Name - Side Pocket For A Toad
Brewer - Tring
Classification - Premium amber ale (As distinct from the 'session ale' cask version)
Strength - 4.5% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye - Orange amber. Particularly 'fruity' looking.
On the nose - Zingy gooseberry hops, subtle biscuit malts.
On the tongue - An adeptly brewed citrus-heavy dry beer. A bit different. A bit special.
On the subject - Named after the Hertfordshire market town where the brewery was founded in 1992, this firm has been on a quiet march toward market dominance ever since. On this evidence, I'd say it's time to make that march a great deal louder.
On the market - By no means everywhere. In a fair world, it would be. Try online at My Brewery Tap.
On the whole - 8.5/10
What's the real difference between a shock and a surprise?
Is it that one is essentially good and one essentially bad? Or is one simply a more extreme version of the other?
Well, whatever the differences, I'd say this beer is probably both. A 'surprisingly' sophisticated and complexly flavoured brew from a 'shockingly' unheralded brewery.
Tring is quite clearly a hive of richly creative industry.
Aside from the branding of this ale - which I wouldn't miss if they ditched it instantly and entirely - this is a beer worthy of serious national recognition.
Stylistically, it falls somewhere between a bitter and a golden ale - with all the citric and floral sharpness of a 'gold', but with all the full bodied hop dryness and firm malts of a jolly decent bitter.
That malt presence is understated and not at all sweet - bringing it nicely in line with the current fashion for intricate, highly hopped beers - which is another reason why a bit of rebranding might do this drink the power of good. The label suggests 'novelty ale', whereas the reality is a far more chic and refined premium beer. (The label is also somewhat confusing - it's really quite tricky to work out what the drink is actually called. You also have to turn the bottle fully around to discover who brewed it! A truly bizarre act of anti-self-promotion!)
Anyway, to hell with the branding - the most important thing is that this is a properly first class English beer, with a sense of superiority that punches far above it's micro-brewery weight.
A vivid, elegant, nuanced ale, with a very persuasive citrus kick, a thirst-annihilating crispness, and with a broad enough appeal to satisfy all lovers of fine ale.
Look beyond that label and buy one.
Just do it.
You'll either be shocked, surprised, or both.