Patreon’s Choice: Bottled Beers From Siren

Oat Couture

This is another in an occasional series of posts about beers suggested to us by our Patreon supporters. Tim Thomas (@timofnewbury/@UllageBeer) wanted us to try some bottled beers from one of his local breweries, Siren, so we did.

First, though, we want to set out where Siren sits in our men­tal rank­ings of UK brew­eries. We’ve encoun­tered its beers fair­ly fre­quent­ly over the last few years in cask, keg and bot­tle, and have some­times enjoyed them. Most recent­ly we were delight­ed by Kiset­su, a ‘Japan­ese Sai­son’, and had a very pleas­ant night on QIPA, a bare­ly boozy cask-con­di­tioned ale at 2.8%. Some of the big­ger, stranger beers aren’t quite to our taste – we found Caribbean Choco­late Cake too sweet, and Limon­cel­lo too intense to drink in any great vol­ume – but we can tell they are basi­cal­ly decent, prop­er­ly made beers con­struct­ed around inter­est­ing ideas.

And the mid­dle-ground, core range pale ales and IPAs have always seemed fine, if per­haps a bit rough and oniony, with not much to com­mend them over many oth­er exam­ples of the same style.

When we walk into a pub or bar and see a Siren beer on offer, we often order it, but, at the same time, they’re not a brew­ery that springs to mind when we’re asked to name favourites, which we reck­on puts them some­where in the sec­ond divi­sion.

The four beers we looked at this time were all ordered from Beer Ritz back in Octo­ber:

  • Oat Cou­ture, 33oml, £2.72
  • Cere­al­ist Man­i­festo, 33oml, £3.38
  • I Love You Hon­ey Bun­ny, 33oml, £3.89
  • Amer­i­can Oak Brown, 33oml, £3.47

Oat Cou­ture is billed as a hazy Amer­i­can pale ale at 4% ABV and was brewed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with beer retail­er Clap­ton Craft. It poured with only a slight mist and a pleas­ing gold glow. The aro­ma was good, all green leaves and orange fruit, sug­gest­ing some sweaty green­house at Kew. The taste was ini­tial­ly soapy and husky, more ton­ic than plea­sure, but seemed to improve as it went down. It is essen­tial­ly a light, rather dry pale ale, defined by bread-crust malt flavour and lin­ger­ing bit­ter­ness, with a twist of lemon zest to liv­en it up. The bit of sus­pend­ed yeast, we think, soft­ened the edges and added a savoury hum we’d rather was­n’t there. Over­all, we liked it with­out quite being impressed. A good-natured shrug of a beer.

American Oak Brown -- off-white foam.

Amer­i­can Oak Brown, being a big, dark beer at 5.8%, made a stronger impres­sion. In the process of con­struct­ing its stack of off-white foam it threw out grassy aro­mas and vanil­la scent, like a cin­e­ma buck­et of Coke. We expect­ed it to be thin after all that fizz and fuss but it was actu­al­ly mouth-coat­ing and sticky, like choco­late but­tons. The flavours you might expect from a dark beer are there, espe­cial­ly cof­fee, but also more of that raw, green hop­pi­ness which on this occa­sion real­ly worked with the car­bon­a­tion to lift the beer. We real­ly enjoyed this one and would hap­pi­ly drink it again.

We’ll only give a brief note on I Love you Hon­ey Bun­ny a 6.3% hon­ey and oat IPA brewed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with The Oth­er Half, because we let the bot­tle slip past its best before date. We would­n’t say any­thing at all except that, BBE or not, it tast­ed like per­fect­ly good, fresh and zesty bot­tled pale ale. (Per­haps if we’d got to it soon­er there’d have been more of the adver­tised fruit smooth­ie qual­i­ty.)

Cere­al­ist man­i­festo was the biggest beer of the set – a 9% impe­r­i­al stout brewed on col­lab­o­ra­tion with Slim Pick­ens using Cin­na­mon Toast Crunch cere­al – and a hit for us, just about. It’s a fat, beefy beer that smells of gird­ers, cher­ry and rum. There’s some­thing of root beer or botan­i­cal cola in the flavour, fol­lowed up by a dis­tinct but sub­tle spicy burn, and some back­ground earthy dirt­i­ness act­ing as a mild spoil­er. It’s some­how but­tery with­out tast­ing like but­ter – Werther’s Orig­i­nals? It’s cer­tain­ly a strange, exot­ic dessert of a beer that’s a bit loud and could eas­i­ly be obnox­ious, but in the right mood, is just great fun. Per­fect for the Mid­way at the State Fair, if you can find a way to fry it on a stick.

