Magical Mystery Pour #24: Weird Beard Mariana Trench

Still life: a bottle of Mariana Trench in green light among sea glass, driftwood and shells.

The last beer in this round, chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate) who blogs at Brewing East, is Weird Beard’s Mariana Trench ‘Transpacific Pale Ale’.

It cost us £2.89 per 330ml bot­tle from online retail­er Hon­est Brew, has an an ABV of 5.3%, and is designed to show­case a mix of US and New Zealand hops, hence the name. Rebec­ca says:

This has long been one of my boyfriend’s favourite picks – and he has a hand­ful of those from Weird Beard – but this is def­i­nite­ly among the brewery’s most con­sis­tent and high­ly enjoy­able beers. Admit­ted­ly not as excit­ing as some of their oth­er excel­lent range, this is one I’m still always hap­py to drink when spot­ted on tap. It’s a bal­anced pale that isn’t as aggres­sive­ly hop­py as some of Weird Beard’s oth­er beers, but I enjoy the hints of cit­rus and trop­i­cal flavours on the nose and light bit­ter­ness in the body… I’ve had some great pints of this on Broad­way Mar­ket on lazy Sat­ur­day after­noons, so this is a beer that makes me wax nos­tal­gic with every sip.

It’s prob­a­bly worth reflect­ing here on our gen­er­al feel­ings about Weird Beard, just to set some con­text. We find them inter­est­ing, not only in terms of the beer but also as a com­pa­ny – they’ve got a pol­i­cy of open­ness and hon­esty which man­i­fests through an often fas­ci­nat­ing blog, and the ideas behind their beers can be quite atten­tion-grab­bing. We loved their sai­son when we tast­ed it off against a bunch of oth­ers and over the years have raved about occa­sion­al beers in their range. On the whole, though, we have them filed under ‘mid­dling’, espe­cial­ly when it comes to their bot­tles. In fact, we’ve had this beer before, or at least a pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion, and were luke­warm, although with the empha­sis on warm.

Mariana Trench in the glass.
There’s a pin-cush­ion behind the glass, in case you were won­der­ing about the magen­ta pro­tru­sions.

On open­ing it hissed just the right amount and poured per­fect­ly clean, bright gold, despite being bot­tle-con­di­tioned. The head was pure white, unmov­ing, nei­ther shav­ing foam nor bub­ble bath, but some­where between.

The aro­ma was mut­ed – just a wisp of weed – which tipped us off to an issue. We checked the label and, sure enough, the beer was bot­tled in August and thus best before… last month. We bought it in Jan­u­ary so this isn’t real­ly our fault, or Hon­est Brew’s (although a warn­ing might have been nice), or Weird Beard’s for that mat­ter (this cer­tain­ly beats fib­bing about the best before like almost every­one else does). It’s prob­a­bly just a fact of life we need to get used to with beers that are point­ed­ly about hop aro­ma and flavour: check dates on deliv­ery, file by deliv­ery date.

There was a momen­tary spark of fruit juici­ness – the ghost of a man­go – fol­lowed by a vac­u­um left by the lack of malt char­ac­ter, which led into a faint home-brew funk­i­ness. The lat­ter was­n’t a prob­lem – it pro­vid­ed a fea­ture to nav­i­gate by – but the lack of sweet­ness or flavour in the mid­dle was dis­ap­point­ing.

As per our pre-game prej­u­dices, we found our­selves think­ing that we liked it well enough, but it does­n’t push Weird Beard any fur­ther up the rank­ings. Run the stan­dard diag­nos­tic: is it bet­ter (or bet­ter val­ue) than the ref­er­ence beer in this area, Brew­Dog Punk IPA? Not real­ly.

Again, though, we were drink­ing it past the clear­ly stat­ed best before, and maybe it would have been, you know, bet­ter before. But we’ve had old hop­py beers before and been delight­ed – age tends to tame extreme hop­ping and rebal­ance this kind of beer towards the malt, which can turn out nice­ly to our taste. That did­n’t hap­pen here which high­lights the risks of work­ing in one dimen­sion.

So, after our voy­age to the bot­tom of the sea, we’re back where we start­ed: Weird Beard con­tin­ues to be worth explor­ing, but won’t always turn up trea­sure.

Thanks once again to Rebec­ca for tak­ing the time to select these beers and write notes. Next up: Essex beers cho­sen for us by Justin Mason (@1970sBOY).

9 thoughts on “Magical Mystery Pour #24: Weird Beard Mariana Trench”

  1. I saw a tweet from some­one recent­ly who had been sold a two year old can of Piz­za Port Chron­ic Ale, which while not over­ly hop­py, was clear­ly far beyond its best. I’ve had sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences itself and feel the onus real­ly should­n’t be on cus­tomers to scru­ti­nise bottled/canned on dates before every sin­gle pur­chase (which you can’t do when buy­ing online obvi­ous­ly).

  2. I bought a cou­ple of cans of Fire­stone Walk­er beers just before Christ­mas, sub­se­quent­ly I dis­cov­ered that both had canned by dates well before the Brew­ery’s rec­om­mend­ed 120 days by which you should drink them. I’ve since become a lot more care­ful when buy­ing bot­tles & cans espe­cial­ly those of the hop­py vari­ety.

  3. For me per­son­al­ly, Weird Beard are always a brew­ery I would tend to look for and pur­chase bot­tles of any of their new releas­es. The art­work and beer names are always quite allur­ing. I find them to be a con­sis­tent brew­ery and many of their one-off releas­es are quite inter­est­ing and push the bound­aries in terms of what to expect from a beer style.

    Their Sorachi Face Plant DIPA is prob­a­bly one of the best Sorachi beers out there! I’ve also found Deca­dence Stout to be thor­ough­ly enjoy­able and one I’ll always return to.

    (They get bonus points for the clear labelling on their web­site too as to what beers are veg­an-friend­ly!)

  4. Do you think it’s fair to review some­thing hop for­ward that’s clear­ly past it’s best before date? why not just try and obtain a fresh bot­tle?

    1. Fair chal­lenge. Yes, is the answer, giv­en that we were trans­par­ent about it. And any­way, it’s inter­est­ing to us that a beer can have a six-month best before, be dis­patched a fort­night before it appar­ent­ly *dies*, at full price. If we’d drunk this any time oth­er than last August, I get the feel­ing we’d be in the dog house, TBH.

      And get­ting a new bot­tle, giv­en where we live and that we don’t take sam­ples, would be *quite* expen­sive…

      1. Which does lead to the ques­tion of the point of these beers which are too frag­ile for the pack­ag­ing for­mat into which they are are placed. If you can’t review one with­out flack should any­one be sell­ing them?

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