Magical Mystery Pour #24: Weird Beard Mariana Trench

Still life: a bottle of Mariana Trench in green light among sea glass, driftwood and shells.

The last beer in this round, chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate) who blogs at Brewing East, is Weird Beard’s Mariana Trench ‘Transpacific Pale Ale’.

It cost us £2.89 per 330ml bottle from online retailer Honest Brew, has an an ABV of 5.3%, and is designed to showcase a mix of US and New Zealand hops, hence the name. Rebecca says:

This has long been one of my boyfriend’s favourite picks – and he has a handful of those from Weird Beard – but this is definitely among the brewery’s most consistent and highly enjoyable beers. Admittedly not as exciting as some of their other excellent range, this is one I’m still always happy to drink when spotted on tap. It’s a balanced pale that isn’t as aggressively hoppy as some of Weird Beard’s other beers, but I enjoy the hints of citrus and tropical flavours on the nose and light bitterness in the body… I’ve had some great pints of this on Broadway Market on lazy Saturday afternoons, so this is a beer that makes me wax nostalgic with every sip.

It’s probably worth reflecting here on our general feelings about Weird Beard, just to set some context. We find them interesting, not only in terms of the beer but also as a company — they’ve got a policy of openness and honesty which manifests through an often fascinating blog, and the ideas behind their beers can be quite attention-grabbing. We loved their saison when we tasted it off against a bunch of others and over the years have raved about occasional beers in their range. On the whole, though, we have them filed under ‘middling’, especially when it comes to their bottles. In fact, we’ve had this beer before, or at least a previous incarnation, and were lukewarm, although with the emphasis on warm.

Mariana Trench in the glass.
There’s a pin-cushion behind the glass, in case you were wondering about the magenta protrusions.

On opening it hissed just the right amount and poured perfectly clean, bright gold, despite being bottle-conditioned. The head was pure white, unmoving, neither shaving foam nor bubble bath, but somewhere between.

The aroma was muted — just a wisp of weed — which tipped us off to an issue. We checked the label and, sure enough, the beer was bottled in August and thus best before… last month. We bought it in January so this isn’t really our fault, or Honest Brew’s (although a warning might have been nice), or Weird Beard’s for that matter (this certainly beats fibbing about the best before like almost everyone else does). It’s probably just a fact of life we need to get used to with beers that are pointedly about hop aroma and flavour: check dates on delivery, file by delivery date.

There was a momentary spark of fruit juiciness — the ghost of a mango — followed by a vacuum left by the lack of malt character, which led into a faint home-brew funkiness. The latter wasn’t a problem — it provided a feature to navigate by — but the lack of sweetness or flavour in the middle was disappointing.

As per our pre-game prejudices, we found ourselves thinking that we liked it well enough, but it doesn’t push Weird Beard any further up the rankings. Run the standard diagnostic: is it better (or better value) than the reference beer in this area, BrewDog Punk IPA? Not really.

Again, though, we were drinking it past the clearly stated best before, and maybe it would have been, you know, better before. But we’ve had old hoppy beers before and been delighted — age tends to tame extreme hopping and rebalance this kind of beer towards the malt, which can turn out nicely to our taste. That didn’t happen here which highlights the risks of working in one dimension.

So, after our voyage to the bottom of the sea, we’re back where we started: Weird Beard continues to be worth exploring, but won’t always turn up treasure.

Thanks once again to Rebecca for taking the time to select these beers and write notes. Next up: Essex beers chosen for us by Justin Mason (@1970sBOY).

9 thoughts on “Magical Mystery Pour #24: Weird Beard Mariana Trench”

  1. I saw a tweet from someone recently who had been sold a two year old can of Pizza Port Chronic Ale, which while not overly hoppy, was clearly far beyond its best. I’ve had similar experiences itself and feel the onus really shouldn’t be on customers to scrutinise bottled/canned on dates before every single purchase (which you can’t do when buying online obviously).

  2. I bought a couple of cans of Firestone Walker beers just before Christmas, subsequently I discovered that both had canned by dates well before the Brewery’s recommended 120 days by which you should drink them. I’ve since become a lot more careful when buying bottles & cans especially those of the hoppy variety.

  3. For me personally, Weird Beard are always a brewery I would tend to look for and purchase bottles of any of their new releases. The artwork and beer names are always quite alluring. I find them to be a consistent brewery and many of their one-off releases are quite interesting and push the boundaries in terms of what to expect from a beer style.

    Their Sorachi Face Plant DIPA is probably one of the best Sorachi beers out there! I’ve also found Decadence Stout to be thoroughly enjoyable and one I’ll always return to.

    (They get bonus points for the clear labelling on their website too as to what beers are vegan-friendly!)

  4. Do you think it’s fair to review something hop forward that’s clearly past it’s best before date? why not just try and obtain a fresh bottle?

    1. Fair challenge. Yes, is the answer, given that we were transparent about it. And anyway, it’s interesting to us that a beer can have a six-month best before, be dispatched a fortnight before it apparently *dies*, at full price. If we’d drunk this any time other than last August, I get the feeling we’d be in the dog house, TBH.

      And getting a new bottle, given where we live and that we don’t take samples, would be *quite* expensive…

      1. Which does lead to the question of the point of these beers which are too fragile for the packaging format into which they are are placed. If you can’t review one without flack should anyone be selling them?

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