After last month’s tour of the country, November’s Year in Beer entry is focussing on some local South West beers.
Week 8 – Clouded Yellow (St Austell)
Living in the South West, it is hard to avoid the St Austell brewery. They are one of the success stories of the local brewing scene and have developed a great network of pubs across the region. Coupled with this, they have a range of fantastic beers. I will admit to being a little biased in this opinion, having been a fan of theirs for a while and counting several of their creations in my own list of top beers.
It was with some disappointment then, that I realised that the sole St Austell beer on the Independent’s top 50 list was Clouded Yellow. This is not my favourite beer of theirs, sadly. I would happily recommend Smuggler’s, Trelawny, Cornish Bock, HSD and Admiral Ale, but I would normally steer clear of Clouded Yellow. The good people behind the top 50 had deemed it worthy of entry on that list though, so it was only fair for me to put my reservations to one side and to tuck in with gusto.
Opening the bottle, you are hit with a smell of bananas. And this was through a heavy cold. Mrs RB had a good sniff (to make up for my lack of olfactory ability) and picked up cloves as well. Pouring it out into a glass, the beer is a light yellow in colour (as you would expect). So far, so good.
The disappointment for me comes in the drinking; it is a light taste and is probably aiming for delicate and subtle. Maybe it was the cold, but it just came through as a little weak in flavour.
Clouded Yellow is a wheat beer and, up next, was another South West wheat beer. Perhaps I would find that one more to my liking.
Week 9 – Hefe (Bristol Beer Factory)
Then again, maybe not.
Again, on opening the bottle you are assaulted with bananas and a hint of spice. The taste too, was quite fruity but it was, once again, a fairly light beer and the taste just didn’t ignite my senses in the way that other ales have.
Week 10 – Otter Bright (Otter)
You can’t get more local than Otter Brewery. Certainly not from the beers included in the Independent’s top 50. Located not far from Exeter, the brewery has built itself up from brewing an experimental pint in 1990 to having a state-of-the-art facility today.
Otter beers are a mainstay of many local pubs around Exeter and the first thing I noticed about the Otter Bright was that it smelled like the pub. In a good way. Not the musty, stale smell of sweaty locals and beer-soaked coasters, but the heady scent of good beer. An inviting smell.
I am normally an Otter Ale or Otter Bitter drinker, so opening an Otter Bright was a bit of a surprise, with it being significantly lighter and leaning more towards refreshing and fruity. A paler beer, I can see this being a hit in the summer, as it has that desirable “Otter” flavour, but without the heaviness of the ale.
Week 11 – Otter Bitter (Otter)
Originally brewed as Beautiful Daze for the Beautiful Days festival, Otter Bitter is, again, a regular beer in pubs in my local area. The challenge with this beer was to try to sum up why I like it; up to now I have just known that I like it, I’ve never had to wonder why.
Pouring it from the bottle, it is a light brown colour and, in flavour, it has a slight biscuit taste. It is a bit bitter, which is as it should be, and it is very easy to drink. I happily sat and supped this and it was gone without me realising (Mrs RB swears that she had nothing to do with this sudden disappearance). All in all (and this is probably heavily influenced by its availability in the South West) this tastes to me like a bitter should.
This month ends with a 50% success rate. I enjoyed the two Otter beers; I didn’t take to either of the wheat beers. The good thing is that all of these South West breweries offer more than just the four beers mentioned above. If I didn’t like one of their beers, there’s still plenty more to choose from and to enjoy.
In order to fit 50 beers into a 52-week year, I will be taking a week off over Christmas, so in December I will be on the look out for something to see me through the festive period. Which beers will make it into my stocking this year?