THIS year’s meagre summer has made a feeble reappearance this week. Seizing the moment, I bought a bottle of one of this year’s Badger summer ales from the Hall & Woodhouse stable. This one is called Cricket, and cost an outrageous £2.29 pence from the Bethnal Green Food Center.
I love Badger ales. Not only are their beers high quality and quirky, as all British ale should be, but they get how important a useful back label is. How is Hall & Woodhouse one of the only industry players who understand that value of this? How?
The neck-label gets things going marvellously.
I like the summer-y yellow, and the pictures of musical notes and hops floating around. But most of all, I like that they sum it up with two simple words: “Beautifully composed.” Simply because when you’re glancing at a shop shelf full of bottles, you need something to tell you something about the character of the beer you’re looking at. From those two words, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t turn out to be a well balanced, solid all-rounder.
The sense of Summer and of fun continues on the front label.
There’s a jolly, if frightening image of, presumably, a cricket. Who, for some reason, is playing a fiddle, amidst a backdrop of falling leaves and hops.
Sticking with Badger conventions, the vital statistics are exactly where you expect them to be. In the corners, one can easily identify this as a 500ml bottle, and that the beer within is a moderate 4.4%.
Toward the top, they elaborate somewhat on the description, with “Harmonious Notes of Lemongrass”. Straight off, I can’t remember what lemongrass is supposed to taste of. Maybe if I shopped in Islington, I would do. For now, I am content that lemongrass sounds like the right sort of flavour to have in your summer salad or ale.
Again, sticking to Badger tradition, the back label is outstandingly helpful.
The ‘story’ opens by explaining the connection to crickets. No, they’re not an ingredient. Rather “the hum of crickets on a summer evening” is “the perfect background to enjoy this fresh, zingy ale”. They go on to describe it as “ well hopped with a depth of character complemented by harmonious notes of lemongrass”. Sounds lovely. They even suggest that it would go “well with barbecued Tiger prawns or a light Thai curry”.
This being a Badger, they go one step further, with their immensely helpful taste profiles. If this is the first Badger ale you’ve seen, have a look at the close-up below. They describe how it looks, smells and tastes, and rate the bitterness, sweetness, hoppiness, maltiness and fruitiness from 0 to 5.
The taste profile pretty much backs up the “Beatifully composed” quote. It does look like it’s going to be a fruity, balanced ale.
Down in the small-print, there’s the usual smattering of facts and warnings. For those that care, Cricket’s combination of bottle size and alcoholic volume means that it has 2.2 UK units of alcohol. The full Dorset postal address is on there, in case you want to write them a letter. And their website is given as www.badgerales.com. A quick browse of which leads us to the homepage for Cricket at http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/beers/badgerales/lemonycricket.asp on which for some reason, they refer to it as Lemony Cricket.
Does Cricket taste as good as I’m expecting it to? How close are the label descriptions to what I can taste? Let’s find out.
Nowhere on the bottle did it say “Serve Chilled”. Being a summer ale I took a chance on leaving it in the fridge for a while. If you know the right temperature to serve it at, leave a comment at the end.
Cricket was easy to pour. Even I was able to decant it into a pint glass with minimal glugging, leaving a patchy covering of foam, sitting atop the brew. What does Critcket look like? The taste profile describes it as “Tawny, golden brown”. I can’t disagree. That said, the word that popped into my mind was “copper”.
What does Badger Cricket smell like? The taste profile describes it as “Robust citrus hop and lemongrass”. First impressions are that it’s not a simple smell. There’s a lot of complementary odours buried in there. Which is what you want from ale. I’ll describe the smell as like that of a hedgerow. Agricultural with lots of foliage. Specifically, a zingy hoppiness. I think it smells lovely. Like a proper old ale.
What does Badger Cricket taste like? The taste profile describes it as “Malt with citrus undertones”. And of course there’s the rest of the label description and taste profile to go on. Once again, those Badger label copywriters are spot on. What you taste is exactly how they describe it. A fact that renders this review unnecessary.
That aside, first gulps of this fridge cold Cricket are that it’s easy to drink and tastier than those ciders that get all the attention at this time of year. On the flavour side of the gulp, there’s little to report. On the taste and finish side of the gulp, you feel how well balanced it is. You can taste the maltiness, hoppiness and some citrusy zing, subtly coming together. All of which leaves your mouth with a long lasting, slightly dry, bitter finish, that’s balanced in a way that makes it more palatable that it sounds. The main impressions it leaves you with is how malty, zingy, light and refreshing it is.
What am I enjoying about Badger Cricket? I’m liking how they’ve somehow managed to fuse rich, ale-like qualities, with a light, refreshing summer ale. For ages, I complained that the summer ales all stuck to the same old formula. Cricket does something different. At last! I also like the zing, the smell, and how it doesn’t make you burp,
What am I not enjoying about Badger Cricket? I want to say that it would appeal to more people if it was sweeter and fruitier. But Badger already does ales that are like that. A little more citrusy zing and a little less malt perhaps? Unless you take the view that the genius behind Cricket is that it has complex maltiness in a refreshing summer ale form. Something we call all agree on is that it is too difficult to find and the £2.29 pence I paid for it is shocking.
How can I sum up Badger Cricket? It is a proper ale, that’s also a summer ale. A niche that’s remained unfilled for too long. I’ve complained here time and again that every brewer produces nearly identical summer ales. Well, here’s the answer. It tastes malty and hoppy, and it looks the right colour. Yet it also has some zing, and it’s light, refreshing and very easy to drink. All of which scores it serious points.
Have you tried Badger Cricket? What did you think of it?
Have you got anything to add or correct? What about your own recommendations and places to buy? Leave your comments here!