The second beer suggested to us by Dina (read about the first here) is Tzatziki Sour by Liverpool’s Mad Hatter Brewery.
Many people considered this their beer of the year. It was definitely up there for me. Again, it does what it says on the bottle- it tastes just like tzatziki. I’ve only had a few cucumber beers in my life, but I have no idea how brewers manage to get such flavour from a vegetable that really doesn’t have much flavour. You just HAVE to drink this beer. I recommend you blend it with a kebab in your face.
This is what we’ve previously referred to as a Jelly Belly Jelly Bean beer: a beer designed to taste as close as possible to another foodstuff altogether. It’s safe to say that if you have an objection to this type of beer and/or you don’t like tzatziki, you won’t like this one.
The bottle opened with an jet-powered hiss and gave off an immediately familiar aroma. Guess what it smelled like? No, go on, guess! Yes, that’s right: tzatziki! That is, mostly of cucumber, with a touch of dusty dried mint, and a high note of acid funk. (Side note: the label would probably work as the cover for an acid funk LP.)
The carbonation was too high for us to get it into the glass in one go – the head just kept rising however slowly we went – so that, though clear at first, it was milky by the end. That didn’t seem inappropriate, though, because it’s not as if you can see through tzatziki, or through Berliner Weisse, on which style this is nominally based. The head was beautifully fluffy and very Belgian-looking, as if it had been whisked.
It took a few sips to get past some initial confusion – ‘Ugh! Wait, what? Hold on…’ – but we quickly became enamoured. The acidity isn’t of the tooth-stripping, bile-like variety but soft and gently palate cleansing, further balanced with a faint saltiness and malt-sweetness. No one characteristic overwhelms or, to put that another way, it’s spiky in every direction at once.
If we have reservations it’s that it’s really not much like beer – more like a ‘refreshing summer drink’ – but it’s not as if the label conceals its weirdness and no-one is going to order one expecting Doom Bar. Which is not to say that it’s a once-is-plenty freak-show either – we could drink a lot of this, especially in the sun, especially cold, especially with grilled lamb and flatbreads.
It also passes two other key tests with (a) more complexity and flavour than many other beers at 4.5% ABV and (b) a reasonable price tag. (£2.90 per 330ml bottle from Beer Gonzo where we got ours (but currently out of stock), £2.75 at Beer Heroes and £3 via Honest Brew.)
This is a clever idea well-executed and we can say with some confidence that, if you want to drink a beer that tastes weirdly and pleasingly like tzatziki, you’re unlikely to find a better one. We’ll be buying more.
Update 23/02/2016: We initially forgot to include Dina’s tasting notes in this post but have now added them.