Magical Mystery Pour #21: Cloudwater DIPA Version 10

The third of series of beers chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate), who blogs at Brewing East, is Cloudwater Double IPA Version 10.

We had a bit of a time getting hold of this, too, because being a limited release, and much in demand, it tends to sell out pretty quickly. We ended up buying several bottles direct from Cloudwater via Eeebria as part of a mixed case of six bottles of DIPA and IPA which cost us £20. Individual 330ml bottles of DIPA from other retailers tend to go at around £4.50-£5.

Rebecca says:

I’d be lying if I denied being on the Cloudwater bandwagon and haven’t systematically tracked down every version of their evolving DIPA; however, this great DIPA adventure represents the first time I’ve found myself caught up in hype surrounding a beer. I’ve stepped back slightly since, stumbling upon all versions following v5 more naturally and without a frenzied hunt as it became more readily available around London. Regardless of the hype, Cloudwater have done incredible things for the Double IPA. When I enjoyed my half pint of this v10, I noted that the aromas took on a more savoury edge than previously, but the intense fruitiness in the body – likened by many to a fruit cup – was still present without much to indicate its 9% ABV. It’s almost magical how easily this goes down.

This is a really tricky beer to write about for various reasons. As we hinted at here in our non-review of a previous version there is so much talk about Cloudwater, and this beer in particular, that you either end up sounding like a wilful contrarian, or part of the cult. And with the announcement that it is to cease producing cask ale the other week Cloudwater has only become more political.

Then there’s the fact that each version really is a different beer. As we write this, Version 11 is just being launched, at which point Version 10 becomes an irrelevance.

Finally, of course, there’s the fact that if you don’t drink a DIPA as fresh as possible — ideally before it has even been brewed — then you can’t possibly have an informed opinion. This one is weeks old, for goodness sake. Or perhaps it needs a bit of time to mellow. It’s usually one or the other.

What follows is our best attempt to ignore all of that and to give our honest reaction to this specific bottle of beer, asking, first and foremost whether we liked it, before unpacking the whys and how comes.

Cloudwater DIPA in the glass.

This beer was not designed to be clear. From the first splash in the glass it was dirty and only got dirtier. There were no lumps or clumps — just something like a mango lassi or smoothie. It did not look unappealing to us but it might to you depending on your programming with regard to suspended yeast.

The smell was close to the ideal for an IPA, a jumble of freshly-picked, under-ripe tropical fruit, and mysterious, exotic aromas that brought to mind the alien plantlife of the Eden Project’s rainforest biome. Very exciting. Just wonderful.

Unfortunately, what we tasted was garlic, crisp green leaves and (to a much lesser degree) that same musty note that marred Verdant Headband. Pushing on, that faded somewhat, bringing to the fore suggestions of pineapple and unrefined sugar. The problem is we just don’t get this kind of flavour profile, where salad dominates over sweet fruit. It does not make us happy. We can, however, tell that this is a good example of the sub-style — it is 90 per cent clean-tasting, without the rough edges that mar many similar beers, and is crammed full of flavour.

Lettuce, spring onions and pineapple.
Adapted from public domain images at Wikimedia Commons.

We did not, when push comes to shove, like it, but we didn’t exactly choke on it either. It’s constantly interesting, if nothing else, and, oddly, going back to the haziness, one of the things we liked best was the rather milky, silky texture.

We’ll no doubt give Cloudwater DIPA another go in a few versions time. It will have been through a few more regenerations by then and might well be much more to our taste.

The A-Team

Illustration: the A-Team.

Without quite meaning to we’ve acquired some habits — a line-up of bottled beers that we always have in the cupboard or fridge.

What follows is probably as near as you’ll ever get from us to an X Beers Before You Y list.

Bitter (pale ale) or pale and hoppy session beers we tend to drink in the pub. We’re spoiled for choice, really, even in Penzance, and even more so if we take the bus out to the Star at Crowlas. Still, it’s worth saying that St Austell Proper Job is our default pub drink these days. It’s for the more unusual styles that we resort to bottles.

Anchor Porter from the US which goes at around £2-3 per 355ml bottle in the UK is our go-to beer in the stout family. We arrived at this decision after proper testing. When the urge for a dark beer that really tastes dark overcomes us, this is the one we reach for, knowing it will be great every time.

There are lots of great Belgian beers but one that never gets boring, because it’s the best beer in the world, is Westmalle Tripel. There are always a couple of bottles of this in every order we place.

Orval is our favourite example of… Orval. We went from being sceptical to puzzled to devotees over the course of a couple of years. We love it in its own right — it’s always different, yet somehow the same — but we also like to play with it. It’s our house stock ale if you like.

