beer reviews

Lesser spotted Badger beers


Our local Turkish supermarket has recently started selling ale as well as Eastern European lagers, although they only offer the usual suspects from  Shepherd Neame, Hall & Woodhouse and Wychwood.

We sometimes struggle to see the appeal of Hall & Woodhouse, aka Badger, but they’ve been experimenting quite a lot recently, so there’s often something new to try.

Harvester’s Ale is mere 2.5%, and I’ve been interested in trying it for a while for that reason. To combat the sweet, watery flavour you get with low-alcohol beer, the brewers have added plenty of hops, and the result is very drinkable. It’s almost lager-like in its fizziness, but really not bad at all. The kind of thing you might down a pint of as your first beer after work, before getting onto the proper stuff. Would probably be good at summer barbecues, too. There was a slight acrid flavour somewhere at the back but that might well be because a beer this weak is even less capable than others of standing up to the fluorescent lights and variable temperatures of the local corner shop.  If you want a second opinion, Melissa Cole reviewed it here.

At the other end of the strength scale, Poacher’s Choice (5.7%) is made with liquorice and damson. Its wonderful fruity aroma filled the room as soon as we opened the bottle. The fruitiness is not “subtle” as the bottle claims.  In fact, we would classify this as a fruit beer, in the same territory as JW Lees’ Plum Pudding. The fruit is fairly well-balanced with the spice and the hops, though. In all honesty, we couldn’t drink much more than a pint of it — it is a bit rich and sickly — but it’s definitely an interesting beer, and well worth trying if you see it.

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Badger Pickled Partridge at the Mason's Arms

We’ve been down on Badger beer since a holiday in Dorset last year where we struggled to find a decent pint of anything, and where even Badger’s own pubs in the area were serving dish-watery, boring, stale beer which made us feel a bit sad.

But the Mason’s Arms (recommended by Jeff “Stonch” Bell here) is a Badger pub which knows how to look after its ale. The seasonal beer, Pickled Partridge, is a dark, 4.6% ‘winter warmer’ and very, very drinkable.

The emphasis is on fruitiness and hop flavour, with very little bitterness — just enough to make it moreish. There might be some spices in there somewhere, but subtly done, with none of the overwhelming cinnamon and cloves that have ruined so many Christmas beers over the years.

In short: a nice cosy, quiet pub, and a very nice beer! Badger are back in our good books.

We’ve spent a fair bit of time on Seymour Place recently, for no particular reason. The Mason’s Arms, the Carpenter’s Arms and the Austrian Imbiss are all good reasons to visit if you’re in the area.

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Pumpkin ales

Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Post Road Pumpkin Ale

From reading US beer blogs, I get the impression that pumpkin beers are quite big over there. Apparently, the early Colonists turned to pumpkins to bulk out the barley, or something like that. At any rate, they’re a novelty over here.

We picked up Post Road Pumpkin Ale at Beer Exposed. It’s in the Brooklyn Brewery’s line of historic ales, so it’s branded a little differently. The overwhelming smell was spices (cinnamon and nutmeg at a guess). Unfortunately, what was a lovely smell translated into a rather unbalanced beer — really quite acrid from all the spice, with a thin body.

So we weren’t expecting a lot from Hall & Woodhouse’s seasonal Pumpkin Ale. We’re not massive fans of the Badger brewery products, particularly their “flavoured” beers, and particularly when they’re not fresh. This one had been sitting in our stash for around nine months, so the omens weren’t good. Well, that just goes to show how wrong you can be, as this is a lovely beer. Interestingly, it smelled of bananas, and the flavour was a bit like a less sickly, slightly spicier weissbier but with an ale-like mouthfeel and condition. And it was in excellent condition too, despite filtering, pasteurisation and our idiosyncratic cellaring methods. At 4.6%, it’s a bit weaker than the Brooklyn effort, but had a great rocky, long-lasting head. Excellent stuff, highly recommended.