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Black Diamond Amber Ale


Black Diamond Amber

Black Diamond Amber

It’s inevitable that, from time to time my perusal of American beers leads me back to English ale styles and ingredients. Never one to ignore stuff from the land of my birth, the description of this ale as being styled after “traditional British Special Bitter”, I could hardly resist using picking up a six-pack for a quick spin.


Generally, the English beer drinker is faced with three broad categories: Bitter, Lager and Other (generally darker stuff from Brown Ale through Mild and on to Stout). Given that at the age of eighteen I was weaned onto Bitter, it’s the beer that I still use as the baseline for many of my comparisons.

This ale is pretty close to a Bitter, as it should be, given that the brewers say “…we use the finest English Pale and Crystal malts…[and] several varieties of British Noble hops added at various stages of the brew. I would love to try it on tap rather than from a bottle, as I’d generally rather have my brews unsullied by too much carbonation. My preference is still the romantic one of a beer pulled from the cask by an old-fashioned beer engine, and preferably in the dingy decor of the pubs of my distant youth.

I wasn’t entirely disappointed by this one; it’s the right colour, it smells right and it’s clearly beer. So for the full skinny, read on…I poured the first straight from the ‘fridge, and of course the first thing I noticed was the colour – a clear amber almost identical to the beers of my youth. The head formed quickly and well, but soon decayed into lacy flotsam. Next up, the scent, which had both malt and citrus (dare I say “limey”?) on the plus side, but faintly metallic on the negative.

For the taste, there was the same malt-lime combination, but with the slightly acid bitterness of the hops. It’s quite dry and bitter, almost sour. What’s left after this first impression is a faintly nutty flavour, with hints of toffee, both of which come to the fore as the liquor warms a little. At close to room temperature, they are more pronounced, and when I opened another bottle that I’d left out of the ‘fridge for fifteen minutes or so, they were there from the outset. The mouthfeel was on the thin side, the body slightly weak, and but it left an acerbic aftertaste, and again, a metallic edge.

Despite the faint metallic tang, I quite enjoyed it, and would drink it again, though not on its own – it would probably be a good beer to drink on a lunchtime, over a ploughman’s lunch, with a nice sharp cheese and some Branston Pickle. Rating? I think a C+ fits it when chilled, but at cellar temperature, it comes out as a sweeter, rounder brew.

  1. 25 November, 2009 at 07:31


    Just came across this review and thought you might like to know that we have tweaked the recipe a bit. The malts are bigger (ABV now 5.7%) and we have changed the yeast as well (it’s origin is one of Britain’s best breweries IMHO). It’s now called Steep Trail Amber Ale and is more of an ESB. Still all English malts and hops. Give a try -shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to buy you one on tap. Thanks for giving us a shoutout.

    Mike Pierce
    Black Diamond Brewery

    • 3 December, 2009 at 15:39

      Ah, thank you Mike, now I have to sample it again, which I promise to do; afterward I’ll add further comments to the review!

    • Heidi Wood
      2 October, 2013 at 14:25

      Hi both! My dad had an ale in a local pub a few weeks back called “Black Diamond”. He wouldn’t stop talking about it, but when we went back to the pub they didnt have it anymore. I’m dying to find it for him, preferably in bottle form, for his upcoming birthday! He described it as looking like a lager, but tasting fruity etc – like above description. I know this is a long shot due to the age of the article and so on, but if either of you would know where I can locate this… it would make his day! 🙂



  2. piercival
    16 May, 2014 at 08:20

    Heidi, Unfortunately we no longer bottle the Steep Trail Amber Ale. It’s a great beer, much loved at the brewery, won a Gold at the 2010 World Beer Cup, but the industry is always changing and demand for Amber ales has declined significantly. We still offer it in kegs which you can purchase at the brewery or at BevMo (must preorder). A small keg would make a great birthday present. Hope this helps.

    Mike Pierce

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