Now that my own brew has been tasted and reviewed by others, albeit not on this blog, I don't feel so bad about branching out and trying some others that have been stacking up waiting for my treatment of them. Tonight's effort goes to Potton Brewery's Shambles Bitter as I have been marking and fancied something alcoholic to ease the evening.
The bottle is one of those simple ones that I seem to like and brown glass, another plus. Obviously artificially carbonated rather than bottle conditioned upon opening and it poured well with a lot of activity but a fizzy and fast head that didn't hang around. Tawny colour, darkening to walnut, with the definite scent of bitter hops hanging around but nothing obvious enough for me to pin a flavour to it. At 4.3% ABV this was shaping up to be a comfortable ale that would fit nicely into a relaxed evening.
First sip was not too heartening. A brief hint of malt gave way to some bittering hops but these lacked punch or nose. Then it was gone. After-taste was watery, of all things, and whilst not awful was not really in the same range of quality I have come to expect. After my night out in Leeds and Fuller's 1845 I think I am coming to expect a little more from my tipples of an evening. Carbonation is very much artificial but hardly enough to fill the gap left by the taste. It's hard to adequately describe my disappointment with this bitter. It has all the right component parts - bitter hops, light malt, good colour - but they never really combine. The best I can do is say that it feels as though the overall taste has shrunk, and now the space is taken over with the water in which the brew was made. If it were a cordial I would say it had been made too weak, the sort of tea where the water is introduced to the teabag briefly and then left to mull on the milk.
Willow tried it too and pronounced it 'nondescript'. She also, interestingly, concurred with my statement that my own homebrew tasted better than this. I mean, that's not a good sign for this ale. Given I bought it over-priced, I feel, from my local supermarket before Christmas I am very disappointed with the result. I had been saving this as something that would be clever and crafted and... well, it was from the Home Counties. I expected refinement. I got cowardice. This is the Cadman of ale, for those that remember Victor comics and annuals in the late 1980s. Likely to see the enemy and then spend too long trying to find a cowardly way out rather than beat a retreat. Insidiousness that causes routs, I fear, rather than decisive actions that lose or win battles.
It'll do for the evening, it's not that bad (it's not Tod's Blonde after all) but it pales rather badly compared to my latest ales and tastings. Here's hoping the next selections won't fare so badly!