I'm still in Amsterdam until tonight, so I'm bringing you back a fortnight to the last Thursday in August when Reuben took a selection of Woolpack Dave's beers, from the Hardknott brewery in Cumbria, along to meet some Irish beer fans in the Bull & Castle.
We started with Woolpacker, the basic 3.8% ABV pale ale. I liked this -- the nose is sharp and redolent of tart oranges. A combination of sulphurous and spicy flavours lie at the heart of the beer and between the mineral and the citric elements you end up with an invigorating, cleansing beer experience. There was just a bit of a bum note on the end with a cardboard aftertaste, but it didn't detract from the whole, or not much anyway.
Second up was the slightly stronger, but along the same general lines, Beyond the Pale. Oddly complicated beer this: a bitter oily aroma and fruity sherbet notes suggest lots of American C-hops, but there's also some seriously earthy, Orval-esque brett funk going on as well -- Cascade sweepings from the farmyard. "Interesting" is the keyword for this one, and I'd say it may be an acquired taste, though by the end of my sample glass I had mostly acquired it.
The amber-orange theme continued with Final Frontier: orange to the eye, orange to the nose, but unfortunately not a whole lot to the palate. The bitterness in this IPA is quite harsh and is all in the aftertaste. I missed any sense of foretaste complexity, other than a vague and unpleasant soapiness. A beer whose single dimension is just not a good one. Sorry Dave.
For some reason Zippy Red is described as an IPA even though it doesn't really fit my profile for IPA, nor is it in the least bit zippy: the big and chewy boozy body makes it much more laid back and sippable. Think fireplaces, dressing gowns and snifter glasses. But those trademark oranges are back, given a Cointreau-like feel by the hot spirity foundation. Another strange but not at all unpleasant one.
Last up was the only bottle filled outside the brewery by an outsourced bottler: the 4% ABV Stout Tendency. It's a stout. It wasn't popular around the table, but I got a kick out of it. The nose is full of smoke and treacle with a definite chocolate hit as well. Despite the low ABV it's remarkably thick and very caramelly tasting -- as stout as this sort of stout gets.
So they're a bit of a mixed bag, the Hardknott beers. As Reuben made clear, and I've no reason to doubt him, these work much better on cask. But there's still a lot going on with them. I doubt anyone could accuse Dave of making dull fare.
It was great to taste the beers behind the blog -- thanks to Reuben for providing the opportunity, and I really hope to get to try them in the natural habitat at some stage.