Over­all, this leaves Siren about where they start­ed in our eyes: a brew­ery that throws a lot of mud, some of which sticks, and some of which even glit­ters.

A Weekend in Beer Town

We’ve just spent a couple of nights in Falmouth, Cornwall’s best beer destination, where we tried lots of new beers and revisited some standards.

We had a cou­ple of beers here and there that did­n’t do much for us – for exam­ple, a cask Cloud­wa­ter Ses­sion Pale at Hand could have done with more bit­ter­ness to bal­ance the sticky can­died peel hop char­ac­ter, and a Voca­tion Chop & Change Pale Ale at Beer­wolf had too much bit­ter-leaf and onion for our palates. Gen­er­al­ly, though, we reck­on we chose well, or were lucky, and we came away feel­ing that our taste­buds had been giv­en a prop­er going over.

We par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed…

Two beers and a CAMRA mag, from above.

1. Rebel Eighty Shilling, 5%, cask, at The Front. We’ve had Rebel on the naughty step for a while after a string of mud­dy-tast­ing pints of this par­tic­u­lar beer, some bland-shad­ing-nasty gold­en ales, and the hit-and-miss qual­i­ty of their very expen­sive Mexi-Cocoa in bot­tles. This was like a com­plete­ly new beer, though – tongue-coat­ing choco­late sauce, with much of what made Mexi-Cocoa at its best so excit­ing, only at some­thing like ses­sion strength (5%). Unlike some oth­er sweet mild-type beers there was­n’t a hint of any acrid burnt sug­ar about it. It made us think of Schwarz­bier only chewier. Maybe there was even a hint of Bel­gian Christ­mas beer about it. Good stuff – but will the next pint we find be the same?

Two beers from 45 degrees, with beer mats.

2. St Austell Admi­ral’s Ale, 5%, cask, at The Chainlocker/Shipwrights. For some rea­son this is the first time we’ve ever actu­al­ly stopped for a pint at this pair of con­joined pubs – it’s too easy to fall into the cir­cuit of Front-Beer­wolf-Hand on a day trip – and we were qui­et­ly impressed. It’s got a bit of that cor­po­rate chain feel that afflicts many St Austell pubs but there’s enough gen­uine­ly inter­est­ing weath­ered nau­ti­cal tat on the walls, and enough grime in the grain of the wood, to give it char­ac­ter. We enjoyed being sur­round­ed by boat folk, too – the down-to-earth types who crew yachts but don’t own them.  The beer line-up includ­ed sea­son­al spe­cial Liq­uid Sun­shine (a kind of baby Prop­er Job at 3.9%, firm­ly bit­ter), the excel­lent Mena Dhu keg stout, and Admi­ral’s Ale, an old favourite of ours that is rarely seen on cask. It’s quite a dif­fer­ent beer to the bot­tled ver­sion – less glassy-clean, more sub­tly cit­rusy, and gen­er­al­ly soft­er. Intrigu­ing and many-faceted. It makes HSD, also brown and at the same ABV, seem a bit old hat. We would­n’t mind at all if this was avail­able every­where, all year round.

All Bretts Are Off Pump Clip design.
SOURCE: Siren Craft Brew web­site.

3. Siren/Crooked Stave All Bretts Are Off, 4.5%, bot­tle, Hand. A well-prop­er-craft take on Eng­lish bit­ter with Bret­tanomyces – how could we resist that? The first bot­tle the bar­man opened gushed every­where but, with a bit of team­work, we man­aged to get 99% of the sec­ond attempt into a pint glass, with an insane­ly huge head. It smelled very like Orval (we’re still stuck on that frame of ref­er­ence) and tast­ed real­ly like one of our attempts at blend­ing Orval with Eng­lish ale. Or Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best at its funki­est, and then some. Dry, light on the tongue and dif­fer­ent­ly fruity – as in, apples just begin­ning to think about rot­ting in a crate behind a barn, rather than grape­fruit. This is one way British brew­ers could be mix­ing things up with­out just turn­ing out pre­tend Amer­i­can beers and made us want to taste takes on the same idea from brew­eries like Fuller’s, Adnams and St Austell. By the same token, as in this case pre­sum­ably, it’s also a way craft brew­ers might bring them­selves to brew trad bit­ter with Fug­gles (and they might have to in years to come) with­out feel­ing too com­pro­mised.

