Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hawkshead Night

Bottles having sat in the fridge for a couple of weeks, the eagerly awaited night of Hawkshead took place yesterday. A question has arisen time and time again during the last couple of weeks: which is better, traditional English style beer vs. American style heavily hopped offerings? In pursuit of an answer, Hawkshead night was an opportunity to try beers from the same brewer that fit into both categories. The evening began with the more traditional beers, and were drunk in order of increasing darkness and strength.

25: Lakeland Gold, Hawkshead, 4.4%
Aromas of caramel and malt, and a slightly metallic smell came through too. Quite carbonated. The beer got progressively more and more bitter as more was drunk. Pleasant drink.

26: Red, Hawkshead, 4.4%
Again, a metallic smell somewhere in the background, but this beer was slightly sweeter and had hints of syryp and chocolate. It tasted sweeter too, with some raisin flavours and a touch of coffee. Also a bitter beer. Enjoyable, certainly, but not a beer that slipped down easily.

27: Brodie’s Prime, Hawkshead, 4.9%
Far less to smell here, but ever so slight cinnamon. Still though a bit metallic like the first two, although none of them have tasted metallic. Darkest in colour, a thick head. Flavours were smokey with a bit of chocolate. I expected coffee, but couldn’t taste it. Reminded me very much of Flying Dog’s Dog Schwartz, although not as intense. But at nearly a quarter the price, worth your money.

So, three traditional English style beers down. Thoughts so far are good, but have not been bowled over. Am concerned that I am struggling to detect delicate flavours, and am missing out on what the more subtle beers have to offer. Next up, the well hopped trio, recently written about by a number of beer bloggers.

28: Windermere Pale, Hawkshead, 6%
Sweet smell, hops really shining through. Another very distinctive smell and flavour for me, just like a mango, papaya and passion fruit yoghurt that’s a regular favourite in my fridge. Perhaps a hint of peach iced tea too, still quite bitter. Really lovely, packed with flavour, both subtle and flagrant.

29: Cumbrian 5 Hop, Hawkshead, 6%
Far more understated aromas than Windermere Pale, peach and marmalade. To taste, bitter and a bit malty. Bitterness building throughout the bottle. Almost so much that for me it dominated over the understated flavours.

30: NZPA, Hawkshead, 6%
Mr T used to say of Timothy Taylor's Landlord that it was like “a Solero in a glass”. On a more recent try of Landlord, he changed his mind. For NZPA,however,  the description fit perfectly for the aroma. Some of the aroma translated into taste, but a herby and peppery flavour came through more strongly. Still very bitter, but here the flavours seemed to stand up to it better.

My winner was Windermere Pale. I can see why NZPA is a favourite for others, it is complex and striking. But Windermere Pale fit the bill for me. A hint of sweetness, tropical fruits and easier to get to grips with. 
I preferred the American style beer over the more traditional English style, but enjoyed all. This is still a question I want to delve into further.

Next weekend, a visit to the Lake District. All being well, hope to visit the brewery, find out more and sample some of the beers on cask!

321 days to go.
305 beers to go.

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