Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
On Saturday the 16th of June I headed down to what is most certainly one of my favourite bars in London, Cask Pub & Kitchen. The pub was hosting the launch party of a collaborative brew between two of who I personally think are among the best breweries in the world, Odell and Thornbridge. I started drinking beer from these guys way before I decided to start writing about it and in my opinion they keep churning out awesome beer after awesome beer. The brew being launched this evening is called Pond Hopper, which is being billed as a ‘Double Extra Pale Ale’ and tonight would be perhaps the only chance I would get to try it on keg. Also in attendance was Doug Odell from Odell brewing along with Caolan and Dom from Thornbridge who gave a little talk about the inception of the beer and also provided geeks like me with the opportunity to meet the brewers.
I’d managed to convince my friends Johnny and Dom to come along for this evening’s ride. Of all my poor friends who’ve had my beer geekery thrust upon them over the last eighteen months these two have been among the most receptive, more fool them. I headed to Cask straight from work and arrived at around seven pm, I saw Johnny in the queue for the bar when I arrived so had him order me an Odell Double Pilsner, one of the other Odell beers that was available on keg this evening. I ordered this beer as I thought it would be a nice refreshing way to begin the session and although it was pleasant enough it was a little too sweet for my tastes and didn’t have enough hop bitterness to fully hide the strong alcohol content.
Apologies for the blurry photo, it's quite a strong beer
It was soon my round, I headed to the bar to order myself some Dunkel Ryzen, a limited edition beer brewed by Odell especially for this evenings proceedings, they were really out to spoil us tonight. As I ordered the beers I turned to my left and realised I was standing next to Doug and it was great to have a brief chat with him. I’ve met him once before on my last trip to Colorado and he was as pleasant and talkative as ever, this is a man who really knows a thing or two about his beer, a genuine legend in the modern craft beer scene. The Dunkel Ryzen was excellent, similar to a dark wheat beer but with a little more sweetness, more body and in true Odell fashion, more hops. I could talk a little more about this beer but tonight it was merely a support act for the main event, Pond Hopper.
By this point Dom (not Dom from Thornbridge, my friend with the same name) had joined us and we had lined our guts with burgers and burritos from the excellent menu at Cask. It was time to order ourselves a Pond Hopper and boy was it worth the wait. If you’ve had Odell IPA then you know what a world beater this beer is, if you’ve had Thornbridge Halcyon then you know just how good Thornbridge beers can taste when they are at the top of their game. If you’re reading this and you’ve not tried either of those two beers then I urge you to seek them out immediately and if you have then imagine the skill and expertise that goes into crafting these beers individually then combine them into one glorious whole and then you’re pretty close to perceiving just how wonderful Pond Hopper is.
Pond Hopper is a transatlantic fusion of American Hops with British Malts but despite being billed as an ‘extra pale ale’ the colour of this beer is closer to being amber which isn’t surprising considering the sheer volume of malt used in this brew. It retains a smallish off white head and the beer produces an aroma of mango, orange peel, lavender and toffee which translates beautifully into your first taste. The delicate mango aromas become a blistering assault of tropical fruit on the palate and then bitter flavours of orange and grapefruit come along to join the party. These bitter flavours are supported on a massive scaffold of malt which bring to mind a huge slab of toasted white bread dipped into a vat of melted caramel. What makes this beer truly wonderful is that all of these big, powerful flavours are beautifully balanced and the 8.9% ABV is barely detectable, don't let my analogy of the malt flavours deceive you, this is definitely one for the hop heads. The flavours are definitely closer to what I would associate with Odell beers rather than Thornbridge beers but considering it was made in their brewery using their equipment/water/yeast etc this is not really surprising.
So, with Pond Hopper tasting so damn good it would have been rude not to go back for seconds, or indeed thirds. Johnny, being the gentlemen and bloody thoroughly nice bloke he is bought me a bottle to take home as a birthday present and after all the excitement this beer caused within me Dom brought me half a Magic Rock Rapture to calm me down, good thinking. After the launch was all but over we got itchy feet and after Dom left us Johnny and I headed to Brewdog Camden to carry on our quest towards enlightenment. Somewhere between the Great Divide Yeti and the I Hardcore U I lost both the ability to speak and stand up so probably decided to go home, if only I could remember how I got there.
Pond Hopper is a limited release brew that will likely only be released once and as bottles are starting to appear in shops now I highly recommend you pick one up, you won’t be disappointed.