Thursday, 6 October 2011

Day 140, Beer 140 - Oakham's "JHB"

Today's Beer

Name – JHB  (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter)

Brewer – Oakham Ales

Classification – Bitter (in a Golden Ale kind of way)

Strength – 4.2% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Suspiciously like a golden ale.

On the nose – Salted butter, white grapes, savoury biscuit.

On the tongue – One of the first ultra-hopped, high-citrus beers... and still among the best.

On the subject – John Wood, the brewery's original owner, set up a fairly modest venture in the small Rutland town of Oakham at the back end of the last millennium. Things worked out very nicely. These days, the beer is brewed in the rather more mighty Peterborough, and the regime is decidedly larger in scale. The end products, I'm glad to say, are just as good as ever.

On the market – Somehow, despite all their success and their enviable industry reputation, Oakham Ales' beers can still be tricky to find. Fortunately, the ever-willing internet solves this by allowing you to visit the likes of My Brewery Tap.

On the

Full Review

In the world of craft beer, the march of progress has developed into a full blown sprint in recent years, and few beers can better encapsulate the distance travelled than Jeffrey Hudson Bitter.

There was a time – not so very long ago – when this beer was being hailed as visionary, futuristic and ground breaking.

And that's because it was all of those things in the murky wilderness of the late 1990's.

Back then, the concept of a bitter being golden in colour and grapefruit in flavour was practically the stuff of science fiction. Whereas now – just a short industry revolution hence – this description would apply to almost seventy percent of all newly launched beers.

Whether that statistic pleases you or not is one thing, but there's little doubt that this beer (and one or two others) can lay a strong claim to being the catalyst for this new wave of hop dominant ales.

But although this brew now sits on the shelf among an ever extending list of similar drinks, there's little doubt that there's still something a bit darned special about it. Few golden citrus beers that have subsequently appeared on the scene can be said to have bettered it.

It may have been among the first, but it firmly remains one of the very finest.

These beers – much more so than conventional bitters – demand a good degree of chilling. Not as much as a lager would, but greater amounts than a darker, more malt-balanced rendition. The high note fruits simply blur without it, like warm juice would, or any carbonated soft drink.

But at cellar temperature (or preferably just a little below), this beer hits you with a dynamism and intensity which is both refreshing and - speaking quite frankly - utterly thrilling.

It's dry without being harsh, immediate without being aggressive, it's clearly been assembled with enormous amounts of skill and care, and all of this results in a hugely rewarding and memorable beer.

Is it really a bitter?

Given that so many other beers of 'this sort' now exist which can often be found laying claim to many different classifications, isn't it about time they settled on a name all of their own – if only to save us poor consumers from all this post-purchase head scratching?

Well, maybe so. (Especially when these dark brown bottles reveal so few of their secrets...)

But on this occasion I'm really not prepared to dwell on such matters, because the liquid in my glass is absolutely delightful, and that's all I'm inclined to care about.

What was once futuristic and ground breaking is now an absolute classic of its kind.

Whatever 'kind' that may be.


arn said...

The current 'Cambridgeshire Summer ale' in M&S is i understand a rebranded JHB, slightly more accessible for most.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

arn - Fabulous. Thanks for that.

It's certainly an intriguing slice of insider knowledge, but one which makes the recent closure of my local M&S that bit more painful.

I'll definitely grab one when I get chance.

Leigh said...

I generally really like Oakham - they pack a lot of flavour into thier beers. Citra's quite possibly the best Citra beer I've ever had. But I do struggle with JHB - it's almost too bitter...for my taste!

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

Leigh - Yes, they've really got some great beers.

As for the bitterness - I nearly always think 'more is more.' Once you get onto beers like St Peter's Suffolk Gold, then even I start to quake with fear. But I'd say the bitterness of JHB is nicely within my limits.