Friday 16 December 2011

Cheddar? Cheddar.

Like anyone else who communicates about beer I get sent some. If it is something that I don’t particularly like then I just don’t think about it, I move on, the world doesn’t need me to go head to head with either some corporate brewer or a small brewer whose enthusiasm and tax break doesn’t always equal hygiene, skill, imagination of whatever else makes for a good beer. 
    So I got sent these beers by Cheddar Ales and said that I couldn’t promise to be happy clappy about everything, which was fine. ‘I hear you don’t like bottle-conditioned beers,’ said Cheddar’s founder Jem in an email. Partially true, it’d be correct that I don’t regard b-c beers with the same altar-kneeling succulent relish that others do. I’ve had some stinkers in my time and the sticker ‘real ale in a bottle’ is more likely to drive me away rather than have me howling at the moon of beery joyfulness (mind you having said that I’ve had some filthy filtered beers as well). So here are my thoughts on the Cheddar’s beers I have drunk so far. 

Gorge Best — What on earth is a best bitter? Is it this? Copper coloured; sweetness on tongue, toffee sweetness, conjoined with peppery hop character, I think white pepper, plus a whisper of orange marmalade — all coming together like a diabolic dance. Bitter, chewy, dusty (as in a hay barn in the summer when the rain hasn’t fell for a while), dryness. Hey it’s a best bitter and I rather enjoy it.

Potholer — this is a golden ale with a tightly laced, well corsetted sweetness, a fullness on the palate and a sweetshop lemon and banana note (I can almost hear the rustle of the paper bag and feel the grains of sugar being tipped into my hand for immediate consumption), plus some bitterness, but not enough to frighten the horses with. The finish has a ghost of banana sweetness (again that drawing in of the laces) before it fades away. I am not sure if it is the beer or if it is me that is not bothered by this style of beer anymore but I found myself drinking a glass of what has been a favourite beer for several years the other night and thinking: I’ve had enough of dipping into the fruit bowl.

Festive Totty —  this is a very dark chestnut brown, no spices though ruby port is added, or anything that Santa might like when he comes down the chimney. On the palate there is sarsaparilla, milky mocha-ish coffee, a dusting of chocolate (milk I would say), a tingle of dark plum in the background; even a creamy character that adds a luscious note. There’s also a soury smoky edge that makes the whole beer very appetising. The finish is bitter, some roastiness and a spiritual om of chocolate dusting. Lovely espresso foam head on top. So nice to drink that I will have another if you don’t mind. 


  1. I know what you mean about the "CAMRA says..." badge, though I'm agnostic about it. However, a name like "Festive Totty" is quite likely to make me buy something else.

    (Yes, it's named after a local cave, a tactic I think we can now start calling the "Christmas Jumper Defence".)

  2. do you know what didn’t even cross my mind, the beer was the thing with me not the branding

  3. We were impressed with the Cheddar stuff we had a couple of years back, although their classy branding doesn't hurt. (Festive Totty aside.)

    Bottle-conditioned isn't always a good thing but I do find myself increasingly drawn towards BC beers from breweries I know do it well. Delighted to see St Austell now BCing most of their ales, which I think does give them an edge. (Tribute doesn't seem to like being filtered pasteurised.)

    As others have pointed out, there's a difference between (a) skillful bottle-conditioning and (b) breweries who are working their way up from homebrewing and don't have the skill/means to do anything other than dump it into the bottle with an inch of yeast.

  4. Bailey totally agree about the paucity of some breweries’ B-Cing, there used to be one sw brewery whose bottles used to spout like a geyser whenevr they were opened — needless to say the brewery is no longer around.