Posts Tagged ‘dorset’

Beer Review: Badger Cricket

5 September, 2010

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.

Badger Cricket bottle

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.

Badger Cricket neck label

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.

Badger Cricket 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.

Badger Cricket back label

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.

Badger Cricket back label taste profile

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.

Badger Cricket poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 4.275

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!

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Beer Review: Badger Tangle Foot

3 January, 2009

BAD news. It’s the New Year. It’s cold. You’ve got less money than you did a couple of months ago. And Celebrity Big Brother is starting. To take our minds of these things, we need a quality bottle of ale. I’m hoping that this increasingly available bottle of Badger Tangle Foot will do the job.

Hall & Woodhouse Badger Tangle Foot bottle

Like Badger’s Fursty Ferret, this bottle breaks with Badger tradition by being transparent. Always helpful when you want to know the colour of what you’re about to consume. That coppery amber hue looks tasty and interesting too.

Hall & Woodhouse Badger Tangle Foot neck label

The neck label goes with a quote this time. And it’s more helpful than they have been. This one goes with “Deceptively drinkable”. Granted, it doesn’t give away as much as you’d like. When you’re trying to decide which bottle to choose from a big shop shelf, you need a little more to go on. But it’s enough to hold my attention for another few seconds.

Hall & Woodhouse Badger Tangle Foot front label

The main front label managed to hold my attention just as effectively. And it does so whilst looking good. It’s not the most rounded of roundels. More of a rectangle really, but the colours and layout are classy and the logo is amusing enough to keep me reading.

As well as the usual Badger gubbins like the impressive heritage dating back to 1777, there’s a few new touches to Tangle Foot. First is a little stamp in the corner with the words “Proud Of Our Premium Brew” around a picture of hops. And the signature of the Head Brewer. Which makes it look like a bottle of whisky.

Most helpful of all however is what’s around the bottom border. The describe it as having been “Brewed For A Crisp Dry Finish”. That makes it sound like cider. The 5% alcoholic volume also makes it a head-on challenger for the thousands of premium lagers on the shop shelf. And that makes it well worth our while turning the bottle around to study the back label.

Hall & Woodhouse Badger Tangle Foot back label

The back label is big and full of details. But don’t worry, Hall & Woodhouse always do a splendid job of making them easy to read. And Badger Tangle Foot is no exception. All the things you want to know are on the top-half of the label.

It open with a story, as tenuous as any, about how Tangle Foot (or should that be one word Tanglefoot?) got its name. Then they describe it, in words, as a “’deceptively drinkable’ golden ale with hints of melon and pear developed from fermentation.” They go on to say that it would be “ideal for steak and pies”. Manly food then, for an apparently womanly orientated ale.

Fortunately, the ever useful taste profile box steps in to clear things up. If you haven’t had a bottled ale from Hall & Woodhouse before, then you won’t be familiar with their excellent little profile boxes. They run through a quick description of how is looks, smells and tastes and rates how bitter, sweet, hoppy, malty and fruity it is on scales of zero to five. Amazingly, they’re always spot-on. And this makes your job of trying to find a bottle that you’ll enjoy so much easier.

The smell they describe as “fruity, scented hop, cereal”. The taste as “crisp/sweet, spicy overtones”. Over on the chart, “Sweet” and “Fruity” are both on four out of five, with “Bitter” and “Hoppy” on three and “Malty” down to two out of five.

Down to the small print now. This 500ml bottle of 5% volume ale comes in at 2.5 UK units of alcohol. Which means you can enjoy about one and a half before the Government tells you to stop. Elsewhere on the bottle are Hall & Woodhouse’s Dorset address. And a web address, which is www.tanglefoot.co.uk. A website that’s better than many brewer’s websites.

What does Badger Tangle Foot taste like? The half-a-dozen Badger ales I’ve tried tell me that Badger does crisp and fruity better than just about anyone. Expectations are high, but there’s only one thing to do next…

Hall & Woodhouse Badger Tangle Foot poured into a glass

It pours easily enough. And it comes topped with a good, if lumpy head. Nothing that will scare you.

I can’t fault their description of the smell. It smells a little bit fruity, though not as much as you’d expect. And it smells of beer ingredients, which must be the hops and cereal they mentioned. I’m going to describe it as tangy. Familiar, but I can’t quite place it.

All of which is irrelevant when you get to the taste. The first gulp tells you that Tangle Foot tastes nothing like how it smells. Before your first gulp is over, you know that this is another Badger fruit extravaganza. They describe it as having hints of melon and pear, and, as always, they are absolutely right. Apart from the “hints of” part. Because I think that the pear and melon fruitiness dominates. It’s what Tangle Foot is all about.

Oddly, it’s so sweet and fruity that it doesn’t have an aftertaste in the way a normal ale would. Instead, it becomes slightly more bitter, and more fruity. And then kind of trails off.

How else can I describe the way it tastes? Well, it’s very light. It’s quite crisp. There’s something tangy and spicy about it. And it’s very easy to drink. So easy to drink, it’s one of the easiest ways to consume a 5% volume drink.

I’m two-thirds of the way through the bottle now, so what am I enjoying about Badger Tangle Foot? Quite a lot. The flavour is fruity and unusual. Those things alone score it massive points. Then there’s the sweetness and light bitterness that make it supremely easy to drink. It’s as well made as any of Hall & Woodhouse’s bottles, which is to say it’s very high-quality. It’s not gassy. And there won’t be many people who won’t find it instantly drinkable.

What of the downsides to Tangle Foot? The fruitiness might not be to everyone’s taste. The bitterness in the aftertaste could possibly be off-putting to stick in the mud lager, cider and alcopop drinkers. It’s also still hard to find, although that’s been changing in recent months. It’s also more of a summer drink. Shivering in my freezing flat in early January, Tangle Foot’s breezy fruitiness seems out of place.

