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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