Name – River Cottage Stinger
Classification – Organic ale
Strength – 4.5% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Warm, intense yellow gold.
On the nose – Delicious buttery malts with mesmerising, ultra-fresh zesty hops.
On the tongue – A vibrant fruit cocktail, with it's inevitable 'Badger' sweetness kept nicely in check by a cleverly pitched bitterness.
On the subject – Badger Brewery and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's well regarded River Cottage enterprise have collaborated on this brew, and the result – whilst still being an inescapably 'Badger' beer – is actually quite unique.
On the market –Not the most ubiquitous of Badger's labels (and that's a pity) but Ocado have cottoned on and more larger outfits are following suit. Hugh himself would probably prefer you to go online at Vintage Roots.
On the whole – 8/10
On the whole – 8/10
Is there such a thing as 'lightly peppered, bitter-fruit honey'?
If there is, then I'm going use it as a handy comparison to this gently eccentric, enormously well crafted beer.
As soon as I'd tasted it, I knew it was to become one of my favourite Badger beers. Or, to be slightly more pedantic with the truth, it was only after a few sips that I remembered it was a Badger beer at all.
And the reason for this is simple.
That distinctive sweetness which all Badger ales seem obliged to contain (call it the Badger 'theme') is mercifully and gloriously understated here, and it merely forms part of the whole experience, rather than being allowed to dominate as is the case with so many brews from this famous outfit.
But then, there's another 'famous outfit' in the mix here, and perhaps it is the influence of Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage tribe that has made the key difference here. After all, it is very easy to assume that this beer's sense of greater balance has been brought about by someone whose tongue is well practised at judging the intricacies of flavour management.
I give credit to Badger too, though, not only for having the vision to go ahead with this team effort (and for selecting a collaborator whose own perspective on things seems to complement that 'brewed from nature' feel which they like to instil in their beers) but I also commend them for allowing their co-conspirator plenty of room to lead the drink in a new direction. Because the reality is that this really is something of a ground-breaker for Badger, and whilst not being a giant leap away from their cherished formula, it is still significant enough to suggest they are beginning to entertain the notion of experimenting with new ways to brew beer – which I believe could be a very exciting move for this company.
Why then is it different? Especially since there is still a definite 'fruit salad' feel to the drink, with nectarine, melon and peach all being present from the word go...
Well, it's partly to do with the fact that there are also present such things as nettle, wild-grasses, celery and a subtle but heaven-sent black pepper and sea salt bitterness which helps to bring all that floral fruitiness into line. But mostly, it's not even about what makes up the flavour of the beer – it's the manner in which the whole thing has been assembled. It's just feels so delicately and painstakingly put together. Hand-made, you might say. Bespoke.
It's a refined and elegant ale, with a freshness and a vitality which make for a very rewarding drink experience.
This is 'Badger – The Directors Cut.'
As successful a collaboration as you could ever wish for in this industry.
Hats off to all concerned.