Magical Mystery Pour #19: Verdant Headband

Verdant Headband in the can.

The first beer in our fifth round of Magical Mystery Pour beer tastings is Verdant Headband pale ale, chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate) of Brewing East.

Here’s a quick recap of what Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour is all about and how it works: we ask a fel­low blog­ger, Tweet­er or oth­er­wise inter­est­ing per­son to sug­gest five or six beers they think we ought to try, and try them. We buy them with our own mon­ey which is why our only restric­tion is that alto­geth­er they should­n’t cost an absolute for­tune, and we should be able to buy them all from one online retail­er. The idea is that this will get us out of our com­fort zone and nudge us to try beers we might not nec­es­sar­i­ly be drawn to our­selves, or make us recon­sid­er beers we’ve encoun­tered in the past.

This time, we screwed up. Rebec­ca chose a selec­tion from Hon­est Brew but we did­n’t get round to order­ing them all imme­di­ate­ly which meant that, to get the full set, we actu­al­ly had to place three online orders at dif­fer­ent retail­ers. But it’s fine – we now have a very well-stocked beer cup­board, over­flow­ing with old favourites and oth­er things that caught our eye.

The first beer we tack­led from Rebec­ca­’s list is from a Cor­nish brew­ery based near beer-geek des­ti­na­tion Fal­mouth. We’ve tried Ver­dan­t’s beers on draught a few times and been impressed – they’re full-blown big-city-type craft beers (def 2) of the kind not often found this side of Bris­tol, with haze and hefty help­ings of hops.

This beer was hard-won – we had to hunt around until we found a sin­gle can on offer at Beer Hawk (tak­en over by AB-InBev at around this time last year) at £2.49 for 330ml. It has 5.5% alco­hol by vol­ume (ABV).

Rebec­ca says:

Ver­dant are new to me, but I’ve been lap­ping up their beers over the past cou­ple of months. Their pales are notable for being intense­ly fruity and ses­sion­able. This is one of the brew­eries that I’m hap­py to try any­thing from right now because I’m yet to be dis­ap­point­ed (knock on wood). I was drawn to them orig­i­nal­ly by their bright, eye-catch­ing and well designed cans. They began to accu­mu­late acco­lades from sev­er­al respect­ed beer blog­gers and writ­ers, but in this instance, I was already con­vinced by the qual­i­ty of Verdant’s range before I read any­thing about them. It real­ly goes to show how great brand­ing and art­work are crit­i­cal to make a brew­ery stand apart these days. After all, it makes it eas­i­er to select some­thing at ran­dom when raid­ing a bot­tle shop’s fridges. This beer encap­su­lates my favourite qual­i­ties of a good, sol­id pale: big trop­i­cal aro­mas of man­goes and oth­er fruits such as papaya and pineap­ple, with a nice crisp cit­rus flavour on the palate and a refresh­ing bit­ter fin­ish that lingers, then seduces the drinker back for anoth­er sip.

Headband pale ale in the glass.

We found it impos­si­ble to pour clear despite being care­ful, and despite leav­ing what felt like an inch or so of beer in the can. The first 100ml was clear and then it turned hazy, final­ly end­ing up com­plete­ly cloudy. The can – which is, as Rebec­ca says, very cool-look­ing – accu­rate­ly adver­tis­es the colour of the beer, which is to say, vibrant orange. The head was huge, but did­n’t stick around long enough to point a cam­era at. (See above.)

The aro­ma was bright, perky, sweet-shop fruity, like Robin­son’s orange squash. Very appetis­ing – this, they have nailed.

The flavour, unfor­tu­nate­ly, land­ed with a clang. It seemed to us to be most­ly bit­ter­ness of the hard, pithy vari­ety, almost in med­i­c­i­nal qui­nine ter­ri­to­ry. We found our­selves want­i­ng some of the sweet­ness promised by the smell and the soft-drink design of the can – there was some fruiti­ness evi­dent but more like a slice bob­bing in ton­ic than the trop­i­cal smooth­ie riot we’d been expect­ing.

There were more prob­lems in the fin­ish: a smack of mud­dy root veg­eta­bles, fol­lowed by a per­sis­tent stale note that did­n’t go away. (Or that we did­n’t get used to.) We’re not yeast-phobes but that’s what we’re blam­ing for the for­mer, and the lat­ter we’re going to put down to oxy­gen being where oxy­gen should­n’t at some point in the pack­ag­ing process.

Broad­ly speak­ing, this beer struck us as a dead ringer for the Beaver­town style, by which we remain gen­er­al­ly uncon­vinced. We read ‘pale ale’ and think clean, sharp flavours – easy-drink­ing with­out being bland. But this type of beer deliv­ers some­thing funki­er and arguably more com­plex, so we’re almost bound to feel dis­ap­point­ed. It seems odd that we cut such vari­able beers as Spin­go Mid­dle so much slack but per­haps that’s because they nev­er sig­nal mod­ern or clean – it’s a won­der if they’re drink­able, frankly – where­as this feels rus­tic when we don’t think it should be.

We’re not writ­ing Ver­dant off on the basis of a sin­gle can, of course – the mem­o­ry of those very good draught beers lingers, and the good opin­ion of Rebec­ca and oth­ers keeps them on the must-try list – but this was not a hit.

UPDATE 24.01.2017: Here’s a blog post from Ver­dant on the sub­ject of oxy­gen in the can­ning process.

One thought on “Magical Mystery Pour #19: Verdant Headband”

  1. Nooooooooooo.….…..
    Thanks for alert­ing me to the loss of Beer Hawk to AB Inbev. ‘Good news for beer lovers’ indeed – com­ic irony sure­ly.

    Some­body else can feed the big bad-beer mon­ster. It’s the last they’ll see of my mon­ey.

    Unthink­able that any lover of qual­i­ty beer would want to help fund AB InBevs relent­less march to world beer dom­i­na­tion. Is there still time for James Watt to save the world???

    Spleen vent­ed for today – Sor­ry if this post is slight­ly off top­ic…

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