We’ve been wanting to try some or any of Manchester brewery JW Lees’ beers for a while now, but they don’t turn up in London much. This week, I (Bailey…) finally got the chance, taking Tandleman’s recommendation of a trip to the Netherton Hall near Frodsham, Cheshire.
It’s been refurbished in the last month and is now a very classy, very cosy flagship JW Lees pub. There’s a portrait of Mr Lees himself over the fireplace, which is nice. It’s obviously also a with its eye on diners, but not in a way which is likely to be an issue for even the most sensitive gastro-pub hater (there was an uncomfortable looking skinheaded lad who’d been forced into a pair of slacks and a shirt pretending to be a waiter, but that was about it).
The beers on offer were the plainly named Bitter (4.0%) and two seasonals — Autumn Glow (4.2%) and Plum Pudding (4.8%).
Autumn Glow was a nice starter, served with a creamy sparkled head and pleasantly soft around the edges. It was reminiscent of another beer, but the similarity took a few sips to pin down. Fuller’s Jack Frost? Maybe — there was some blackberry flavour there, amongst the crystal malt. But no: with eyes closed and imagination engaged, it could have passed for a very light-coloured German festbier. At any rate, very nice and quite complex.
Plum Pudding was a stunner — very fruity, but not at all sickly. A bit tart, if anything, and reminiscent of Liefmans Framboise. The best and most balanced English fruit beer I’ve ever tried, anyway, and one which Boak is now keen to have a crack at. it would mull nicely, too!
Drinking these in completely the wrong order, it was Bitter to finish. Is it a dull, or was that just the contrast? It got better when the head had was out of the way, starting out as boring Bombardier or Spitfire but finishing more bitter and fruity, like a less in-your-face version of Plum Pudding. But who knows for sure? My tastebuds were shot by this point, and I’d failed to bring the prescribed dry bread, bottled water and spitoon…