How can I sum up Badger Tangle Foot? It is superb. One of my favourite Badger ales. It’s as delicious as fruit salad on a sweltering August day. Not as outrageous as Badger Golden Glory or wheaty and European as Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc. Badger Tangle Foot gets the balance of distinctiveness and drinkability in a British golden ale just right. And for that, I recommend it.

Rating: 4.35

Have you tried Badger Tangle Foot? What did you think of it? Leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the comments section below.

Beer Review: Badger Fursty Ferret

30 December, 2008

DORSET’S most prolific brewer has snuck a couple more bottles into my local corner shop again. Marvellous. The last half-a-dozen bottles of Badger/Hall & Woodhouse ale I tried were very good. Or better. What is Fursty Ferret? And why is Ferret Fursty? Let’s see.

Badger Fursty Ferret bottle

The bottle is transparent. Which is different to most other Badger bottles. It takes away the surprise of an unexpected colour. But then why hide such a deliciously brown liquid in an opaque bottle?

Badger Fursty Ferret neck label

The bottle comes with a neck-label. And that label describes it as “Ale Full of Character”. Appetising, but it could do more. Brewers, use the neck label to tell us something useful about the drink. Is it fruity, malty or made with silage?

The front-label is the simplest Badger front-label I’ve seen yet. Just look at it.

Badger Fursty Ferret front label

Besides the name and logo, the only other details are “Country Crafted” and “Alc 4.4% Vol”. You have to love the ferret’s getting up to mischief around the keg of beer though. 4.4% volume isn’t too bad either. Even though I like my ale to have more power, a lot of you will like how it sits nicely between the three-point-something’s and more-than-five-percent’s.

The lack of information isn’t a problem either, when you remember how superb Badger’s back labels are.

Badger Fursty Ferret back label

The story comes with a story as tenuous as any about ferrets sneakily enjoying the brew at a country pub. It goes on to describe itself as a “tawny amber ale” with a “nutty” taste, “hoppy aroma” and something to do with “Saville oranges”. Fortunately, they also included one of their excellent charts for those of us who prefer to see pictures instead of reading. And, for the first time, I have a camera good enough for you to read what it says.

What are the most important bits? The taste. They describe it as “Malty” and balanced. On the chart, “Sweet” stands right out, bolstered by strong “Malt” and “Fruity”. But you didn’t need me to say that because, for once, my photo is good enough for you to see for yourself.

Under the interesting bits we get to the small print. The only ingredients on the list are “malted barley, wheat & sulphites”. At 4.4% volume, this standard 500ml weighs in at 2.2 UK units of alcohol. So you can have around two of them in one sitting.

At the very bottom of the label are the addresses that matter. There’s Hall & Woodhouse Ltd’s address. In case you want to write to them. Or visit them. And there’s the web address which is www.badgerales.com.

Does it taste sweet, malty and fruity? Time to crack open the bottle and find out. I’m looking forward to this.

Badger Fursty Ferret poured into a glass

The colour is as “tawny amber” as it looked in the bottle. Only now it has a patchy and rather disappointing head.

The label promised a complicated smell of things like spicy hops, orange and malt. That’s a lot of different things. It’s so complicated that I can’t disagree. All those things are in the smell. And possibly a few more besides. Hoppy, tangy and complex is the overly simplistic way I’ll choose to describe it.

Miraculously, it tastes exactly the way it smells. All the complexity and everything. That was a very satisfying first gulp.

The flavours aren’t strong. They’re not weak either. Just a bit passive. Great if you want a gentle, nutty and slightly fruity and malty. Not so much if you wanted something strong and outrageous.

The gentle flavour is gently replaced by the aftertaste that gently rolls onto your tongue. Pleasant hoppy-ness takes centre stage. Tangy malty-ness are the supporting acts. And the whole act is a bitter sweet balance. All in all, the label is spot-on.

Two-thirds of the way through the bottle, what am I enjoying about Badger Fursty Ferret? Quite a lot. Hall & Woodhouse rarely disappoint with their labels. The profile box on the back of Fursty Ferrett is as accurate as any. And that’s good because it will help you pick a bottle that you like. It smells complex, which a good ale should do. It tastes good. In fact, it’s so gentle and tasty, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who’ll hate it. It’s not gassy. And the Badger quality is most definitely here. You can taste the care and quality. Especially if you’ve come straight from a lager.

What am I not enjoying about Badger Fursty Ferret? Mostly the things that come down to personal taste. The gentle flavour is all well and good, but I like something that takes bigger risks and does something original. Which Fursty Ferret doesn’t really. Even though that’s probably not what they set out to do. What else? Nitpicking again brings me to the strength, but then it never said it was a strong ale. The only valid complaint I can think of is that it’s hard to find in shops.

To sum up, Badger Fursty Ferret is a deserving member of the Badger line-up. It’s tasty, gentle and well made. Even if it is a little on the boring side. I liked it and you probably will too. It’s like Canada. Hard to hate.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Badger Fursty Ferret? What did you think of it? Leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the comments section here.

Beer Review: Badger England’s Gold

28 August, 2008

BADGER’S reputation for outstanding bottles of ale remained intact yesterday with  Badger First Gold. Hopes are high then, for this bottle of Badger England’s Gold.

The neck label of these Badger bottles is a good source of clues for what to expect. But this one baffles me.

Badger England’s Gold neck label

What is “Quintessentially English” ale? I don’t know. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

The main front label, like the neck label takes English country imagery a step further.

Badger England’s Gold front label

The fields, rolling hills, trees, village and church are all very effective at creating an idyllic image of rural England. It certainly makes me want to get out of the city for a break. But what does it say about the ale? I’m still in the dark about that.

