Quite some time ago now, those nice folk at Bitter End Brewing Co. sent me a mixed case of bottled beers, and a glass from which to drink them. The glass is still in the cellar (I need to get clumsy in the glass cupboard to make some room for it), but the majority of the beers have now passed through the evaluation process.
Before they sent me the beers, they messaged me explaining that they didn't want to change the world, they just wanted to brew good honest beer, and I have to admire that modest ambition. It's somewhat at odds with their claim to produce innovative, progressive and exciting beers, but that's the nice thing about beer - you can try it and make up your own mind. There's more than enough innovation, progression and excitement in beer at the moment, and although it makes me sound old, it can just be bloody tiring and annoying. One thing that a few years working in restaurant kitchens taught me was that it's better to achieve consistency, than to over-reach and be erratic with occasional flashes of brilliance. That sounds like I'm already damning them with faint praise, but consistency is a much overlooked attribute.
Lakeland Bitter (3.8%abv) is a good ordinary bitter, with some soft toffee malt character working well alongside a brightly bitter hops. Lakeland Amber (4.2%abv) is a good example of the maxim that you should always try two servings of a beer before passing judgement - the first bottle seemed slightly flat and phenolic, although the other two are softly nutty, rounded, with hops serving only to add structure rather than to dominate. Lakeland IPA (5%abv) is a pale golden ale, with some floral character on the nose, a citrussy palate, and a snappy finish - "solid but unexciting" say my notes, and I know better than to argue with my notes. The best of the bunch, to my surprise, the Lakeland Honey (5%abv). Starting out with a softly floral aroma, becoming sweet mid-palate, and then finishing pleasantly dry and spicy, the sweet-dry double whammy is interesting and enjoyable, with the honey contributing significantly to the character, but never being overpowering or cloying.
So there we have it - good, solid beers, brewed with an eye to the modern style, and on this showing, not a duffer among them. Will they set the world alight? Unlikely. Will they become a cult, sought out by beer geeks everywhere? Unliklier still. Are they the sort of beers that you'd be delighted to drink after a long day on the fells? Absolutely.