Thursday, 14 April 2011

Day 80, Beer 80 - Woodforde's "Sundew"

Today's Beer

Name - Sundew

Brewer - Woodforde's

Classification - Golden Ale

Strength - 4.1% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye - Mango tinted gold.

On the nose - Peachy, tangerine delightfulness.

On the tongue - Crisp, elegant, fruity, refreshing but with a bad case of dandruff. (See below!)

On the subject - One of my favourite breweries as far as their cask versions are concerned - they, like many other breweries, have chosen the wrong method of bottle-conditioning their gorgeous beers, and I've just about had enough of this. Do, please, read on...

On the market - Quite scarce in bottled form, and on this evidence, popularity is unlikely to broaden unless changes are made. Simple changes - that would make an enormous difference. For those eager to put my views to the test - try the brewery's online store.

On the whole - 7/10* (* - marked down from 8/10 due to a 'technical issue'.)

Full Review

I couldn't finish this drink.

That is about as sad an opening to a beer review as you're ever likely to read, and it was certainly upsetting for me to have to write it - especially given that the beer itself was so delicious.

The reason why good ale went to waste is pretty straightforward. This (properly stored and carefully poured) brew was almost knee deep in fat lumps of yeast.

Huge asteroids of unattractiveness piled up on the base of the glass, while various other globules hovered motionless amidst the rest of the liquid.

Some darker ales might have got away with this, by camouflaging the offending particles. But a light golden ale like this had no such luck.

If anything, the lightness of hue did much to exaggerate the awfulness, and for a beer of such otherwise wonderful character and thirst-quenching appeal, it was so upsetting to behold.

The fact is, the ale being spoiled here is a very fine ale indeed. Soft citrus twangs, stronger floral bursts and a buttery malt undercurrent which balances the whole in the most excellent fashion - it's all pretty darn special really.

But, at the same time, it's almost impossible to enjoy.

To add to the misery, one can detect that this would otherwise be a beautiful looking ale, with a warm honey/mango glow which lends itself delightfully with the brew's cool, crisp summertime appeal.

This beer is so nice, that it's just the last sort of drink you'd wish to be the victim of such bottle-conditioned ruination.

But, alas, ruined it was.

Now, I refuse to blame myself for all this. That's what some folk would like me to do - accept responsibility for an error in storage or in my serving technique - but what a ridiculous state of affairs, when a drinker is blamed for the fact he can't imbibe a beverage - because someone else dumped too much unbridled matter into it long before he got it home.

I call on CAMRA to take a fresh look at their 'This Is Real-Ale' stamp of approval, and how it's awarded. The mere presence of yeast should not be enough to earn that badge, because what use is a 'real ale' that you can't enjoy?

Various systems of bottle-conditioning are at work within the industry and it's pretty damned obvious that some work far better than others. Arbitrarily chucking in yeast is a world apart from having modest and far more refined amounts secured (somehow) to the bottom of a bottle like some companies manage to achieve.

CAMRA need to start raising the bar here. They need to reward those who not only add yeast, but do it 'neatly' and in such a way that it does not murder the fine ales it's meant to be enhancing.

Breweries alone don't seem willing to sort this out, so CAMRA need to 'encourage' them to do so before the yeast backlash really gathers pace.

Speaking personally, I now actively avoid buying bottle-conditioned beers because financially speaking - the risk just ain't worth it.

I know for a fact I'm by no means alone.

Anyway, in summary, Woodforde's Sundew is an absolutely marvellous beer which, unless certain changes are made, I would never dare to buy.



Curmudgeon said...

"I now actively avoid buying bottle-conditioned beers because financially speaking - the risk just ain't worth it."

Snap, or at least bottle-conditioned beers from new/small breweries. White Shield, Bengal Lancer, Special London Ale, Summer Lightning are fine. But anything from a smaller micro is just pot luck, and it isn't worth bothering with. I can't help thinking this has become a shibboleth for CAMRA.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

PC - You're right about it being an especially big problem with the smaller brands. It may be that this is a purely cost based issue, but for those who can't afford to do it well, I would strongly recommend they didn't do it at all. This is where CAMRA could help by making qualification via rudimentary 'yeast dump' impossible, and therefore discouraging the practice of unsuccessful techniques.