Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
If you were reading earlier in the week (and why wouldn’t you have been) you will have already seen my thoughts on three beers brewed by the good folk at Summer Wine Brewery. I started on the beers that I thought would least appeal to my twisted tastes, a porter, an espresso stout and a Saison, the latter literally blowing my mind and forcing me to reconsider my opinion on this style of ale.
Now though, it is time to review three beers that are placed firmly in my ballpark because by my reckoning they will have been dry hopped to high hell and back and I’ll tell you what, I wasn’t wrong. For the record I didn’t review these beers at the same time for fear of the blight that is palate fatigue. As much as I love the overpowering flavours brought about by hop flowers I do dislike that they temporarily render me unable to taste anything else which isn’t handy when you’re trying to review a beer.
The first hop laden tonic to have the pleasure of lacing my glass is Covenant, a ‘red-hop’ style ale. Until maybe a few months ago I would have said that this style of brew was my favourite because it has a good combination of hop and malt flavours and delivers the best of both worlds but more recently I’ve found my favourite brews are generally pale ales that have had the living daylights dry hopped out of them. Covenant pours a deep amber-red colour and leaves a nice off white head, there is plenty of carbonation which is nice to see in this type of beer as I feel it helps those complex flavours work their way into your palate. It has the distinct aroma of pine needles, ground black pepper and citrus with a slight sweetness at the end. The mouth feel is lovely, Covenant has plenty of body matched with a sharp citrus bite and an almost earthy, freshly cut grass taste backed up with a malt sweetness that’s not unlike a digestive biscuit or perhaps a hob nob. This beer is ideal for fans of beers like Brewdog 5am saint or Magic Rock Rapture however if you’re a fan of something like Old Speckled Hen (you poor soul) I strongly urge you to try Covenant as I’m pretty sure it’ll set you on to the wonderfully dark path to hop addiction.
A devilish trio of ales...
Hermes is a pale ale that gives more than just a tip of a hat to our American friends across the water. Despite not being as strong as a typical IPA I was hit by a wave of lemon, grapefruit and tropical aromas as I poured it into my glass and before I had even taken my first sip I could tell that I was going to really enjoy this beer. The first think that struck me about Hermes is how well balanced the flavours are and how massive it tasted for a beer of only 5% ABV as I’m more accustomed to beers with this much going on being around the 7% mark. The flavours are predominantly bitter citrus fruits but with definite hints of more exotic flavours such as passion fruit and lychee dancing around in the background. The hops in this beer are fantastic but it is the perfect balance of the malts keeping them in check that makes this beer so drinkable. I think that out of the hoppy beers in this selection this was my favourite and this is definitely an ale that I would happily stick to all night if it was on in one of my local craft beer houses.
The final beer is Summer Wines hop monster, Diablo IPA which, unsurprisingly was the beer that I was most excited about tasting and as such I made sure it was the last of the six beers in my mixed case that I got around to trying. Pouring it into the glass I did not get quite what I expected, whereas Hermes managed to produce a lovely, crisp white head Diablo failed to produce even a whisper of foam. The beer was not flat, there were plenty of bubbles whizzing about inside the glass and the nose was one of huge, bitter grapefruit but sadly this was the case with both of my bottles. Hop monster is about right when it comes to describing Diablo as the hops are big, aggressive and very immediate with the flavour of sharp grapefruit dominating from the outset like a world class test batsman. I really enjoyed this beer but I found it lacking a little in the malt department, the hops eclipsed the other elements this beer and I found myself wishing it had a little more backbone. After I had almost finished my first bottle is struck me that this beer strongly reminded me of the original recipe for Punk IPA which was a lot more bitter and less balanced than its current incarnation so if you were a fan of original recipe punk this might just be the best way to get your fix.
There is no denying that Summer Wine brewery are a serious brewing force to be reckoned with (and are lovely to deal with to boot) and I definitely have them down as one of the most innovative and knowledgeable British craft brewers about at the moment. I enjoyed all six of the beers in this selection but the three that really stood out as exceptional were Teleporter with its massive barrage of ten different malts, Hermes which is a sublimely drinkable hop forward pale ale and the absolute stand out winner was Saison which knocked me for six. Thanks to Summer Wine I’ve already been out and picked up some Saison Dupont to review at some point in the future and potentially a weekend jaunt to Belgium is on the cards later this year…
Don’t forget you can order this mixed case direct from Summer Wine from their website which I highly recommend you do.