Certainly, the “England’s Gold” name is very appealing. And the 4.6% volume for the 500 millilitre bottle means it should be potent enough. But what is Badger’s take on a “Quintessentially English” ale all about? Time to consult the invaluable “Taste Profile” chart on the back label.

Badger England’s Gold back label

Once again, bravo to Hall & Woodhouse/Badger for the back label. They never disappoint with good descriptions, clear labelling. And, of course, that ever-so-handy “Taste Profile”. Let’s see how it rates “Bitter”, “Sweet”, “Hoppy”, “Malty” and “Fruity” on its one to five scales…

Badger England’s Gold taste profile

In case you can’t see from my photo (which you probably can’t, not even I can), we do learn what England’s Gold is about. That’s because it’s about “Fruity”-ness. At four out of five, “Fruity”-ness leads by a big margin. “Sweet” isn’t far behind on three, with “Bitter”, “Hoppy” and “Malty” down on two’s and one’s out of five respectively. It looks, then, that “Quintessentially English” ales are about fruitiness and sweetness. Yummy.

As always with Badger labels, they don’t stop there. We also get a proper description. This one goes with descriptions like “fresh”, “light”, “grassy”, “crisp”, “floral” and “subtle bitterness”. That sounds deliciously complex to me. We also learn that this bottle ale is “award-winning”, but what awards they were, we’re not told. They also advise that this goes well with chicken or pasta, but especially well with “fresh Dorset fly-fished trout”. Sadly, with no fresh trout, Dorset or otherwise, to hand, it’ll have to be tested on its own this time. Unless, that is, the instant lasagne I had an hour ago is the pasta they had in mind.

Down to the small-print now, and this bottle has 2.3 UK units of alcohol. For the paranoid, it contains malted barley and sulphites. Their Blandford St. Mary, Dorset postal address is on there. As is the web address of www.badgerales.com. And address that immediately re-directs you to http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/. Never mind, a couple of clicks takes us to the England’s Gold homepage at http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/beers/badgerales/englandsgold.asp. A page where we learn that the award it won, was the 2005 Tesco Brewing Awards. Good stuff chaps.

Now I’m really looking forward to trying Badger England’s Gold. I might be from Wales, but I want to like this one. The big question is will it be as shockingly floral and fruity as Badger Golden Glory? What will it taste like? And do I think you should buy a bottle? Let’s find out…

Once in the glass, it’s a deep, dark shade of gold. Roughly what I expected of yesterday’s First Gold actually. But this time, there’s no real head to worry about. Sure, it has one, but it’s just a thin layer of bubbles. And one that becomes patchy after a minute or two.

How does it smell? The label describes it as having a “zippy floral aroma”. I’d say it’s like sniffing some flowers that happen to be sharing a field with some citrus fruit. All very interesting, pleasant and unexpected. And not overwhelming either.

How does it taste? In a word; interesting. This is another complicated one, so I’m going to need a few more gulps to make sense of what’s going on with the flavour.

A few gulps later, and I would say that hoppy bitterness was much more noticeable than I expected. That said, it is still fruity and flowery, so those are what you’ll notice on the palate. Also in there are hints of tangy citrus-ness and various plants. Which, I think is where their descriptions of “white grape and melon” and “grassy”-ness come from. Whatever you thought you were expecting from the flavours and tastes, you’ll be surprised.

There’s much that I like about England’s Gold. The flavours and taste surprised me, even though I thought I knew what to expect. And that’s a good thing. The flavours and tastes were interesting and good. Even though they describe it as having a “subtle bitterness”, it has a tangy and hoppy bite to it. This, together with all the fruit and flowers in the taste take a little getting used to, but the Badger quality makes sure you will do. The strength is right. And tasting as it does, it offers something you don’t find easily elsewhere. And that gains it points for character and distinctiveness.

With anything that takes so many chances, there are going to be downsides. England’s Gold is no sadly exception. For the first time, out of all the Badger bottled ales, what they have on the label didn’t match what I was tasting. In all probability, that was down to my lack of lack of taste ability. But if you also happen to be a talentless beer reviewer, you too could be surprised by the bitter bite you didn’t expect. The flavour and taste is very good. But it did take some getting used to. And that’s going to put the less intrepid drinkers off. It’s also darn hard to find, with only one little shop near me stocking it by chance.

So, where does that leave Badger England’s Gold overall? I’m not entirely sure how to sum it up, let alone how to rate it. Nearly at the bottom of my glass now, and I’ve quite enjoyed it. It is similar to Badger Golden Glory, but toned down in the fruit and flowers department. And upped considerably in the hoppy bitterness.

England’s Gold then, is high-quality, interesting and complex. If you like interesting ales, definitely try it. On the other hand, you might easily hate it. Going by past comments though, this could be an ale for the ladies. Am I right? Quintessentially English? Conceivably.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Badger England’s Gold? What did you think of this unusual ale?

Do please leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the little boxes below.

Beer Review: Badger First Gold

27 August, 2008

IT’S been a while since my last British ale. My taste buds would argue that it’s been too long. To rectify this appalling state of affairs, I managed to find a couple of Badger ales hidden away in another small off-license on Bethnal Green Road. This delights me, because so far, I’ve had six different Badger/Hall & Woodhouse bottles from the Dorset brewer. And what’s more, all six have been excellent quality with masses of character. So it’s fair to say that I’m looking forward to this bottle of Badger First Gold.

The bottle and labels stick to the old Badger formula. The bottle is a dumpy brown thing. Look out for the yes “1777” and words describing them as an “Independent Family Brewer” embossed around the shoulder. That’s the sort of heritage we like to see.

The neck label tells you almost everything you need to know about what First Gold will be all about. “Single English Hop Ale” says it all. As do the small pictures of hops. Making a wild guess, this is going to have a strong hoppy taste and bitterness.

Badger First Gold neck label

The front label adds little. But then it doesn’t need to.

