Friday 4 May 2012

Hawkshead — nice beers

There I am, first trip north of Liverpool, with college climbing club. Some town we arrive in, name now lost in the mistiness of my personal time — Kendal perhaps or confusion with awful confection for the mountains Kendal mintcake, I prefer Twix — and to a pub we go. The Woolpack might have been its name or am I thinking Emmerdale (of which I have never seen an episode in my life) but then my memory persists that the name had something to do with wolves. Long time ago, many fell off the ledge, but recalled and relodged in memory is a moment in the cold, in the north, my first term on a club trip, that one of the second or even third years got out a book and read wisdom about this pub (being young I didn’t care for this wisdom, it reminded me of church). My first experience of the Good Beer Guide. Of the pub I can little remember and lager was what I probably drank (ale in those days always made me feel full). And so the Lakes connection is renewed with a trio of bottles received from Hawkshead the other week, their well-hopped range, three bottled beers that sing and zing with the essence of the hop: Cumbrian Five Hop, Windermere Pale and NZPA.

I haven’t had their beers for some time. Brodie’s Pride was in 1001 Beers cause I loved it. First drank in Brussels in December 2008 in the evening at some reception after a great boozy afternoon with the brewery’s founder Alex Brodie (along with several other SIBA brewing members) in Poechenellekelder. The brewery’s Tap is also in Great British Pubs. Would I like this trio of beers? And I did, though some more than others and I also wondered how they would transplant down the alcoholic scale — they are all over 6%. So here they are, three of a kind.

NZ Pale Ale On the nose, imagine the starcrossed lovechild of a grapefruit having spent a lustful night with a banana and nine months later this is the result. The love continues on the palate issuing forth sparks of bitterness, a banana sweetness, a rusk dryness, cracker like even (cheese anyone), a cough of dryness and the old hessian sack that’s been in the dry barn throughout the summer. Full and stringently fruity, rather than indulgently, lazily and sloppily fruity.

Windermere Pale Citra and Goldings. Hark the golden chime of hop fruitiness — grapefruit, lychee, ripe papaya, a fruit bowl of existentialism —along with a Riesling petrolly kind of character. As I drink I am reminded of the fulsomely rich robe of a medieval merchant overtly fond of his gold and silver; a big fat bellied man who made his money with wool and furs. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in Flanders recently, but that is the image this beer evokes — a richness, an indulgence, but also a friendliness and sense of fun.

Cumbrian Five Hop Here I felt this beer had a harsh bitterness riding along like some outrider from Mad Max alongside the sexy fruitbowl character; it had a thinner character than others and I also found it frosty, with the bitterness dominating. However I loved the mouth puckering bitterness and the dusty peppery spiciness as in the spices you use for curry. Mixed thoughts and in the end I felt it a shrill beer, with the bitterness a bit like some saxophone squawking away in a late night bar to no one in particular. But then some people like this sort of music. 

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