Posts Tagged ‘blonde’

Beer Review: Morrissey Fox Blonde

15 March, 2009

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.

Morrissey Fox Blonde 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.

Morrissey Fox Blonde neck label

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.

Morrissey Fox Blonde front label

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.

Morrissey Fox Blonde back label

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…

Morrissey Fox Blonde poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 4.05

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.

Beer Review: Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer

31 January, 2009

MERE weeks before I started writing beer reviews for this blog, I had much fun comparing Wychwood Hobgoblin Ruby Beer with its cousin, Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer. Both bought from my local Tesco. Making sense of their differences was one of the things that inspired me to start the thing that you’re now reading. But before I could get another bottle of Wychwood Wychcraft, Tesco ran out of them.

That was very very sad. Not just because it left a hole in my project. But because I know from the statistics that a lot of you come here looking for beers from the Wychwood Brewery.

Riding to the rescue is an off-licence from Kingsland Road. An off-licence that doesn’t just sell this, but two other Wychwood ales. They’ll appear here in a few days, but this is the place to pick things up with Wychwood. So, a year overdue, here is Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer bottle

It’s exactly the same bottle that Wychwood use for all of their bottled ales. And already, it’s showing Halloween character that made Hobgoblin such a hit. Look closely, and you’ll notice a witch riding a broomstick embossed around the shoulder of the bottle.

A theme continued on the neck label.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer front of neck label

For this is where we learn that the witch on a broomstick must be their logo. And that “Brewers of Character” must be their slogan. Honestly, I’m amazed that no other brewer took that slogan first. If you’re a small brewery making bottles of ale that have character, surely “Brewers of Character” would be the obvious choice for a slogan.

That’s not all from the neck label though.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer side of neck label

“Thrice Hopped” sounds interesting. I don’t know what it means. But it sounds technical and like it will make it hoppier and more interesting. If hopping once is good, how much better will triple-hopping be? I’m looking forward to finding out.

The front-label of Wychcraft is another masterpiece of fantasy novel imagery.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer front label

Or, it’s completely unnecessary and detracts from what bottles of beer should be. Personally, I love the Wychwood style. This one has all manner of mythical folk beautifully drawn around what it essentially, a traditional roundel. Kudos goes to anyone who can name what the various folk on the front label are.

The label isn’t just brilliant artwork and Dungeons and Dragons style. It gives you some clues about what the beer will be like. And on a bottle of beer, that’s important. “Blonde Beer” gives you some hints. Although experience tells me that Blonde Beers can take almost any form.

Maybe the almost unreadable red script in the middle of the label will help? I think it says “The four Elements combined to create a Truly Magical brew”. An enigmatic response there to the question of what Wychcraft will actually taste like. It might explain the four characters on the label though.

Maybe the back label will supply the answers that we crave.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer back label

The back label couldn’t be much more different to the front.

Most prominent is the T-shirt offer. Send them five Wychwood bottle tops and a cheque or Postal Order for £7.99 pence, and they’ll send you a T-shirt that would normally cost more.

For the curious, they have a website that you can visit at www.wychwood.co.uk. It’s a relatively good website compared to the Flashy marketing that most brewers fob off on us. A bit of poking around reveals a very informative page about this bottle of A bit of poking around reveals a very informative page about this bottle of Wychcraft Blonde Beer at http://www.wychwood.co.uk/beers_wychcraft.htm.

Back on the label, and Head Brewer, Jeremy Moss, does what he can to sum up this complicated ale in a quick quote. He describes it as “A pale golden potion with delicate red hues, Wychcraft has a heady burst of fresh citrus aroma derived from three infusions of Styrian Goldings hops”.

As the only brewer I’ve ever seen who describes their beer as a “potion”, Jeremy immediately scores points for style. As for the three infusions of hops, I can’t wait to see how that squares with the taste he describes. Surely it’s going to taste like a hedgerow with that much hopping.

Down to the small print now, and Wychcraft Blonde Beer has a reasonable 4.5% alcoholic volume. In this regular 500ml bottle, that brings it to an equally reasonable 2.3 nanny-state UK units of alcohol. If you want to get sloshed, best look elsewhere.

For those who like to know where their beer comes from, I can tell you that Wychwood Brewery Co are in Witney, Oxfordshire. It has their address and everything in case you want to get in touch with them.

With that out of the way, we get to the fun part. What does Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer taste like? Do I like it and should you buy it? All questions I shall attempts to answer because it’s time to open the bottle.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer poured into a glass

Straight away, Wychwood starts to surprise. The crazy head makes it tricky to pour into a pint glass. It does settle down are a few minutes though into a thick layer of froth. It’s a much darker amber than the light gold that I was expecting, too. That’s no bad thing however. Jeremy Moss mentioned “delicate red hues” though and I’m just not seeing them.

Head Brewer, Jeremy Moss, also mentioned a “burst of fresh citrus aroma derived from three infusions of Styrian Goldings hops”. Whatever it smells of is certainly pungent. This has the strongest odour of any beer I’ve tried for a long time. I’m going to describe it as bursting with hops and citrus. Spot on, Jeremy.

But what does Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer taste like? In a word, hoppy. Not surprising for ale proudly “thrice hopped”. A couple of gulps down, and I’m finding it tasty and delicious. Beware though if you don’t like hoppy bitterness.

How can I describe the flavour of eware though if you don’t like hoppy bitterness.

How can I describe the flavour of Wychcraft? With difficulty. It’s swamped by the aftertaste. What my untrained palate is picking up on are traces of malt, biscuit and twigs and leaves.

The aftertaste is what Wychcraft Blonde Beer is all about. The website describes it as having a “dry biscuit note and a counterpoise of bitterness”. I’ll go along with dry biscuit. Bu that changes, smoothly, into hoppy bitterness. Not a strong or overpowering taste. Just a pleasant one that you get used to quickly.

What am I enjoying about Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer? A great big list of things. The flavours and tastes are delicious. There are a few different flavours and tastes all melded together. That makes Wychcraft complex and interesting. Those are qualities you want your ale to have.

It doesn’t stop there. Wychcraft is also rich and smooth. It’s full of flavour and taste, yet none seem out of place. It only takes a gulp or two for you to get used to it. After that, it’s very easy to drink. All of which evidence just how well made it is. Not too gassy either. Then there’s the brilliantly quirky packaging.

What am I not enjoying about Wychwood Wychcraft? Not a lot. If I had to nitpick, the flavours and taste are quite dry. Something to moisten it up would be welcome. Some people could be put off by the strong-ish taste. Also, the pleasantly hoppy ale has been done before by many other people. That loses it marks for originality. It’s also not easy to get hold of. Besides that, nothing really.

If you’re wandering what it’s similar too, you’ve got a few options. The only one I can remember at the moment is Hardys & Hanson’s Olde Trip. But most of the hoppy bottled ales stand around where Wychwood does.

How can I sum up Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer? Simple. This is an excellent, hoppy ale. A bit on he dry and malty, biscuity side. Very high-quality and easily drinkable by all but the most timid drinkers. I like it and I think you should try one yourself.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer? Do you work for Wychwood?

Then do please leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section. And remember to check back soon for two more Wychwood beers!


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