16 June 2011

Lemon soap

Happy Bloomsday!

In tribute to Mr Henry Flower c/o Westland Row Post Office, a bottle of Hogs Back Gardener's Tipple. Interestingly, for this sideline observer of the UK beer scene, the proud proclamation on the back label is "Brewery conditioned, for all the taste without the sediment". As a selling point that's a new one on me, but is there any truth to it?

Well yes. A gorgeous limpid red amber beer with a very gentle carbonation and lots of hard caramel on the nose. The body is firm enough to transform that into full-on toffee on tasting, with a spicy piquancy which I'd guess is hop-related, though it's very much a malt-driven beer. Rich and unctuous, yet wonderfully refreshing at just 4% ABV. British session beer, in a bottle, at its best.

Onwards and upwards to the 6% ABV stonker in the Hogs Back range: OTT. It's a dark ruby shade, jet black unless held up to the light. It's another complex one, with an almost vinous nose, offering a touch of port next to treacle and toffee.

The first thing I get from tasting it is smoke: a sweet and aromatic buzz reminding me a lot of Theakston's Old Peculier. Under that there's chocolate, spices, and a touch of butter. It's a filling after-dinner beer though drinkable enough to follow the first with another.

Whether the sediment that the brewery so zealously seeks to avoid would have any adverse impact on the flavour of either of these assertive ales is debatable. I reckon there'd be little lost through bottle-conditioning, though at the same time there's nothing missing from them as-is either. Clearly these are beers which should just be consumed and enjoyed without any scholastic musings on gas provenance.


  1. So is brewery conditioned meaning done in a secondary tank on yeast and then filled using a counter pressure fill or what?
    I have to admit that system appeals to me, I'd like to condition on yeast and then take it off the cake to have no sediment in bottles, sounds like the best of both worlds.

  2. It's an old term, popularised by CAMRA in their early days as A Bad Thing, in diametric opposition to "cask conditioned" and "bottle conditioned". It means that the beer is ready for consumption as soon as it hits the bottle, or in the case of draught as soon as it leaves the brewery.

    The process can mean anything from filtering, pasteurising and force carbonation to slow conditioning in bright tanks and casked or kegged from there.

  3. That "brewery conditioned" caught my eye about them as well.

    I must say when I read "Lemon soap" I was expecting a scathing review of the beer.

  4. Why it's almost like I couldn't be bothered researching a more suitable Ulysses connection.

  5. Hogs Back used to bottle condition all their beers but now they ship it out for bottling and it isn't bottle conditioned any more. The blurb on the bottle is, I suspect, for old customers expecting yeast in the bottle.

  6. Hi there, Im Tony Stanton - Sales Director for Hogs Back Brewery and I wanted to thank you for sampling and show casing two of our Premium Fine Ales.( Gardeners Tipple & OTT )- and all the Bloggers comments too.
    At Hogs Back we now " Brewery Condition " our bottled beers to give our customers greater choice and convenience when it comes to how they drink and enjoy them. Our beers can be cooled down; even chilled, and enjoyed without having to pour the bottle carefully; when previouly they use to have a small sediment. We brew the beer in the exactly the same way as when we "Bottle Conditioned" them, we still brew to the old traditional methods of Full Mash & Top Fermentaion from the finest Malted Barley and fresh whole hops..and we mature the beer at the brewery to exacting standards before being bottled.
    We are pleased to annouce that our range of Premiun Fine Ales will be available shortly to the Trade from " C&R Drinks Wholsalers" in Cork,who distribute throughout southern Ireland for more details see www.crdrinks.com or call 021 4639270 for your nearest outlet.
    Beer is all about enjoyment and quenching that thirst, at Hogs Back we honour that pledge..