That was it, save for the random Hooker Irish Red maybe. And the Ten Penny was certainly the better option there.

Olde Burnside has gone through some serious rebranding efforts in 2013 and 2014, so finding a blurb for this beer is pretty funny, as there have been several descriptions over the years. I like this one, because it’s (relative) old school:

Olde Burnside says:

“Ten Penny Ale,” our flagship brew is a smooth, amber-hued mellow version of a Scottish Ale. It’s a good “session ale” and was awarded “Hartford’s Best Microbrew” for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009 by The Hartford Advocate’s Readers Poll. This beer is available year-round at your local bar or favorite beer store.

Why “Ten Penny?” My grandfather used to say “You can get a good beer for a nickel, but a really good beer will cost you ten pennies!” (Motto: Work hard, drink well… Ten Penny Ale!)

Reading that makes me feel 35 again! With only one child! Managing account managers at a major Hartford insurance firm! With darker hair and more muscle tone!

West_End_2Good times. (Actually, Ten Penny was on tap in the early 2000’s; of that I’m sure. And no, drinking this never actually attracted any women to my side, although I should note that I met my wife in early 2000 while she was drinking a Guinness and I’m 100% positive she and I enjoyed Ten Pennies together during our early dating years. And now we’re married with 2 kids and are presently having our house re-sided. Life.)

This picture of my beloved Spigot is from this blog and I encourange you to click on that link and read the cute comments from people who have never been to Cap Ave in Hartford. Warms my heart.

Ten Penny is not a typical Scottish ale. It is and it isn’t. It has the sweetness from the caramel malts but there are hops going on here as well and even a hint of smokiness. It’s like Burnside wanted to impart some of the tradition Whiskey flavors into their Scotch Ale.

The formula has changed over the years, which is fine and to be expected. I think it’s gotten lighter and a tad sweeter recently and perhaps they’ve added more hops than barley these days, but it’s still good. It’s “good” good and nostalgically good.

I can only think of a few Scottish ales in Connecticut these days. Oddly, the other two that spring to mind are from 2 of the other 3 old school local breweries – NEBCO’s Wet Willy and Cottrell’s Perry’s Revenge. Both of those are much, MUCH boozier and sweeter; true Scottish ales. (Though neither are near McEwan’s cloying sweetness.)

It’s one of the two Connecticut beers I find myself buying “just because…” Hooker’s Liberator Doppelbock being the other. Because they’ve been around “forever” and because they are good. (Sea Hag, as you may or may not know, used to be terrible, so I can’t include that one although it is most definitely my go-to these days.)

Ten Penny Ale is an important Connecticut beer. Not “great,” but good. And sometimes that’s all we need.

Overall Rating: B-
Rating vs. Similar style: B

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