HERE is another new-to-me name in the form of Cocker Hoop Golden Ale from Jennings Lakeland Ales. This one came from the consistently surprising Bethnal Green Food Center.
It’s an unusual looking bottle. Conventionally shaped and so brown it looks black. All of which makes the golden shield label stand out like a firework in the night sky.
The neck label is less than forthcoming.
All it has is a stylised illustration of mountains and the name “Jennings Lakeland Ales”. Is this ale from the Lake District? Whatever the answer is to that question, what we need is helpful information on the neck label to help us decide if we’ll like what’s in the bottle before we buy it.
Fortunately, all of these questions are answered on the main front label.
It looks like your typical shield style logo. But look closely and you’ll notice that the top of the shield looks like two hills. A nice touch. Right at the top of aforementioned shield logo label, we learn that the Jennings name goes all the way back to 1828.
Under the Cocker Hoop name, and on top of the Jennings signature we get an answer to the question of where this ale came from. Yes, I’m delighted to report that this is a “Genuine Taste Of The Lake District”. That makes this the first ale I’ve tried from the famously beautiful area of North-West England. If you’ve never heard of it, then see the Lake District National Park Authority at www.lake-district.gov.uk and the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_District to see what the fuss is about.
The answers continue in the small box at the bottom of the front label. Thanks to it, we can clearly see that it has a reasonable alcoholic volume of 4.6%. And, couched in marketing speak; we learn some vague details about the ale itself. You need to turn to the back label though, to see the really juicy details.
They start by describing it, vaguely again I’m afraid, as “refreshingly light and golden ale”. Something that makes it sound like cider. Under that is one of those gloriously tenuous stories about how it got the name “Cock a Hoop”.
After that, things quickly become small print and hard to read. To save you’re eyes should you ever buy a bottle, I’ll use a magnifying glass and rush through those hard to read details here. Starting with the brewery, which is the Jennings Castle Brewery, Cockermouth, Cumbria. A county that the Interweb has reached because their website is at www.jenningsbrewery.co.uk. It contains barley malt and wheat. This is your run-of-the-mill 500ml bottle, which with a 4.6% alcoholic volume brings it to 2.3 UK units of alcohol.
There is one piece of small-print that stands out however. In no uncertain terms, they advice you to “Serve Cool Not Cold”. And that’s jolly useful to know. Especially if it makes Cocker Hoop taste even better. It is very easy to miss though. On no fewer than two separate occasions, I’ve abandoned this review after realising I was going to open the bottle while it was fresh from the fridge and as frosty as the weather.
And that’s all the small-print you need to worry about on this cramped and almost unreadable label. Now for the part you clicked on this review for. What does it taste like? According to the labels, it should be light, refreshing, satisfying and golden. But then so are Corn Flakes. Jennings Cocker Hoop Golden Ale is mostly a mystery. But there’s one way to get the answers.
It looks good doesn’t it? As golden in colour as the name implies. And it’s topped off by a thick head. Although that head has died down somewhat. There’s something about the way it looks that reminds me of lager. It’s as golden as lager looks in lager commercials on television, but that experience tells you it misses by a wide margin.
What does it smell of? With nothing helpful to go on from the label, this is my chance to show-off what I’ve learnt over a year of doing these reviews. I’m going to say it has a not very strong smell of citrus, fruit, vanilla and hops. Although I’m probably wrong on all counts. In which case, let me know in the comments at the end of this post.
What does it taste of? The first couple of gulps were intense ones. Not unpleasant. Just intense and complicated in a similar way to Ridley’s Old Bob. This is going to need a few more gulps to understand.
A few more gulps in, and I’m struggling to make sense of the onslaught of taste. It feels like the D-Day landings are taking place on my tongue. There might be a fleeting flavour of nice fruity ale. It’s impossible to tell because you’re suddenly overwhelmed by the fiercest aftertaste I’ve experienced since testing the high-strength lagers a few months ago. It’s hard to taste the pleasant hoppiness in the aftertaste. All I’m tasting is a piercing bitterness that lasts and lasts. More than half-way through now, and I’ve yet to get used to it.
What am I enjoying about Jenning’s Cocker Hoop Golden Ale? Completely unexpectedly, not a lot. Am I drinking it at the right temperature? The bottle is cool and not cold, or warm either. Has it “skunked” as, apparently, some batches of beer sometimes do? I have no idea. It’s also got a good few months until reaching the sell-by date, so it’s not that which is making the worst tasting ale I’ve ever tried.
But it can’t all be bad. What might you like about it? Well, the bottle looks good. The labels are interesting. Their website is good. The Cocker Hoop golden ale looks great in a pint glass. And the head fills your pint glass nicely without overflowing. Lastly, the alcohol content is doing its job admirably.
What, if anything, am I not enjoying about Cocker Hoop? Everything about it is delicious and interesting up until that aftertaste. Honestly, I’ve done countless reviews of bottled ales and never come across anything like it. At first I thought it was a bit like Old Bob by being on the sudden and intense side. But this goes well beyond that drinkable and recommended bottle. That aftertaste is simply unpleasant. It tastes sour, bitter and off-colour. You might be able to enjoy it, but I just couldn’t.
Where does this leave the verdict on Jennings Cocker Hoop Golden Ale? It leaves it in the balance. I’ve tried enough of these to know that something is amiss. Golden ale, even from a Northern brewer for Northern drinkers isn’t supposed to taste like this. I’m going to have to say that this one is barely drinkable and hard to recommend. But Jennings deserve a second chance. I’ll happily try another Cocker Hoop and any other one of their ales because I don’t think that this bottle did them justice.
Rating: 2 (For now)
Have you tried Jennings Cocker Hoop Golden Ale? What did you think of it? Did I get a bad bottle or do they all taste this way? Leave your opinions, corrections, advice, requests and recommendations here in the boxes below.