Badger First Gold front label

Everything on it is simple and well designed. The “First Gold” is shiny gold. Nice touch there. And the badger of the “1777 Badger” logo takes centre stage in the big illustration in the middle. Under that is the slogan “A noble character”. That could be a hint at the hoppy-ness to come.

The vital statistics are on there too. This is the regular 500 millilitre bottle. And alcoholic volume is 4%. Crikey, that’s low for an ale. Albeit not as low as their 2.5% low-alcohol Harvesters Ale.

Over on the back label, and outstanding news… the Badger “Taste Profile” chart is present!

Badger First Gold back label

For the uninitiated, let me explain this outburst of enthusiasm. Most bottles of beer have vague, marketing led descriptions of what the beer is like. Most of which bear little resemblance to what the beer is actually like. This “Tate Profile” however, rates how “Bitter”, “Sweet”, “Hoppy”, “Malty” and “Fruity” the contents is, on a scale of one to five. And in my experience of Badger’s six other bottles of ale, they’re pretty much spot-on. So what you read on the profile is what you get on the palate. A godsend if you’re browsing the shelves or websites trying to decide which one you’ll enjoy most.

So what does the “Taste Profile” say about “First Gold”?

Badger First Gold taste profile

Little if you try to read my awful photo. That would be my Neolithic  era camera phone letting me down again. But I can report that “Bitter” and “Hoppy” both rate highest with four out of five. “Malty” and “Fruity” are on three with “Sweet” on two out of five. A consistent picture of hoppy bitterness is emerging.

Reading the rest of the label, and the picture grows ever more vivid. It transpires that they use a single variety of hop for its “purity and character”. And the name of that hop is “First Gold”. They go on to describe First Gold as having a “well balanced bitterness, with hints of orange and spice”. That it is a “clean, fresh” and “distinctive” example of a country ale with English character. And that if you have a roast or a pie to drink it with, then that would be splendid.

Down to the small print, the Hall & Woodhouse address in Blandford St. Mary, Dorset is on there. As is the web address at www.badgerales.com. Which immediately redirects you to http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/. A single click on which leads you through to the First Gold homepage at http://www.badgerfirstgold.co.uk/. A page that informs us that this very bottled beer won Double Gold at The Brewing Industry International Awards, Munich 2005. Good work chaps. Although I’ll leave my congratulations until I’ve finally tested it myself.

Elsewhere on the small print, we learn that this bottle has 2.0 UK units of alcohol. That means that if you’re a bloke, you can happily enjoy two bottles of First Gold. Lastly, it contains malted barley.

With all that done, I can finally open the bottle and try to answer for you some questions. Questions such as do I think it deserves two gold medals? What does it taste like? And do I think you should buy it? Let’s find out.

There was just enough head to fill my pint glass to the brim. Now, a couple of minutes later, it’s died down a bit. But, happily, there’s still a good, thick layer of creamy froth sitting atop the drink.

The colour is darker than I expected. It looks dark brown to me. For some reason I was expecting a golden amber colour like much of Badger’s other bottled ales.

It smells hoppy. No surprise there. But it also smells considerably maltier than I expected it to be. The whole combined smell is also much weaker than I expected. All the talk of hops on the labels made me brace for an overwhelmingly hoppy smell.

But how does it taste? Surprisingly, it tastes different to the super-hoppy experience I was readying myself for. The first flavours hitting my palate is…. Complex. There’s a lot of different flavours in there. So many, I’m going to need a few more gulps to make sense of it. That by itself is a good thing for an ale, in my opinion.

Half-way through now, and I’ll take a stab and describing what Badger First Gold tastes like. From the first taste, through to the aftertaste, it’s the hoppy-ness that stands out. An experience that feels like you’re drinking brambles. Very drinkable brambles that is. Enveloped by the hoppy flavour, are what I think must be the orange and spice they mentioned on the label. I would say that there’s something tangy and fruity in there that tastes a little bit of biscuits. The whole thing is rounded off by a softly lingering bitterness. None of these flavours and tastes is too strong, nor too weak as to make them hard to notice. All well balanced I’d say.

What do I like about Badger First Gold? A lot. Everything about it surprised me, which I like to have happen. The flavours and tastes are as complex and as layered as an onion. And that’s something I like. The flavours and tastes are excellent, not too strong, nor off-putting and consequently, utterly drinkable. It tastes different to other hop orientated ales, so it scores marks for distinctiveness. It’s also not at all gassy. And the quality is as fine as any bottled beer you’ll find.

What about the downsides? Well, that complex, malty, tangy bitterness won’t be to everyone’s taste. You’ve really got to enjoy strong-ish flavours and bitterness to get along with this ale. So lager drinkers might be overwhelmed by it all. Which is no bad thing. It’s also hard to find. In several months of doing these reviews, I’ve only found one small off-license selling these bottles. Lastly, it is a little on the weak side. I’d welcome a few more percentage points of alcoholic volume.

To sum up, I can see why Badger First Gold has won awards. It’s complex and tasty. Would I recommend it? If you like interesting English ales, then this is one to try. An excellent hoppy, bitter ale.

Rating: 4.25

Have you tried Badger First Gold? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the comments box below. And check my next post for another Badger!

Beer Review: Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale

4 April, 2008

ALL too soon, we reach the end of our second round up of Hall & Woodhouse brewed ales. If you haven’t read my reviews of their other brews yet, then here’s your chance to catch up. Brace yourself, they’ve built up a vast range of bottles:

Badger Original Ale, Badger Golden Glory Ale, Badger Golden Champion Ale, Badger Harvesters Ale and River Cottage Stinger.

Hall & Woodhouse do traditional ales very well, but that they aren’t afraid to try new things and throw in the unexpected. But will that be the case with Badger Blandford Fly?
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale bottle

On the outside the Badger style is much in evidence. And as usual, the neck label is the place to start.