Magical Mystery Pour #3: Chocolate Cake

Magical Mystery Pour logo.The third of four beers recommended to us by Dina is Siren’s Caribbean Chocolate Cake stout, a collaboration with Florida’s Cigar City.

In her sleeve notes Dina says:

Oh, hi dark choco­late stout, I enjoy the way you feel. It’s like sleep­ing on black satin sheets in a for­est on a moon­lit night. In the Caribbean, I sup­pose, but I get more west­ern South Dako­ta. I am rec­om­mend­ing this one to you guys for a bit of lux­u­ry. Go on, you’re worth it.

Its ABV is 7.5% and we bought our 330ml bot­tle from Beer Gonzo for £4.25.

It looked love­ly when we poured it – clingy black with a sta­ble berg of red-brown cre­ma. Espres­so with choco­late ice cream on top. (The pic below makes it look beige; it was­n’t.)

The aro­ma was sub­dued amount­ing to no more than a whiff of roast­ing nuts.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour #3: Choco­late Cake”

Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

That was an idle Tweet from the pub (Wetherspoon’s) where we’d just had a pint of real ale billed as ‘rum and raisin’ from a brewery we’d never heard of.

We did­n’t expect much but it was actu­al­ly pret­ty tasty – a sol­id, fair­ly dark best bit­ter. Based on how we cod­i­fied our thoughts on expec­ta­tions back in Jan­u­ary, it was mere­ly enjoy­able but unex­pect­ed­ly so, and there­fore a pleas­ant sur­prise.

As for the men­tion of hype, we did, unfor­tu­nate­ly, have in mind Siren/Magic Rock/Beavertown Rule of Thirds. (We say ‘unfor­tu­nate­ly’ because it has become the cen­tre of some frac­tious debate between brew­ers and drinkers.) Back in Octo­ber, it was trailed thus:

The Rule of Thirds takes 1/3 of each of our indi­vid­ual recipes and process’ & promis­es to bring togeth­er the best of each of our flag­ships and come up with some­thing greater than the sum of the parts. Which is no small boast.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Under-Promise, Over-Deliv­er”

Siren White IPA

Siren White IPA.

We weren’t sure what to expect from a beer with this name, but extreme pallor was, we thought, a given.

After a firm zip and hiss, it actu­al­ly emerged from the bot­tle some­where near amber, haze-free, with an immove­able, whipped-cream head.

Puz­zled, we read the label again: it’s their ‘expres­sion of a wit bier’ with IPA hop­ping, they say, but we think it’s actu­al­ly an IPA with wit bier spices and cit­rus. That fine dis­tinc­tion made sense to us, any­way.

The (new con­cept klax­on!) far aro­ma – the one we could smell from a foot away – was of the can­died pineap­ple, Del Monte tinned peach­es vari­ety, rather than at the weedy, piney end of the spec­trum.

Get­ting clos­er – the near aro­ma – there was some­thing mys­te­ri­ous to pon­der over, bare­ly per­cep­ti­ble but dis­tinct­ly weird. Our first thought was swim­ming pool chlo­rine, then anti­sep­tic, then… yes, that was it – the white rind of a  soft French cheese! So, ammo­nia, per­haps? That some­how fit into the Con­ti­nen­tal rus­tic farm­house theme, and we found our­selves quite at ease with its occa­sion­al intru­sion.

The beer tast­ed over­whelm­ing­ly orangey, in a sticky, Jaf­fa Cake fash­ion, but also some­what salty, almost sea­weedy, and had the tex­ture of a vanil­la mousse as it foamed on the tongue.

It tast­ed much big­ger than its 4.5% ABV, though not at all ‘boozy’, with just enough com­plex­i­ty to keep the atten­tion. It almost tast­ed wrong, but not quite, which is what we’d call a sweet spot. It was, in oth­er words, tasty.

We’ve some­times used the term ‘home brew’ as a pejo­ra­tive when describ­ing com­mer­cial beers, but we’re rethink­ing that: if a friend had brewed this, we’d con­grat­u­late them hearti­ly.

Dis­clo­sure: we got this beer in a sam­ple case sent to us by Eebria.