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.
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.