A Surprise Infatuation

Sneck Lifter pumpclip. (Press image on white background.)

We didn’t expect to like this beer but, blimey, we really do.

We found it on our local Wether­spoon, The Tremen­heere, where we go a cou­ple of times a month in search of some­thing a bit inter­est­ing. Quite often we end up turn­ing round and walk­ing out, unex­cit­ed by the choice of Abbot, Doom Bar or Rud­dles. We near­ly did that this time but some­thing told us to stop and give Jen­ning’s Sneck Lifter a try.

They’re not a cool brew­ery, Jen­ning’s, not least because they’re part of the Marston’s empire these days. We’ve always found their bot­tled beers a bit dull and the cask – most often Cum­ber­land Ale – fine with­out being thrilling.

Per­haps it was the fact that we felt sor­ry for them hav­ing been flood­ed but more like­ly it was the real­i­sa­tion that, despite hav­ing it men­tal­ly filed under ‘usu­al sus­pects’, we could­n’t remem­ber actu­al­ly hav­ing tried Sneck Lifter from cask. We’ve heard the name, of course, and we think we’ve had it in bot­tles, when it bare­ly reg­is­tered, but, no, we’re pret­ty sure nev­er cask-con­di­tioned.

It’s hard to say, real­ly, why it excit­ed us. Some­thing about it sug­gest­ed those Fuller’s Past Mas­ters beers so, to a cer­tain extent, it’s that it tastes antique – like a pint of mild that’s made it across the gulf of time from before World War I. (The brew­ery pitch­es it as a ‘win­ter warmer’ but it could just as eas­i­ly be brand­ed ‘strong mild’.)

More spe­cif­ic tast­ing notes feel a bit redun­dant because, real­ly – it’s just a sat­is­fy­ing beer – but we’ll try.

It’s strong by British stan­dards at 5.1% ABV, and fair­ly dark – so red it’s almost black, from cer­tain angles. It’s easy-going but rich, in the same ter­ri­to­ry as Adnam’s Broad­side. That is to say, plum­my, raisiny and rich with­out being full-on lux­u­ri­ous. It’s sweet in a way that feels nour­ish­ing but before it has chance to become sick­ly, a coun­ter­ing dry bit­ter­ness starts to build up in the mouth: it is bal­anced in the sense of hav­ing flavours tug­ging two ways rather than as a syn­onym for bland.

What we’re say­ing, we sup­pose, is that if you see Sneck Lifter on cask, you should give it a go, even if you’re a Jenning’s/Marston’s scep­tic.

10 thoughts on “A Surprise Infatuation”

  1. You’ve been miss­ing out there, Cum­ber­land is the worst of the Jen­nings core range and Sneck Lifter is the best.

    1. *Now* you tell us.

      It’s not that we’d been snub­bing it, we just did­n’t see it on offer any­where except in bot­tles.

  2. I used to drink a lot of Jen­nings ordi­nary bit­ter in Mcr 25 years ago, when I was first becom­ing inter­est­ed in beer, and they seemed an odd, old-fash­ioned brew­ery even then. What new brew­ery would make a beer like that and call it “bit­ter”? Dark, roasty, hop­py; it was like no oth­er bit­ter in Eng­land. Haven’t had it since I moved south and Marstons took over, but I hope it’s kept its char­ac­ter.

  3. This was my favourite beer about 8 years ago but the bot­tled ver­sion is often dis­ap­point­ing. Not been up to the Lakes since then tho 🙁

  4. I’ve enjoyed Sneck­lifter from time to time – it’s got a pleas­ant choc/toffee malty thing going on. Cer­tain­ly more my cup of tea than the oth­er Jen­ning’s beers.

    I like that you have a soft spot for it/them due to the floods – mine is in part due to the ori­gin of the name I once read – that if you were on hard times, as long as you could scrape togeth­er enough pen­nies to “lift the sneck” (door latch) & buy your first pint, it was usu­al that your pals inside would shout you a few more beers.

  5. A love­ly beer espe­cial­ly at this time of the year, I actu­al­ly find the bot­tled ver­sion pret­ty good as well.

  6. Giv­en last week­end’s del­uge in Cum­bria, I’m won­der­ing whether the Jen­nings Brew­ery has been flood­ed again. Cock­er­mouth was men­tioned on the news, as one of the towns bad­ly affect­ed.

    1. Paul – they have. This is from the Tele­graph arti­cle linked in the post above:

      Uphill from the pub, at the Jen­nings Broth­ers brew­ery, head brew­er Jere­my Pettman fears that he may not be able to resume work until well into the New Year.
      He said: “Hav­ing been through this nine years ago we know what we’re doing. The water’s all gone out now, we’re just mov­ing all the silt out of the way. There’s a hell of a lot.

      1. That’s not good news, Bai­ley. I feared the brew­ery might have been affect­ed as, if my mem­o­ry serves me cor­rect­ly, it is sit­ed at the con­flu­ence of two rivers; not ide­al in a flood sit­u­a­tion.

        When Har­vey’s Brew­ery suf­fered a sim­i­lar fate, dur­ing the Lewes floods of 2000? the brew­ery took the deci­sion to build a sub­stan­tial brick wall, which total­ly enclosed the site, in order to avoid a rep­e­ti­tion. I won­der if a sim­i­lar scheme is viable in Jennings’s case; and if so, will par­ent com­pa­ny Marstons stump up the cask?

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