We don’t often need a stout more robust than Anchor Porter but when we do it’s Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout. It tastes its strength, coats the tongue, and comes with a tractor-trailer of funky weirdness that really does ensure a single glass can last all evening. One case every other year seems to do the job, though.

This is both our most boring choice and likely to be most controversial: we’ve yet to find a flowery, aromatic American-style IPA that is better value or more reliably enjoyable than BrewDog Punk. Every time we open a bottle or can we say, ‘Wow!’ which is exactly what we want from this kind of beer. Nine times out of ten Proper Job at the Yacht Inn is all the hops we need but this is the one we keep at home when our blood-humulone levels drop to dangerously low levels.

When we want something sour and refreshing we consistently turn to Magic Rock Salty Kiss. It’s not overly strong, not overly acidic, and is just the right kind of acidic for us, too. (But we won’t say too much — it’s coming up in the current round of Magical Mystery Pour.)

But there are still vacancies — styles where we play the field. When it comes to lager, we currently cycle through St Austell Korev (great value, easy to find), Thornbridge Tzara (yes, we know, not technically a lager, but technically brilliant) and Schlenkerla Helles (the smoke is just enough of a twist to keep us excited). Even though we tasted a load of them we still don’t have a bottled mild we feel the need to have permanently at hand — it’s a pub beer, really. We tend to buy Saison Dupont or BrewDog Electric India but that’s not a lock — we’re still actively auditioning others and saison isn’t something we drink every week. When we get the urge to drink wheat beer, we’re still happy with Hoegaarden, and most German brands do what they need to do, so we just pop to the shops.

So, that’s us. A tendency to conservatism, to the safe option, and to the familiar. (Which is, of course, what Magical Mystery Pour is intended to counter.)

But what about you — do you have any go-to beers? What are they? Or does the whole idea of drinking the same beers over and again just bore you to death?

Magical Mystery Pour #19: Verdant Headband

The first beer in our fifth round of Magical Mystery Pour beer tastings is Verdant Headband pale ale, chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate) of Brewing East.

Here’s a quick recap of what Magical Mystery Pour is all about and how it works: we ask a fellow blogger, Tweeter or otherwise interesting person to suggest five or six beers they think we ought to try, and try them. We buy them with our own money which is why our only restriction is that altogether they shouldn’t cost an absolute fortune, and we should be able to buy them all from one online retailer. The idea is that this will get us out of our comfort zone and nudge us to try beers we might not necessarily be drawn to ourselves, or make us reconsider beers we’ve encountered in the past.

This time, we screwed up. Rebecca chose a selection from Honest Brew but we didn’t get round to ordering them all immediately which meant that, to get the full set, we actually had to place three online orders at different retailers. But it’s fine — we now have a very well-stocked beer cupboard, overflowing with old favourites and other things that caught our eye.

The first beer we tackled from Rebecca’s list is from a Cornish brewery based near beer-geek destination Falmouth. We’ve tried Verdant’s beers on draught a few times and been impressed — they’re full-blown big-city-type craft beers (def 2) of the kind not often found this side of Bristol, with haze and hefty helpings of hops.

This beer was hard-won — we had to hunt around until we found a single can on offer at Beer Hawk (taken over by AB-InBev at around this time last year) at £2.49 for 330ml. It has 5.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Continue reading “Magical Mystery Pour #19: Verdant Headband”

Other People’s Golden Pints, AKA Our To Do List

Inhaler and Fort Smith cans, crushed.

With the idea in mind that January is a good time to try new things we’ve been looking at other UK bloggers’ Golden Pints posts for inspiration.

Some headlines: Northern Monk’s cans are impressing people (as they have us) and Buxton crop up frequently in the bottled beer category. Other recurring names are Beavertown and Magic Rock (the usual suspects, you might say) and Torrside, about whom we know nothing, but maybe that’s a Manchester mafia thing?

Our plan was to order as many of the bottled and canned beers as possible (or, rather, as is reasonable given our budget) and hopefully try a few beers we wouldn’t otherwise think to order.

The problem is that so far it’s proved tricky because the vast majority of the beers nominated are one-offs or limited editions released months ago and long out-of-stock everywhere we’ve checked. The few that weren’t — Magic Rock Inhaler, Five Points IPA, Buxton Axe Edge — we’ve already had more than once.

So, instead, we’ll using people’s suggestions as a hit list of breweries for 2017 rather than specific beers.

