THE Wychwood Bewery has been rather impressive of late. Hobgoblin Ruby Beer that I reviewed here a year ago was respectable and well made. Duchy Originals Organic Ale that they made for the Duchy of Cornwall is a well made, ruby style ale that is completely organic. Then the Wychcraft Blonde Beer I tried a few days ago proved to be another, very well made ale, with Wychwood’s brilliant, love-it-or-hate-it fantasy artwork on the label. Hopes are high, then, for this bottle of Hopes are high, then, for this bottle of Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale.
It’s the same dark, glass bottle as the other Wychwood Brewery beers. Remember to look for Wychwood’s witch-on-a-broomstick logo embossed around the shoulder.
The neck label doesn’t say anything useful about what the beer will be like. But, it has a word that is going to make a lot of people interested in it.
Not all that surprising when you remember that the loudly organic Duchy Originals Organic Ale was made by the Wychwood Brwery. Wychwood it seems is a name to look out for if you like to buy organic foodstuffs. That makes this beer Islington friendly.
The main front label is another brilliant piece of fantasy artwork.
This one features a scarecrow, in a circular clearing in a field, minding some hops, with an owl (?) perched upon one arm. Just a guess, but that circular clearing must be where the name “Circlemaster” comes from.
Some people will call the artwork gimmicky. Personally, I love the fantasy book style artwork of Wychwood. And Circlemaster continues that theme. Why do so few brewers show the imagination of Wychwood?
The roundel is clear and informative too. This weighs in at 4.7% alcoholic volume. Which is reasonable. Neither strong, nor weak. Andw e learn that it is a golden pale ale. Which tells us almost nothing. It’s going to be a golden hue. That’s clear enough. But pale ales can taste of almost anything. Maybe the back label will tell me more about what Circlemaster will taste like?
The back is much the same as every other Wychwood Brewery beer. That is to say, the T-shirt offer takes centre stage. This is where, if you send five Wychwood bottle tops and a cheque, you get a T-shirt for less than the normal price.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of well laid out detail for you to read besides that offer. The top of the label opens with an excellent description of Circlemaster by Jeremy Moss, the Head Brewer. To chop down his typically idiosyncratic quote into tiny bits, he first tells us that Circlemaster (or should that be Circle Master – two-words?) is brewed with a unique blend of Plumage Archer barley malt. That whole leaf Target hops are added. And that it has a citrus and malt flavour with spicy bittersweet finish. The ingredients might not mean anything to me, but I love being bamboozled with brewing terminology like that. And I’m literally salivating at the description on the label.
In a green box under the T-shirt offer are all the small print details. Like, for instance, that the 4.7% alcoholic volume in this 500ml bottle brings it to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. And that it has the Soil Association Organic Standard symbol because it has organic certification. There is also the Wychwood Brewery address in Oxfordshire, in case you want to write them a letter. And their web address, which is the same as it always is at www.wychwood.co.uk.
Pale ales don’t get me excited. But I really want to try this one. What does it taste like? Will I like it? Do I think you should try it? Time to find out.
In the glass, this cold bottle of Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale looks the part. It’s as golden as you could hope for. Easy to pour too, as there is hardly any head. Instead, just a smattering of bubbles cover on the surface. A bit more head would be welcome though.
I’m delighted to report that it smells as good as it looks. And, it’s pungent too, so you can’t miss it. I’m never very good at deciphering odours, but here’s my attempt. Citrus takes the lead, followed by malt and then hops. I like the blend. It smells delicious. But what do you make of it? Leave a comment at the end of this post.
But what does it taste like? The label described a “refreshing citrus & delightful malt flavour rounded off with a spicy bittersweet finish”. A couple of gulps in, and there’s not much more I can add to that. The flavour citrusy and malty. Neither really dominates. It seems like a well-balanced blend of the two, to me. Then the Target hops gently roll in to deliver a mildly hoppy “spicy bittersweet finish”.
What am I enjoying about Wychwood CirclemasterGolden Pale Ale? Nearly half-way through now and I’m enjoying it quite a lot. It looks good, both in the bottle and in the glass. It smells equally good. The blend and balance of the flavours and taste are good. It’s light, refreshing and easy to drink. And the Wychwood Brewery quality is as in force as ever.
But what of the downsides? If you don’t like bitterness, that “bittersweet finish” might put you off. Even though you get used to it quickly. It’s rather gassy too. But again, that’s but a minor complaint.
My main concern isn’t strictly directed at Circlemaster. This is a perfectly fine, easy to drink, refreshing, summery ale. The worry is that it’s yet another ‘ideal for summer’ ale. Not a problem on its own. They are perfect for temping lager drinkers to ditch the big names and try something new. But when you remember that nearly every independent brewer out there makes a summery pale ale, it starts to become one. There must be more summery pale ales than there are summer days in this country. It’s a bit like spending a whole year holidaying in new places. You’ll love the sun, the food and interesting destinations. But day after day for so long, and you get bored unless each one is spectacular. Circlemaster is perfectly good. But this, and so many other summery pale ales are in a tight spot if they want to stand out.
Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale is a tasty, light, refreshing, summery drink. It it’s the summer, or even if it isn’t, and you like this type of beer, I highly recommend it. If you’re cynical or tried many different ales and want something with more character, then you might want something else.
Have you tried Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale? What did you think of it? Do you work for Wychwood Brewery? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments. And check back in a few days for another Wychwood bottle.