HERE is a bottle I’ve been dying to try. Did you watch Channel 4’s Neil Morrissey’s Risky Business? If so, you’ll already know that actor Neil Morrissey and chef mate Richard Fox achieved the impossible. Thanks to a combination of Richard’s catering expertise and Neil’s celebrity string-pulling, they bought a pub, set up a micro-brewery in a shed, and got a supermarket to stock their very own bottled blonde ale. If you missed the series, I highly recommend you watch it, so you can see the blood, sweat and beers that went into this bottle.
This one cam from my local Tesco who took until now to get a batch. It’s also a special Red Nose Day 09 edition where 25 pence per bottle goes to Comic Relief. So there’s no reason not to give Morrissey Fox Blonde a try.
Around the neck of this generic, brown bottle is one of the funnier neck labels you’ll ever see.
Look closely at the two lions on the crest. Don’t look quite right, do they? That’s because their faces are in fact, the faces of Neil Morrissey and Richard Fox. What’s more, the Richard lion is holding a knife – because he’s a chef. Obviously. And the Neil lion is holding a pint glass. Because he likes drinking ale. If the programme was anything to go by. Witty symbolism or freakishly deformed anthropomorphism? Comments in the usual place please.
The front label is the one we saw Neil and Richard shoot during their programme. Except this one has them both wearing Red Noses. The idea that their creative agency came up with was to dispense with the traditional roundel. Instead drawing on their celebrity status by having photos of themselves sporting milk-moustaches from the head on their ale. It is self indulgent and traditionalists will hate it. For those reasons and for how different it looks, I like it.
At the bottom of the label, squished between the Comic Relief small print are the basics. And that’s good. Because on too many bottles, the basics are hard to find, and you’re left wandering if you’ll like it.
They describe it as “light and refreshing with a full body and flowery nose”. It’s a 500ml bottle. Just like most other bottles on the shop shelf. And it has a modest alcoholic volume of 4.2%.
The back label is equally informative. And with high-contrast white-on-black print, it’s one of the easiest to read beer labels you’ll ever see. Have a look at this.
Because this is a Red Nose Day 09 version, what it says is worth reading. But you’ll have to buy the bottle to get the warm fuzzy feeling from 25 pence going to Comic Relief.
Further down are the small print details. Serious ale fans, you will like this. They have all the details you want to know. The ingredients list for example, isn’t just a summary. Morrissey Fox Blonde was made with “Finest aromatic hops, malt, barley and water”. It’s “best served larder chilled” and power “with respect”. Vague and precise, both at the same time.
Then they slip in a word about their pub: “Also available on draught from our own microbrewery at Ye Olde Punch Bowl Inn Marton cum Grafton, North Yorkshire”. If I can summon the courage to go oop north, Ye Olde Punch Bowl Inn will be a must see. Have you been? Leave a comment with your opinion in the comments at the end of the post.
Being clued up in all things publicity related, they have a website. A professional and good looking website. The address is www.morrisseyfox.co.uk. If their aim was to make me want their forthcoming seasonal brews, then they succeeded.
For those who insist on reading every last detail on a beer label, here it is. The 4.2% alcoholic volume in this 500ml bottle brings it to a reasonable 2.15 UK units alcohol. Another reason to feel virtuous is that half of the bottle is made from recycled glass.
With every last word read, you now have no excuse not to crack up the bottle. What does Morrissey Fox Blonde taste like? Will I adore it as much as Neil Morrissey and Richard Fox? The only way to find out is to do this…
It looks golden and delicious. But you won’t get a milk-moustache from the head. Mostly because there isn’t one. A couple of minutes after the pour, and a slim layer is on one-half of the glass.
How does it smell? The labels described it as “flowery” with “aromatic hops”. Are they right? Yes. In a word, it smells good. Spicy hoppi-ness and flowers are what it smells of. Both together, it has an excellent smell of, erm, well, ale. It smells good and beery. Summery too.
How does it taste? A couple of gulps in, and I’m liking Morrissey Fox Blonde. The flavour is light and gentle. It tastes, mildly, of citrus, flowers and other nice, natural thing. Then, just as gently and mildly, the aftertaste comes and goes. It passes so quietly, you’ll hardly know it was there. What it leaves is the mildest of pleasant, spicy hop finishes.
The label went with “light and refreshing with a full body”. Morrissey Fox Blonde has flavour and taste, but are they strong enough to count as a “full body”? I’m not so sure. As for light and refreshing, it is certainly both of those things.
Half-way through now, so what am I enjoying about Morrissey Fox Blonde? I’m liking how easy it is. Easy on the nose. Easy to drink. You would need to be as timid as a mouse to be put off by Blonde. That’s partly because of the quality of the ingredients. You can just tell that good, natural things went into this. None of the artificial taste you get with nigh-name lagers and ciders.
What am I not enjoying about Morrissey Fox Blonde? There are a few issues. The other day I went off on a rant about the lack of imagination from small breweries. It seemed that everyone was making light ales for the two-weeks of the year that we call summer. Blonde isn’t an exception. Yes, it’s doing a few things differently, but is it all that different to other light and summery ales? Really?
Besides the big abstract issue, there are a few smaller ones. Some people will love how easy and gentle it is. It stops you from hating it. But wouldn’t it be great if it took risks with bold, unusual flavours? Throw in some pineapple, carrot and hazelnut and come up with something truly inspired. Remember, 10 people loving something is worth 100 people liking it. Besides that, it’s not particularly strong and difficult to find in shops.
To sum up, Morrissey Fox Blonde is an easily drinkable, light, summery ale made by celebrities. Even if you’ve never heard of Neil Morrissey or Richard Fox, you’ll struggle to hate Blonde. But, you’ll struggle to love it either. If it’s a sunny day or you want to get your girl into ale, Blonde is an excellent choice. If you want something off-the-wall, keep looking.
Have you tried Morrissey Fox Blonde? Have you been to Ye Olde Punch Bowl Inn? What did you think? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.