Name – O-Garden
Brewer – Otley
Classification – Wheat beer
Strength – 4.8% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Lemon gold, surprising clarity. A notably good looking beer.
On the nose – Apple, incense, Sauvignon Blanc, brandy. Pretty special.
On the tongue – Contains possibly every flavour in existence that I happen not to like. (Read on...)
On the subject – This highly respected Welsh brewery produce one of the most exciting beer ranges in Britain. Today's beer itself was crowned 'Champion Speciality Beer Of Britain' in 2008. I felt strongly compelled to say these things before continuing. I also feel inclined to remind my readers of the widely excepted notion that 'you can't please all of the people all of the time'. I think you can probably guess what's coming...
On the market – Otley's beers are almost guaranteed to be found at specialist beer retailers, and the supermarkets are now joining in too, which was always fairly inevitable. For home delivery, try the brewery's own online store.
On the whole – 6.5/10
On the whole – 6.5/10
I suspect our wonderful world would be far less wonderful if every drinker loved every beer.
Sure, we would have the advantage of never experiencing a bad beer, or a good beer we just didn't like – but we'd also lose the concept of favourite beers, and beers that burst into our lives and sweep us off our feet.
What I'm saying is, we all have different tastes and, by and large, that's a good thing.
Personally, I can get a kick out of almost any kind of beer, and whenever I'm in two minds about one particular brew, I always try to find ways to enjoy what's in front of me, as opposed to grabbing at chances to criticise it.
Old world, new wave, dark, light, strong, delicate, sweet, bitter – I can hold traditional browns, contemporary golds and experimental darks in an equally firm embrace.
But sometimes, I don't know, I just hit a wall.
There sometimes comes a point where no feature of an ale holds an appeal, and you find yourself at the mercy of your own personal preferences.
In truth, Otley's O-Garden is the victim of rotten bad luck in the context of The Bottled Beer Year.
Simply put, this is a beer whose every flavour characteristic just happens to be one I don't especially like. And given there are so few things that I actively turn my nose up at - that really is highly unlucky.
Firstly, it's a wheat beer. My occasional allergic reactions to these ales makes me wary of them from the off, and the only reason I drink them at all is to be able to include this important beer style on my list. (What a martyr I am!) Secondly, the spices used in this beer include cloves and coriander. As far as my taste buds are concerned, this is just a monumentally unfortunate combo. Poor drink. I could almost weep for it.
Then there is the 'salt' issue. This moves us onto 'genuine tragedy' territory because salt is one of my absolute favourite things on Earth, but to my taste the sense of saltiness here is actually overdone. For a man who regularly induces gasps from fellow diners when adding table salt to his meals – this is a pretty big deal. Actually, I would never have thought a beer could be too salty until today.
Furthermore, the herbal/spicy notes serve to create a distinctly medicinal feel. 'Medicinal' is a descriptive term which I tend to avoid wherever possible, because I know I find it off-putting when I read that word myself – even though I realise it's a perfectly acceptable characteristic for many drinkers. It just makes me think of illness, hospitals and NHS bleach. But, oh my goodness, there's just no avoiding that word here. This beer contains definite (and quite deliberate) medicinal flavour elements. Many beer drinkers would welcome these elements – I am not among them.
Ginger lurks here too (at least on the tongue, if not on the ingredients list) along with sharp orange peel, some metallic twangs, and a whole bunch of barely ripened fruits.
It's a 'piney' affair. As in Scots Pine. At times, it's almost like drinking the Brechfa Forest. Again, this is something that might work for some, but in amongst all the other stuff I instinctively dislike, it did little to win me over.
Perhaps this is a good time to add that my unofficial sidekick (my globe-stoppingly attractive girlfriend) absolutely adored this ale, so much so that she eventually took the Dickensian step of asking for 'more'. (A most irregular request under normal circumstances – punishable by stern glance and prolonged silence. In this case, however, the workhouse rules were relaxed completely after I permitted her to take repeated further mouthfuls of whatever size she desired.)
The name 'O-Garden' – one can't help but assume – is a play on 'Hoegaarden' – but this is a very different beast, regardless of how similar any ingredients or processes may be. Wheat, coriander and orange peel are all used in both drinks, with almost no discernible similarities resulting from this fact.
Look, I just have to be honest here.
I didn't like it.
The otherwise invulnerable Otley have brewed at least one beer that I simply could not enjoy.
And that's okay.
It is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs in a wonderful world like ours, which remains as widely diverse today as it ever was before.
My girlfriend's Oliver Twist beer-acquisition tactics are proof enough of that.