16 September 2010

Little Flavour, more like

Glutton for punishment or optimist? I don't know. I do know that I didn't really like Little Valley's Ginger Pale Ale a while back, and I also know that somehow the rest of the brewery's range ended up in my beer fridge, leaving me no choice but to drink them.

Cragg Vale was first up: a dark brown bitter which my good wife described as having an oily-hops-and-caramel flavour, proving once again that she has a far superior palate to mine. I just thought it was dull, verging on total tastelessness. Drinkable, but leaving me wanting something with real flavour immediately after.

It took a few days and a bit of sunshine to pluck up the courage to attempt Hebden's Wheat. This fizzy and worryingly clear yellow beer claims to have lemon peel and coriander in the mix, but the lemons only arrived when I threw the lees, which had settled to the bottom of the bottle, into the glass. There's not much else. I suspect that they haven't used a proper wheat beer yeast on this so there's none of the character you might expect from the Belgian or German alternatives.

Tod's Blonde was a bit of an improvement. Full body, good head and a great aroma -- grassy, like a top-notch pale lager. The flavour starts with bubblegum, then a fast-rising hard bitterness coming straight after. Balanced, after a fashion, but I don't think I could drink a whole lot of it. At the same time it's not really interesting enough to sit long over one considered bottle. Between two stools, this one.

Best of the range, and the only one I'd actively seek out again, was Withens IPA. I didn't pour this carefully as recommended on the label and ended up with big gobbets of yeast drifting lazily to the bottom of my glass. The hop aroma is full and funky, but doesn't follow through to the taste. It's a bit watery -- perhaps to be expected at 3.9% ABV -- a little bit soapy too. Redemption comes in the long-lasting bitter finish, making it quite a decent hoppy quencher all told.

Lastly, there's a stout in the range, rejoicing in the name of Stoodley. The carbonation is promisingly low and the head a lovely shade of dark tan. Lots of dry roast on the nose and an incredibly dry flavour, rather metallic too, just coming back to sweetness at the finish. Oddly there's no roast barley or black malt in here, so maybe it's the oats bringing dryness. They've bunged in some orange peel as well, but I've no idea what that's supposed to be doing. As a session stout, it's so-so.

And that's them all done. Yay! Can I have a nice beer now?


  1. My tasting notes concur:

    Withens IPA looks like a lager and tastes like one too. It’s perfectly drinkable; clean, slightly flowery, rather bland. But it is still a pale ale, just about; there’s a tiny hit of malt there, just enough to taste.

    The Ginger doesn’t have the slightly off-putting sourness of the Ginger Marble, but it doesn’t have the character or the strength either. Mild, smooth, almost milky, with a ginger burn at the back of the mouth. And, er, that’s it.

  2. I really liked Ginger Marble. Not as good as the Williams Bros. one, though.

  3. Re the LV Ginger, I left out the previous sentence, which was "This reminded me of a much better beer" - i.e. the Marble. Both of these were draught, incidentally - so they're consistent if nothing else!

  4. The first time I tried beer from Little Valley it was infected, and the second time I had a gusher. I don't think there'll be a third time.

  5. I am down in Bandon (Cork) at the moment. The local offie that has craft beer has a limited shelf these days but they had loads of these beers. I bypassed (before reading this) simply because whatever one I tried before was uninspiring.

  6. Regarding the IPA, if you ever see St Austell IPA, give it a go. It's only 3.4%, and amazingly full-flavoured for that strength; not thin or watery at all. So I don't think LV have that excuse - and let's face it, when almost everything else they do is also bland...