Hawkshead of Cumbria is one of those breweries whose beer we’ve read more about than we’ve drunk. Best known for their pale-and-hoppy session ales, and much beloved of our northern beer blogging peers, they have recently acquired their own bottling line, and sent us three beers to try.
Dry Stone Stout (4.5% ABV) is a great name for a beer, suggesting the Cumbrian landscape as well as indicating, we assume, the intended character of the beer. It looked enticing in the glass, unctuous, and with a dark, immoveable head. Unfortunately, this bottle, from the first batch off Hawkshead’s new bottling line, seemed to have gone a bit wrong. Where we expected flinty austerity, we found an overwhelmingly buttery, toffeeish, Werther’s Originals character. Boak, taking it as a kind of ‘Caramel Shortbread Stout’, rather enjoyed it; Bailey found it undrinkable.
Modern aromatic IPAs seem to fall into two broad categories: tropical-fruity and weedy-leafy. Hawkshead’s nameless version (7%) is firmly in the latter camp. It gave off a sweet pipe tobacco aroma on pouring, and its taste provided reminders of pine, lemon verbena, meadow grass, and, er, other type of grass. It shares some of the pleasingly raw character of Brewdog Punk IPA at is best, and is similarly dry. We found it nicely clean with no interfering ‘off’ notes. If it has a flaw, it might be that it is not terribly distinctive – why would we buy this rather than any other IPA of around the same strength? (See also Northern Monk Brew Co New World IPA.) Nonetheless, we liked it a lot, and would certainly buy a few bottles if the price was right.
We finished on a really interesting beer – Brodies Prime Export (8.5%), a stronger version of one of Hawkshead’s flagship products. Almost-black and red-tinged, it reminded us at once, not of another beer, but of Pedro Ximenez, a sweet fortified wine made from raisins, with a barely perceptible top note of grapefruit spray. It also brought to mind that bottle of 30-odd-year-old Adnams’ Tally Ho we drank last year, only without the unpleasant funkiness. In other words, Brodie’s Prime Export tastes like a ready-aged beer. It is rather classical and classy, despite its ‘craft’ branding, and gets four thumbs up from us.