Monday, 21 February 2011

On Badgers, Wild Swans, Crooked Lines and Dishwater

Uinta Detour Double IPA is part of the 'Crooked Line' series of beers which, setting aside whether they're any good or not, have some of the coolest labels ever to appear on a beer bottle (pic from Want to know what the beer is like? This is a quick round-up of some of the beers I drank over this weekend, notable for no other reason than it was my birthday, and a year ago I did this.

Badger very kindly sent me a case of the reformulated Hopping Hare (4.4%abv), which like all Badger beers, is a perfectly decent example of what an English beer should be. Mercifully free of flavour additives, its soft, straw-like flavours were a surreally spring-like accompaniment to watching snow hammer down for six hours on my actual birthday.

Thornbridge sent me a three-pack of beer – Wild Swan, Italia and Bracia. The Italia was excellent – grab some of this limited beer while you can. An unfiltered pilsner stuffed with herbal and citrus notes, and a pleasant slightly savoury edge that beer maven Jeff Pickthall once memorably described as 'celery salt'. The Wild Swan suffered a little from being bottled – at 3.5%abv, not surprising, but having tasted it from cask, I think the exotic flavours (lime leaf and lychee) lose quite a lot of definition.

Happily, it was still much better than the piss-water that was being sold from a pump marked 'Springhead' at the Cross Keys in Leeds on Saturday night – the name of the beer escapes me (I was having a night off, but checking their website, it may be their beer 'Springhead', described on their website as “a clean-tasting, easy drinking amber coloured bitter with a dry, hoppy finish “). It was in perfectly good condition, but having had only fleeting association with ingredients usually used to make beer, tasted (according to one of my friends) “like dishwater that has been shown some twigs”. Further alarm bells ring when you note that the website informs you that “It was winner of the Best Bitter, Northern Beer Festival 1995” - that was 16 years ago guys! Come on! In that time, Sharp's brewery has grown from being a hobby in a garage to producing the fastest-growing real ale brand on the planet, and been purchased by Molson Coors! This surprising failure from what I've come to view as an otherwise reliable brewery drove us to drink Sierra Nevada Pale from keg for the rest of the night, the CO2 from which I think might blame for the hideous bout of indigestion that woke me in the night.

Sunday brought with it another bottle of Hopping Hare, still perfectly decent, and to my palate slightly drier than it was last year. I mean this in a nice way, but it's the sort of beer that doesn't jump up and down and demand your full attention – you can drink it while you do something else, like slow cook a frying pan full of onions and trim a steak while you listen to BBC6 Music. A bottle of Uinta Detour Double IPA (9.5%abv) rounded off the night nicely, and came pretty close to delivering the lysergic lupulin lightshow that I was hoping for. And it made a great counterpoint for a steak and onion sandwich, which is a noble and worthy end to any beer's life. To paraphrase Wilfred Owen: Dulce et decorum est pro steak sandwich mori.


  1. I love the Crooked Line labels. On a jet-lagged and hungover morning in the US last year I stared at four of them for about 20 minutes in a crazy daze, trying to work out which one to buy. I eventually went with Tilted Smile, which I really enjoyed (I also kept the empty bottle because it looks so good!).

  2. The labels are cool, but in their "Imperial Pilsner" they have one of the few strong pale lagers I have had over here which I will seriously be drinking again....must be all that Saaz!

  3. Am definitely going to have to get a couple more Italia - had one shortly after a bottle of Jever and felt wholly underwhelmed by the Thornbridge Pilsner.

  4. Supping a pint, cooking a roast, listening to Jarvis on 6music is my kinda sunday.

  5. Italia review coming up....least you got out on your birthday! Not tried those Unita beers yet.

  6. Mark, Velky - I'd love to try that too - it's a nice concept, and the whole package is great.

    Chris - it's horses for courses really - it reminds me of drinking Tipopils, so I guess I'm a bit biased, although I do think it's great in its own right. That said, my dad preferred the Hopping Hare to the Italia

    Arn - did you hear that krautrock documentary this week - thought it was awesome.

    Leigh - indeed, a rare treat these days.

  7. Happy birthday, what’s this then 40? Love Italia and totally get the Tipopils riffing — I tried for 30 Guinnesses in Dublin on my 30th, startign with first at Luton airport, stopping at 27 in Lower Baggot Street listening to some folk. Like Hoppign Hare as well, though case is a misnomer, it’s an 8 pack…unless you got a 12-bottle case of course…


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