Anyway, in case you reckon you might have more luck than us here’s the list we came up with based on all the Golden Pints posts we could find using Google and Twitter:

  • Alphabet Flat White (Hop Hideout)
  • Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (Myles Lambert)
  • Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell (Martin Oates)
  • Beavertown ‘Spresso (Brewers’ Journal/Steve Lamond)
  • Beavertown Imperial Lord Smog Almighty (Glenn Johnson)
  • Burning Sky Saison Anniversaire (Matt Curtis)
  • Buxton Anglo-Belgique IPA (Beer O’Clock Show/Steve Lamond)
  • Buxton Axe Edge (Mashtun & Meow)
  • Buxton Bourbon Skyline (Beer Geek Blog)
  • Buxton Yellow Belly (Beernomicon)
  • Cloudwater DIPA V3 (Half Pint Gentleman)
  • Cloudwater DIPA V4/V5 (Hop Hideout)
  • Cloudwater DIPA V6 (Sharky)
  • Five Points Hook Island Red (Ian Cann)
  • Five Points IPA (Ian Cann)
  • Four Pure Juicebox (Rob Derbyshire)
  • Hawkshead Tiramisu Imperial Stout (Rob Derbyshire)
  • Little Earth Organic East India Pale Ale (Tim Rowe)
  • Mad Hat Tzatziki Sour (Barrel Aged Leeds, and us BTW.)
  • Magic Rock/Cloudwater/Lees Three’s Company (Boozy Procrastinator/Martin Oates)
  • Magic Rock Common Grounds (Jules Gray)
  • Magic Rock Bearded Lady Grand Marnier Chocolate Orange Stout (Beer Geek Blog)
  • Magic Rock Human Cannonball (Myles Lambert)
  • Magic Rock Inhaler (Half Pint Gentleman/Craft Beer Channel)
  • Marble Portent of Usher (Chris Elston)
  • Marble Valancourt (Jules Gray)
  • Northern Monk/Against the Grain/Nomad Clan Smokin’ Bees (Ed/Mark Johnson)
  • Northern Monk Heathen (Simon Girt)
  • Northern Monk Mango Lassi Heathen (Beernomicon)
  • Northern Monk/Little Leeds Neopolitan Pale Ale (Beer O’Clock Show)
  • Northern Monk Holy Trilogy series (Beernomicon/Barrel Aged Leeds)
  • Old Dairy Tsar Top (Ed)
  • Red Willow Weightless (Boozy Procrastinator)
  • Thornbridge Days of Creation (Simon Girt)
  • Torrside Brewing American Barleywine (Mark Johnson/Beers Manchester)
  • Up Front Ahab (Barm)
  • Verdant Pulp (Sharky)
  • Vibrant Forest Imperial Red IPA (Glenn Johnson)
  • Wild Beer Squashed Grape (Joe Tindall)
  • Wylam Jakehead (Beernomicon)

Now, that’s specifically the beers named under bottles/cans — some bottled and canned beers were named in other categories such as, quite importantly, BEST BEER. (That probably explains Cloudwater’s relatively modest showing.)

We probably also just missed some lists altogether — it’s nothing personal, just let us know below and we’ll add a link (terms and conditions apply) — and there are a few more on the way, now that 2016 is actually over. But, anyway, it’s something to think on for now, isn’t it?

 

MINI TASTE-OFF: British Takes on German Wheat Beer

‘Why aren’t more British breweries tackling German-style wheat beers?’ Adrian Tierney-Jones has asked more than once. Intrigued by that question, we rounded up a few and gave it some thought.

Now, clearly, this isn’t one of our full-on, semi-comprehensive taste-offs — we didn’t have the time, inclination or, frankly, budget to get hold of a bottle of every Weizen currently being made by a UK brewery. One notable omission, for example, is Top Out Schmankerl, recommended to us by Dave S, which we couldn’t easily get hold of.

But we reckon, for starters, six is enough to get a bit of a handle on what’s going on, and perhaps to make a recommendation. We say ‘perhaps’ because the underlying question is this: why would anyone ever buy a British Weizen when the real thing can be picked up almost anywhere for two or three quid a bottle? The most exciting German wheat beer we’ve tasted recently was a bottle of Tucher in our local branch of Wetherspoon — perfectly engineered, bright and lemony, and £2.49 to drink in. How does anyone compete with that?

We drank the following in no particular order over a couple of nights, using proper German wheat beer vases of the appropriate size. What we were looking for was cloudiness, banana and/or bubblegum and/or cloves, a huge fluffy head and, finally, a certain chewiness of texture. That and basic likeability, of course.

Continue reading “MINI TASTE-OFF: British Takes on German Wheat Beer”