A Surprise Infatuation

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.