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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.