Skip to main content

Brewery Bias

I’m probably not the first person to do such a post but it was something I thought about the other day whilst drinking, and mentally criticising, a beer from Flying Dog brewery. It struck me of how much I was praising a beer that was, when I stripped everything back, a bit of a disappointment. Yet I was nothing but complimentary about it. I love Flying Dog and hadn’t been disappointed with any style they’d done up to that point. They are, in point of fact, one of my favourite breweries.

I suppose everyone has their favourite breweries. Mine would include the likes of Abbeydale, (because they were the first brewery I fell in love with) Millstone, (because they are my local but also make consistently great beers) Red Willow, (because I’ve never had a bad beer by them, cask or in bottles, and Ageless remains my favourite beer of this year) Flying Dog, (still my favourite Americans) and De Molen. I tend to never be disappointed by any of these and am always excited to try something new by either one, but this lends a certain amount of bias to it.

Don’t get me wrong, these have earned my respect with good reason and I must have adored their beers initially to have reached this condition. But now they can do little wrong in my eyes without intentional thought.

A clear example of this coming early this year/late last year when Millstone released their stout, aptly named ‘Stout.’ It was ordinary. In fact, because I expect more from Millstone, it was disappointing. That is my honest assessment. Yet at the time, I praised it highly. “A really great example of a simple style,” I said. Favouritism.

So tonight I want to experiment with stripping away the partiality. I checked my stores and happen to have a Red Willow beer I’ve never tried, Fathomless. I’ve also decided to contrast it against an Oakham Green Devil IPA. I’ve chosen this beer as I’ve heard good things about it but, personally, not been as blown away by Oakham as others. What I’m going to do is taste each beer in a different frame of mind; imagining it’s brewed by one of the aforementioned breweries and imagining it’s brewed by a brewery I’ve never heard of. Let’s try it.

Red Willow Fathomless Oyster Stout 5.2%

It pours flat and with a dense dark colour . It initially smells of roasted malts and vanilla and there is a hint of the sea in there, with salty undertones, but perhaps I'm reaching because of the style. Subtle smokiness pleasantly coming through. To taste, it’s smooth at first with a thick malt taste and the smokiness coming through. It has similar elements to a much stronger imperial stout style. Those dark liquorice flavours are finished with a little zingy hoppiness and finally, a taste of brine on the tongue with seaweed filling your tonsils like a fresh salmon. As it really settles, the aftertaste returns to darkness and you feel like you've just had an 11% Imperial Stout.

It pours really flat and really black. At first I think I’ve stuck my nose in a glass of Guinness as it has similar attributes to this standard stout. But smell again and it's almost like having a John Smiths shoved up your nose too. Malty bitterness is the best way to describe this. To taste, it's sharp and it feels like quite a robust porter with a sickly salty after finish. The flavours are a little muddled with this with all manner of flavour appearing in each mouthful. It's an enjoyable stout but that seaweed finish makes it too sickly to have more than one. It balances more as it warms in the glass and is pleasant without pushing boundaries.

Oakham Green Devil IPA 6%

It’s flat but a clear golden honey colour. The scent is heavenly; really powerful grapefruit and mango notes powering through before you reach anything else. And the taste is even better, sitting on your tongue and just dissolving into bitter citrus hops. It packs a lovely hop punch but retains a gentle smoothness that is very Moorish. It’s great stuff.

It’s flat but a clear golden honey colour. There’s lovely grapefruit hop aromas that are big and mouth watering. But the taste? A little redundant. I'm expecting a big punch in the mouth of hops from that scent but the taste is a little secluded in comparison. There's definitely a nice hop presence and a drying, moorish taste but I'm not getting the hit I want. Perhaps the ABV is too low for the style I’m expecting. It’s a decent drop and very drinkable but smells better than it tastes.

In truth you can never complete this experiment officially unless it’s a blind taste test, but I was surprised how contrasting the opinions were. I can only admit that there was no forward pretence to this taste off. These were my thoughts on these two beers whilst in a particular mind set. Hopefully, judging from this experiment, I’ll reconsider my partiality before drinking anything from any brewery again. It’s great to have favourite breweries, especially the local micros you can support, but I don’t wish to let that cloud my judgement.  It’s still not going to stop me opening another Red Willow beer now. No doubt, it will be delicious…


Popular posts from this blog

"They Had Their Issues, So..."

      There’s a set of garages to rent as storage units near my workplace. One of them is taken by a local florist that uses it to store flower arrangements for various events, that are more often than not funerals.   As such, at least once a week at 8am I will pass a car being loaded up with flowers arranged into heart shaped patterns or the letters M U M. It is a grounding reminder that, as I mentally grumble my way through the upcoming arbitrary grievances of my ordinary working day, a group of family and friends locally is going through the hardest time. It provides much needed perspective on days when I could do with being reminded of all that I have to be thankful for.   These little moments explain to me why it is possible for us to share a communal loss when a celebrity passes away. Grief is often a personal and lonely experience, shared between a minority of people in your life. When a co-worker loses a relative or friend, it has little affect on me, bar signing of

The Ten Pubs That Made Me - Part 3: Dr Okell's / My Foley's Tap House and Leeds

A pint in Mr Foley's Tap House from December 2022     This is Part 3 (the fourth post) of an ongoing project. Please see the beginning of Part 0 for details.    Come the end of this journey, there may be a lesson in procrastination that I am unlikely to heed. These posts stem from a list that I made three years ago and a series that I embarked on 18 months ago. We’ve only now reached a 30% completion rate and with this post we are back to fail for the second time.   This odyssey began with a trip to Mr Foley’s Tap House in February 2022 – named Dr Okell’s bar on my first visits in 2005 – only to discover that it was closed. It did reopen by the time that the post was coming out and I managed a brief visit in December 2022. However, my July 1 st 2023 trip to Leeds, on which this post is based, is met with this sign at the door of the bar:      A quick check of social media shows an Instagram post from the day before (June 30 th ) announcing the closure of the

LIVERPOOL - the City that Craft Beer Forgot Part II (and found...)

After visiting Liverpool, one of my favourite cities, in February this year, and not impressing people with my rather hasty but honest verdict on the city’s lack of craft beer, I jumped at the chance to return last week and hoped to come out with a more attractive judgement. A couple of friends and I visited on a day out, with neither of them having been drinking in the city before. It was left to me – or rather, I volunteered – to plan the day’s itinerary and places to visit. I had a couple of new or unvisited places in mind myself, but knew it would be unfair to miss out on some of the city’s famous gems. With around 10-12 hours in which to fit in an entire city, I opted to concentrate on the famous Georgian Quarter and see if we had time for the Dale Street end later on.    We planned to arrive in the city for around 11a.m. just in time to walk up Mount Pleasant to the new-on-me, though I believe it has been opened three years, Clove Hitch on Hope Street for breakfast.