This one goes with a little sentence that describes it as “An unusually refreshing premium ale subtly spiced for EXTRA BITE”. Their capitalisation. Not mine. Which hints at what will make this refreshing ale, stand out from the crowd.
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale neck label

Down on the main front label everything looks rustic and traditional. And that background. Does it remind you of bees wax? Or wallpaper?
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale front label

Onto the roundel, and all the details are where they should be. It’s not overcrowded. And I happen to think it all looks quite attractive. The old Badger 1777 logo makes a more prominent reappearance this time. And the little illustration of a Blandford fly inbetween the words “Subtly” and “Spiced” hint at a story behind it. The 5.2% volume is on there. And besides the mentions of Hall & Woodhouse and Blandford St. Mary, Dorset; there’s not much to report from the front. Apart from the symmetry. Maybe that’s why it looks just right?

Around on the back label, things are straightforward again. Accompanied by some little illustrations of flys buzzing around, it starts with a concise description of what this ale is all about. As well as aiming to be a refreshing premium ale, it also has spicy ginger overtones and a warming character. The spicy ginger must be what gives it that “EXTRA BITE” mentioned on the front.
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale back label

Those of you wanting a story to go with your ale won’t be disappointed. This one goes with that of the Blandford Fly of Dorset’s River Stour. You see where they got the name for this ale? It transpires that the fly in question has a habit of biting people. And that custom was; ginger would provide an antidote. Which would explain the name and idea behind this ale. Okay, it’s a tenuous link, but it’s better than some of the stories on beer bottles.

The invaluable ‘Taste Profile’ chart is always worth a look. Especially with Blandford Fly. This is the first time that I’ve seen one element of it rate as a five and another rate as a zero. In pole position this time with five out of five, is ‘Sweet’. ‘Bitter’ and ‘Fruity’ both receive three. ‘Malty’ has two. But ‘Hoppy’ isn’t even on the chart. According to this chart, Blandford Fly will be sweet, fruity and not even slightly hoppy. I can’t wait to find out what that’s going to be like.

But unfortunately there’s the small print to get through. Which I happen to know that some of you out there do like to know. So let’s plough through them quickly in order to get to the fun part of the review… The Blandford St. Mary, Dorset address is on there. So to is the www.badgerales.com web address. This is a 500 millilitre bottle, so the 5.2% volume gives it 2.6 UK units of alcohol. And it contains malted barley. That’s the dry part of the review out of the way. Now, time to find out what Blandford Fly is really all about.

Once in the glass, there’s more head than I’ve become used to from Badger. It’s surprisingly frothy. But. It does make the 500 millilitre bottle completely fill the pint glass.
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale poured

This has one of the most distinctive smells I’ve yet witnessed. You can smell the ginger. And it is as unexpected as you’d imagine. Even after reading the label. You just don’t expect to smell it from an ale. Unusual and a good start.

Within one gulp, you can tell this is exactly as advertised on the label and the ‘Taste Profile’. The first taste you get is one of sweetness. Quickly followed by bitterness and fruitiness. Followed by an aftertaste of ginger. And that, is the sting of the Blandford Fly.

Some, if not most ales, need the entire bottle to figure out. But this gets straight to the point. And I have to say, I like it. And not just the being polite, acknowledging the quality, half-heartedly liking it. Blandford Fly is excellent. It’s easy to drink. Quite refreshing. Not too gassy. And it has that unusual ginger ‘sting’ that adds the most important quality. Difference. And I love beers that do something different.

The downsides. That ginger flavour is strong and won’t be to everyone’s tastes. So it won’t please everyone. You couldn’t describe it as ‘inoffensive’.

To try and sum up then; Blandford Fly is a Marmite of an ale. You’ll either love it or hate. I happen find it outstanding. And as it’s my blog, it gets a high rating. If you like unusual beers and ales, this is well worth the risk.

Rating: 4.35

If you’ve tried Blandford Fly, I’d be interested know if you liked it as much as I did. Or if you didn’t.

If you’ve got any suggestions of your own for ginger flavoured ales, or anything else you want me to review, leave a comment in the box below.

Beer Review: Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger

3 April, 2008

ONE of the more unusual innovations to come out of Hall & Woodhouse, is this: River Cottage Stinger.
River Cottage Stinger bottle

From the same Dorset brewer that brought us Badger Golden Glory Ale and yesterday’s low-alcohol Badger Harvesters Ale. Jettisoning the rule book, Hall & Woodhouse appear to be on an innovation binge with this 500 millilitre bottle. The bottle shape and shapes of the labels look the same as the Badger range, but as far as I can tell, that’s where the similarities end.

The bottle top is green with a ‘River Cottage‘ logo atop it. The neck label alludes to something unusual indeed with “Tongue Tingling Ale” surrounded what look like… no it can’t be… are those nettles?
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger neck label

The plot thickens on the main front label.
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger front label

In place of the usual badger logo is the “River Cottage” one. But under the large, green, stylized “Stinger” text, I’m glad to see the old badger still makes an appearance. An appearance from foliage that looks like… nettles. There they are again. A reassuring and disconcerting illustration. But one that makes you want to read on.

Under the illustration is the biggest mention I’ve yet seen of Hall & Woodhouse on the front of one of their bottles. “Brewed by Hall & Woodhouse” wasn’t on the front of their other bottles. Presumably because this one is more of a River Cottage ale than a Badger ale.

Next there’s a very stylised description of “using organic nettles hand-picked in Dorset”. That explains it. This is made from organic nettles. As for the hand-picking part, all I can think is, I hope they had plenty of dock leaves to hand. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s because you are a townie. You have my sympathies.

Also on the front is a respectable 4.5% volume.

