In case you hadn't noticed, I am all in favour of Family Brewers stepping outside their comfort zone and doing something different. We still have quite a few of them, mostly it has to be said noted for safeness in beer, rather than being at the cutting edge. We don't have as many as Germany mind you and though Germany is an entirely different place beer wise, it is one where you can certainly learn salutatory lessons about the dangers of sameness and conformity in brewing.
So what's this leading up to? Last week, my lass agreed to join me in a little beer tasting. E likes what she likes and tends - and I don't think I do her a disservice here - to put things into a "good" or "shite" bracket, with the odd "It's OK I suppose" chucked in. She likes pale and hoppy, dislikes overly malty beers and like me, believes "clean" is what a beer has to be. She has a very good palate and is a leading expert in the vagaries of Marble Manchester Bitter. When she switches to Pint, then you know with the certainty of the coffin lid closing, that it isn't on top blob. She knows her own mind beer wise and has supped many a beer with me over the years. I value her views.
The beers for this little soiree were from Wadworth. Their new Kitchen series in fact, which we first encountered at the British Guild of Beer Writers "do" last year. So we started with that same beer, Orange Peel. We liked it then and we liked it now. Slightly sweet, but with a warming orange peel note, it grew on you, finishing with a touch of Seville orange marmalade and a dab of bitter hops. Moreish. Next up was Wheat Beer, described by the brewer as "Belgian style". I found it a curious hybrid between German style and Belgian, with clovey bitterness and obvious coriander. E, a hater of wheat beers, liked it. Surprisingly perhaps, as I recall many a pulled face when she tries my wheat beer in Germany. We both felt undecided overall and we'll need a second tasting I reckon. Last up was India Pale Ale at a decent 6.2%. It had a touch of sweetness from the crystal malt - I'd have left that out - a citrus lift from Citra and a good bitter finish from Target hops. E thought the alcohol showed a bit too sharply, though oddly I thought it hid the alcohol fairly well. No concensus there then, but we both liked it, though E surprised me by saying she preferred the Wheat Beer, so maybe a convert in the making there?
I still have two bottles left. Espresso Stout and Whisky Barrel Aged Bitter, so we'll see how they go. Overall though, these were good, different enough, beautifully labelled and presented and a credit to the brewers. Most of all, it was great to see such outside the box thinking.
Others please note.
Declaration of Interest: The beers were sent to me courtesy of Wadworth.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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