Four From Summer Wine

Summer Wine bottles lined up.

Yorkshire brewery Summer Wine have been around for a few years now — do they deserve a place on our list of trusted breweries?

Trusted breweries are those whose beers rarely disappoint, regardless of whether they’re from cask, keg, can or bottle. We’ve tried Summer Wine’s beer, primarily on cask, several times, and never been overly impressed, finding them generally on the rough side.

Having been challenged over our lack of enthusiasm, however, we decided to give them another go and so ordered four 330ml bottles from Ales by Mail.

  • Pacer Session IPA (4.1% ABV, £1.97)
  • Oregon Pale Ale (5.5%, £2.06)
  • Sabertooth IPA (6.9%, £2.33)
  • Maelstrom Double IPA (9%, £2.76)

We tasted them in order of strength, cool but not cold.

Pacer in the glass.The golden Pacer made a good first impression, its peachy aroma bursting forth like a spritz of atomised perfume. That passed quickly, replaced by a more delicate elderflower note, and a mild, slightly sweet flavour. It would indeed be sessionable, being light-bodied almost to the point of wateriness. We liked it, though, and would certainly order a pint if we came across it on draught in a pub.

Amber-coloured Oregon was more problematic. A less heady but similarly peachy aroma soon dissipated, leaving behind a whiff of hot alcohol, which also dominated the flavour. At one point, we thought it might be going down the drain but, persevering, found it drinkable as some strawberry and blueberry notes emerged. On the whole, its harshness made it hard work.

Sabretooth was brown going on red. We found it grainy and weighty, like a less sophisticated country cousin of Goose Island IPA. There was citrus but more sweet candied peel than lemon-zestiness. Once again, we picked up that tang of soft ripe berries. We rather liked it, for all its oddities, and certainly enjoyed its insistent, tongue-numbing bitterness.

Maelstrom  was a similar colour to its little sibling and almost a dead ringer for BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA. It smelled like seaside rock with, yes, yet more strong strawberry character. Is this a result of the yeast and/or their particular fermentation process? It’s not necessarily a problem, at any rate, and adds some interest. This might seem to have strayed in from tasting notes on a stout but we also got something that reminded us of a dusting of very bitter cocoa powder. Maelstrom was, for us, the best of the bunch — smooth and relatively clean, at least compared to its stablemates.

Ultimately, these beers were all less accomplished and enjoyable than their equivalents from the BrewDog or Thornbridge ranges, being sweeter, more cloying, less ‘zinging’ and clean, across the board. So,  Summer Wine still aren’t on our automatic go-to list, and we won’t be ordering any more of their bottles for a little while at least.

16 thoughts on “Four From Summer Wine”

  1. Definitely a brewery on my ‘will prob order a pint if I see ‘ list. .not sure though if ive ever bothered with the bottles but they are pretty local and fairly common on both cask and keg in barsi drink in (not that local, guy I knew working for them found drive there too far and switched to somewhere genuinely local) . Generally id got impression swb were putting a lot more effort into producing consistent quality than certain highly acclaimed new brewerys.

  2. Pacer is a solid session choice. SWB stuff often turns up round here and I prefer it to their regional “rivals” that I also see around these parts, Ilkley and Roosters.

  3. I have no idea about the bottles, but in cask whenever I see one of their beers I order it. When kept and served as should be (sparkled of course) they are bloody good beers.

    1. Agreed Tanders. I know taste in beer is very personal but I think B&B have called this one badly wrong.

        1. The Manchester beer mafia have already established that B&B have duff palates due to their erroneous appreciation of Guinness West Indies Porter. Further defective assessment is only to be expected.

    2. Not being a rabid hopmonster I’m not a huge SWB fan, but I do tend to give their cask beers a go when I see them. I’m a bit surprised these beers came out so poorly, but I’ve never had anything in bottle from SWB so who knows?

      On the strawberry note, could somebody more technically minded comment on whether DMHF would qualify as a fault – either an outright fault in the brewing (of that batch), or a fault that would have sorted itself out if the beer had gone into cask/if the bottle had been left for another month/whatever?

      1. In my opinion the only person who could answer that would be the Brewer themselves. have they chosen a yeast strain with this character in mind? Was it a happy accident or would they rather it wasn’t present?

        Lots of beers have aroma compounds which could be viewed either way, DMS, H2S, Diacetyl etc… These can all be viewed as an off flavour or not depending on the style and the specification.

        Personally I’m a big fan of DMHF. Sharps Spiced Red is a great example, I had one last night and even after two years the strawberry aroma is prominent.

  4. I find their bottles hugely inconsistent, much better on cask or keg. In particular the bottles are often seriously lacking in carbonation.

  5. Morning guys –

    I just thought I’d throw my thoughts over, as I’ve championed SWB for some time now – great to see them pop up on here. As mentioned in the previous comments, SWB have come a long way since they first popped up. Initially brewing more ‘trad’ beers, James and Andy soon made Hops their MO – and sowed the seeds of a quite rabid following in the process. At one point, (IMHO), SWB were producing the bitterest, hoppiest beers in Yorkshire.
    Then there was a little sea-change, and the hops were dialled down ever-so-slightly in favour of balance – or balance relatively speaking, anyway! I think all at SWB would agree with the assertation that they’ve smoothed the rough edges somewhat – and their beers are much better for it. As Tandleman says, I will generally order SWB when I see it – Pacer, mostly, it must be said, although I tried their Pils at the weekend and found it quite accomplished. The main reason I comment is this: SWB are a great example of a brewery that have looked at themselves and the climate around them and guided the ship through a couple of iterations now to reach where they are now. They’ve evolved – genuinely – and never missed a step in the ‘scene’ due to that.

Comments are closed.