Over on the back label, and the River Cottage connection becomes clear. There’s a photo and extensive quote from Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall. You know, the celebrity chef, author and journalist from Channel 4’s River Cottage series of programmes. At first, his involvement with an ale, organic or otherwise baffled me. That was until I learnt that his River Cottage is in Dorset, and thus, the link to Hall & Woodhouse became clear.
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger back label

At this point, I must confess that I’ve never watched more than a few odd minutes of Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s television programmes. I’ve seen enough to get the gist that he likes the back-to-nature ways of cooking. And that’s something I respect. But anything more than a few minutes at a time and I’m afraid I might start voting Liberal Democrat.

Back to the label, and I’m delighted to see the little ‘Taste Profile’ chart has made in tact to this bottle. Albeit, minus the ‘See’, ‘Smell’ and ‘Taste’ additions from Harvester Ale. With this one, ‘Malty’ and ‘Fruity’ come out top with four out of five. And ‘Sweet’, ‘Bitter’ and ‘Hoppy’ are three, two and one out of five respectively. Something tells me that this is going to be distinctive.

The main text on the back label is actually a gigantic quote from H F-W himself. To summarise, he wanted to create an organic beer. And sums up Stinger with words like “delicious”, “refreshing”, “West Country character”, “depth”, “slightly spicy” “light bitterness” and “subtle tingle that comes from the nettles”. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly intrigued at this stage.

Among the usual small-print details, there’s one little symbol that makes it’s presence know. And that is the Soil Association Organic Standard mark. Yet again, we’re seeing another ale making a deal about being organic. This really does seem to be the next big thing.

Of the other small-print that may or may not interest you, is the little symbol telling us that this bottle has 2.3 of your UK units of alcohol. That is contains malted barley. The H & W address in Blandford St. Mary, Dorset, England. The www.badgerales.com web address. And, also, the www.rivercottage.net web address.

Enough chatter. Let’s see if this strange and unusual drink is actually any good.

Once safely in the glass, the first thing that surprised me was the colour. I was half hoping for an outrageous nettle green colour. But alas, it’s a straightforward light gold. And one with a predictable, thin head.
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger poured

It does smell a little different however. And… I don’t know how to describe it. It smells kind of fruity and a little malty. But not in any ways that I’ve smelt it before. It’s not overpowering, and quite pleasant. I like beers that do something different, so in terms of smell, Stinger is doing well so far.

Only smell isn’t the most important part. Flavour, taste and drinkability are. So let’s get drinking. And my first impressions are good. Excellent in fact. A couple of gulps in, and this has a full, proper ale taste. Regardless of the unusual way in which it was made. Only I’m having some difficulty figuring out what it is that I’m tasting. Let’s compare it against Hugh’s description…

Yes, it is refreshing. Not the most refreshing ever, but served cool, it ticks that box. It’s got that character and depth that made me love the other Badger ales so much. So, if like me, you like your ale to be a complex blend of stuff, then you’ll probably get on well with Stinger too. Hugh also describes a light bitterness, with a spicy tingle. The light bitterness is definitely there. And it’s one of the lightest bitternesses I’ve seen for a long time. And it comes with hardly any bad aftertaste. So if you don’t like bitterness, you’re fairly safe with Stinger. As for the spicy tingle, I can’t quite find it on my taste buds. I’m getting a tiny hint of something tingly, buried in the blend. But the nettle-like sting isn’t much in evidence.

Over half of the way through now, and Stinger is proving to be a very enjoyable, and easily-drinkable ale. Easier to drink than even yesterday’s low-alcohol Harvesters Ale. This is turning out to be quite different to what I was expecting.

Stinger seems to be avoiding the downsides of being very hoppy. While being a little of the bitter, arable side of the flavour spectrum. Not greatly so, mind. And that I think, could be the weakness. It’s just not as unusual as I hoped it would be. Not that I expected nettle leaves to be floating in the bottle. But more of a nettle flavour would have helped Stinger stand out. And as a fan of homemade nettle soup, I can vouch for the tastiness of nettles.

To sum up then. What Stinger is tuning out to be, is a not an outlandish, new-age inspired eco-drink. But rather a quality, mild, drinkable ale with a nice taste. If you can find it stocked, I’d say it’s worth your time.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Harvester? What did you think of it?
The comments box is below. You know what to do…

Beer Review: Badger Harvesters Ale

2 April, 2008

LOW-ALCOHOL beer. What is the point? To me, something always seemed disingenuous and suspicious about low-alcohol beers and lagers. In the same way that ‘edutainment’ computer games would try to cover up learning with fun. Or Open University documentaries would try to disguise facts with a garnishing of entertainment. Whenever you consumed them, you would always have that suspicion that you were being manipulated into being ‘good’.

Realising this, yet still wanting new markets, the big brewers scratched their heads and did a spot of innovating. Most notably, Carling with their “mid-strength” 2% volume, C2 launch in 2006, aimed at the so-called ‘metrosexual’ man who wants a “proper pint” without getting drunk.

While I haven’t reviewed C2, I did review Tesco Value Lager. Which is also 2%. And a taste-less, pointless waste of time. And that, I suspect, is true of most low or mid-alcohol lagers. But… what about low-alcohol ale? Could that be the answer? Could it be a genuine, tasty, full-bodied beer for the health conscious socialite?

To answer this question, I have here a bottle of Hall & Woodhouse’s Badger Harvesters Ale. This comes from the same brewer as Badger Original Ale, Badger Golden Glory Ale and Badger Golden Champion Ale, whom insisted that I try a few more of their beers. So, let’s take a closer look at Badger Harvesters Ale.
Badger Harvesters Ale bottle

And one of the first things that grabs your attention is the little label on the neck of the bottle. And it’s a label I’ve been seeing a lot of recently.
Badger Harvesters Ale neck label

Broughton Double Champion Ale and Ridgeway Blue both have them, and Harvesters Ale joins them as a 2008 winner in the Tesco Drinks Awards. This time, in the category of ‘Lower & No Alcohol’. From my experience with those two other Tesco award winners, they tend to pick good drinks. So my expectations are going up. Albeit from a low starting point.

The big front label is a distinct variation on the Badger theme.
Badger Harvesters Ale front label

The entire design shouts, or rather whispers “take it easy”. The soft yellowy colours and the little picture of, presumably a harvester, relaxing under a tree paint a picture of pre-industrial rural bliss. Look a little closer and you’ll also notice the stylised ‘Harvesters’ logo has an arable touch to the letter ‘H’. There are also some simple pictures of birds, one of which is placed like an apostrophe above the logo. Or is it supposed to be Harvester’s and not Harvesters?

Standing out prominently is it’s own corner is “ALC 2.5% VOL”. And that could be key. It’s 0.5% higher than some of those awful medium-strength lagers. Over on the other corner, Harvesters is described as “refreshing” and “well-hopped” and as having a “lighter touch”. I hope all of that proves to be true.

Around to the back label, and I’m delighted to see the taste profile. And this label has made some additions to it.
Badger Harvesters Ale back label

The main part of that godsend of a chart gives ‘Sweet’ the highest of them all, with ‘Bitter’, ‘Hoppy’ and ‘Fruity’ all in joint second place. ‘Malty’ is the lowest.

The additions come in the form on three little boxes next to it. ‘See’, ‘Smell’ and ‘Taste’ all have their little icons, and, as you’d expect, give us yet more of an insight. Under ‘See’ we have “Light golden brown”. Under ‘Smell’, it is “Light and hoppy with grape undertones”. And for ‘Taste’, is tells us to expect “Medium bitterness & sweetness”.

I happen to think that these little boxes and the taste profile are terrific ideas. They give you an idea of whether you’ll like it or not, when you’re in the shop. And it gives me something to judge it by when it comes to my own taste test.

As with the other Badger ales, this one comes with a story behind it. This one revolves around the ale given by landowners to labourers at harvest time. And how, to avoid the calamity of drunken labours failing to do the harvest, less potent ales were sought. And that this is just such an ale. Light, yet supposedly not comprised in the things that matter.

There’s also all the small print you expect. That this is a 500 millilitre bottle. The Hall & Woodhouse Ltd. address in Blandford, Dorset, England. And www.badgerales.com web address. That this contains malted barley and sulphites. The fact that this only has 1.3 UK units of alcohol. And a few more details that don’t make it onto most other bottles. There’s a small table listing the recommended daily maximum of alcohol units; 3-4 for men and 2-3 for women. Also, next to the usual ‘drink responsibly’ message and recycle symbols, there’s one indicating that pregnant women should not drink. This takes corporate social responsibility to the next level.

But is it any good. We’re about to find out…

Well, it’s a golden brown colour. As described on the label. It’s topped off by a creamy and consistent head. As for the smell, it is as mildly hoppy as hinted at by the label. I’m not so sure about those grape undertones however. Although there’s a hint of something citrus in there if you sniff it hard enough.
Badger Harvesters Ale in a glass

The label described the taste as having medium bitterness and sweetness. A couple of gulps in, and I’m undecided about it. It is bitter. A little too much so for my personal taste. And leaves a hoppy aftertaste. But the sweet fruitiness. And the rich, complex flavours that make ales so good just weren’t as much in evidence as I had hoped.

On the other hand, it is refreshing. Not too gassy. And importantly, it’s also quite easy to drink.

While this is much much better than the watery Tesco Value Lager, it doesn’t quite deliver the full ale experience minus the alcohol. That said, it does get pretty darn close. If I were having a beer with a meal during a lunch break at work, this would be the right thing to have. It sets the standard for low-alcohol ales. By and large, it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Even though it didn’t really do it for me.

Rating: 3.15

Have you tried Badger Harvesters Ale?

Or do you have any recommendations of your own for low-alcohol beers?
Comments, ideas, suggestions and insults below please.

Beer Review: Badger Golden Champion Ale

27 January, 2008

All too soon, we arrive at the third and final (for now) instalment of my three-part taste of Badger ales. If you missed them, part one looked at Badger Original, a rustic old ale. Part two looked at Badger Golden Glory, a very flowery drink, possibly aimed at women.

This time, Badger Golden Champion goes under the microscope. How will is fair against the rest of the Badger range? And how will it compare to other ales? Let’s find out.
Bottle of Badger Golden Champion Ale

The bottle is identical to the others. This is no bad thing, as 500ml, just short of a pint is a welcome change to the smaller 300ml bottles that most brewers rely on.

Labels on the other two Badger ales were pretty good at describing their contents. What does this one say? Well, the label on the neck is tells us more than either of the other two. It gets straight to the point by describing a “premium strong ale with a light, fruity flavour”. Making that any more concise would be almost impossible.

Badger Golden Champion Ale front label

Again, we have reference to some award having been won. But again, we don’t know what for. A welcome sight is the 5.0% vol. This makes it the strongest Badger yet. A good thing in my book.

The now familiar Taste Profile box is surprisingly similar to that for Golden Glory. That is to say, it rates highly on the sweetness and fruitiness. Unlike the overpowering Golden Glory, Golden Champion here ups the bitterness quota.
Badger Golden Champion Ale taste profile

The rear label goes on the elaborate further on the little label on the neck of the bottle. We get mentions of “light” and “refreshing character”; typical of beer labels. Where this one goes eccentric on us, is with the “elderflower aroma”.

In a glass, this lives up to the “golden” billing. Interestingly, it has less head than either Original or Golden Glory.
Badger Golden Champion Ale in a glass

As far as smell goes, I have no idea if it is indeed elderflower. I haven’t smelled enough elderflowers to know for sure. What it is, is fruity and flowery. Thankfully however, it’s not as overpoweringly pongy as Golden Glory. More pleasant and intriguing.

Does it taste strong, light and fruity as per the label? Short answer; yes. Bitterness is what first hits you. But that quickly gets replaced by an aftertaste of fruit and flowers. The identities of which, I couldn’t possibly answer.

All well and good, but is it any good? I’d have to say yes. Golden Champion is stronger than either of the other two Badgers, yet it retains the qualities that made the others easy to drink.

I liked Golden Champion. It’s an ale drinker’s drink. It also does something different by adding the fruity and flowery qualities. Doing something different and achieving it without losing drinkability is something you have to respect.

Rating: 4.25

So, what are my thoughts on Badger brand. At least from my experience of Original, Golden Glory and Golden Champion?
Line up of Badger Ales

In a word, good. Original is the archetypical ale and would go perfectly with a lunch. Golden Glory goes off in a totally unusual direction and could find itself in a new niche. For me, it was a little too strange. Golden Champion was an excellent drink that added one or two unusual qualities to the mix. All three were easy to drink and good value without compromising individuality.

Have you tried any of these ales? What did you think? Which one appeals to you most?

And what would you like me to look at next?

Beer Review: Badger Golden Glory Ale

26 January, 2008

Part two of my three part taste of Badger ales brings me to Golden Glory.
Bottle of Badger Golden Glory

Whilst keeping to same dark bottle as the Original, the labels go for something more festive. The ‘Absolutely Glorious’ slogan and flowers give that much away. The Taste Profile box (visible in the blurry photo below) reappears.
Badger Golden Glory taste profile box

The Taste Profile has the sweetness and fruitiness going almost off the scale. The description sheds some light on this. The ‘delicate floral peach and melon aroma’ should explain why the fruitiness is rated so high. The ‘distinctive bitterness’ however seems at odds with the high sweetness and low bitterness on the profile. This is a mystery.

Also getting a mention is reference to an award won. What award it was, we are not told. A welcome sight is that of a higher 4.5% volume. A bigg-ish jump from the Original’s 3.8%. I’m also glad to see that we get a whole 500ml – that’s nearly a whole pint.

Poured into a glass, we get a lighter colour than the Original. And a less frothy head.
Badger Golden Glory poured into a glass

Now… we have a mystery to unravel. What is this drink all about?

The first thing that hits you is the smell. Just as full-on as Original, but so different. It’s like smelling a bunch of flowers that happens to be surrounded by lots of peaches and other fruits. Spray an aerosol of fruit scented air-freshener for a similar experience. Alternatively, a cocktail or alco-pop will provide a similar experience.

After you’ve gotten over the shock of an ale that smells of flowers and peach, you can take a tentative sip. Half expecting another blitz on the senses, Golden Glory ale delivers something more palatable. It’s got that bitterness as a base, but on top of that is an aftertaste of flowers and peach.

Taking that much risk with such an unusual flavour, Golden Glory could easily have turned out revolting. Thankfully, it hasn’t. At no point did I find myself think “not another gulp”. Instead, I looked forward to each glug to take in the bizarre combination of tastes and smells.

I have never seen an ale take floweriness to such heights. It would be easy here to write it off as ‘odd’ or ‘eccentric’. Which it probably is. But that could be missing the point. I think those brewers at Hall & Woodhouse are making baby steps towards something that could be much bigger… an ale; for women. Think about it. The peachy and flowery smell and taste. Badger Golden Glory could be the first ale, to make it big with the female drinker.

What do you think? What would you change to make it the women’s ale of choice? Or do you know one that is even better at this task? Leave a comment!

Rating: 3.5 (more if you like flowers)

Beer Review: Badger Original Ale

25 January, 2008

This time, we start with the first of three-parts. For your entertainment and interest, I will bravely test (ok, enjoy) three of the Badger ales produced by the Hall and Woodhouse. A rustic old family brewers from Dorset. They go all the way back to 1777; a good sign if you like your old ales very old indeed.

We begin with the oldest and most widely available Badger; the Original Ale.

Bottle of Badger Original Ale

The label does all the right things. Hinting at fine ingredients; a head brewer and how old it is.

Badger Original Ale front label

The rear label goes on to talk about how the original Badger ale was used by farm workers in the 1700s and then by the army in the Napoleonic Wars. Frustratingly, reading it a second time however, reveals that this ‘Original’ simply uses the real original from the 1700s as inspiration. A lot like the Greene King IPA unoriginal original.

One of the things I love about the Badger Ales are the Taste Profile boxes. These rate the bitterness, sweetness, hoppiness, maltiness and fruitiness on a scale of one to five, one being lowest and five the highest. If only all beers did this. It would make choosing what to buy so much easier.

Badger Original Ale back label

Badger Original claims to be English ale at its best. Backed up by their taste profile, they claim a well balanced taste. Balanced, that is, between bitterness, fruitiness and spice. Let’s see how well it did…

Poured into a glass, you get a good thick head atop a generous 500ml of liquid.

Badger Original Ale poured into a glass

Odour-wise, you’re treated to a surprisingly full smell of malt, hoppiness and even some fruits. This is what I want from a old ale; for it to smell like a field.

And the complexity carries through to the taste. It’s bitter. But not too bitter. It’s malty and hoppy, but not overpoweringly so. And you can just about detect some other things like fruit in there too.

The whole nearly-full-pint worth of drink went down very easily. Drinkability here is excellent. That said, it may be due to the rather limp 3.8% volume. This is not strong stuff, but it does smell and taste like how you want ale to be. What we have here is an English ale ‘experience’.

But. Is that at the cost of being something specific? It’s not a ‘proper’ bitter. And it’s not a crisp largery beer either. If however, you want big, complex, smells and flavours to go with your pie, this is marvellous.

Rating: 4 and a bit


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