I am sitting in the HAND Bar, in Falmouth, an Aladdin’s cave of keg beer, with a gang of brewers from local Verdant and visiting Cloudwater. They have been working on a collaboration during the day and I’ve asked what it is, to be given the answer: “It’ll be pale and hoppy.” Adam Robertson, Verdant brewer and roving brand ambassador arrives. I tell him what I’ve been told. “Can you elaborate on pale and hoppy?” I ask, hopefully. “Sure,” he says. “It’s really pale and hoppy.” Should’ve known, I suppose.
As the boys were in town, HAND owner Pete Walker, had put on a Cloudwater tap takeover. Seven beers on the taps and a selection in cans, too, available from his new shop, next door to the Old Brewery Yard, High Street, bar.
The headline act was very much the 9% ABV Triple IPA Citra BBC, which was a great experience. Terrific body, deep and rich tropical fruit notes, slightly dank around the edge. A pulp-like juiciness. Meal in a glass. Well, dessert, at least. I posted a social media pic of it and you’d think, from some reactions, I’d drunk something unforgivable. “Sorry, but that looks disgusting,” was one comment; “We don’t want to see pictures from the following morning”, another. Fortunately, my friend, Kevin, was the voice of reason, a dedicated CAMRA member who’s not afraid to push boundaries and who likes a hop. “It was fantastic,” he said, though adding “but best drunk with my eyes closed”.
Cloudwater and Verdant brewers in discussion
Fortunately, the likes of Cloudwater and Verdant have found their market. They’ve heard these comments, but they have a (rapidly growing) niche and carry on doing what they do. I do get mad, though, when drinkers run these beers down on social media when they clearly haven’t tried them.
Terrific experience though that beer was, for me, two others were the stars of the show. DDH Pale Centennial (5.5% ABV) was the one you would want a couple of pints of while putting the world to rights. Centennial hops have some Ekuanot added which gives a vibrant edge to orange and grapefruit notes, but the malt balance is terrific, giving smooth sweet notes and a good body. This, to me, exemplifies this hazy, New England style of pale ale. Great stuff.
But, let’s hear it for Small Vic Secret Citra Pale (pictured, right), coming in at … 2.9% ABV. Really, if you had told me this was the same ABV as the DDH Pale Centennial, I’d have gone with that. It has body, it has flavour, it has balance, it has terrific hop notes. Like the wonderful Redemption Trinity (3% ABV), from London, this is going in my book as a low-ABV favourite I’ll be looking out for again. Hazy straw in colour, there are fresh grapefruit and lemon zest notes, bit of peach, and some herbal and spicy flavours. A work of art.
The beers will be on for a day or two yet, I’m sure, and I recommend you get down to HAND to try these. And if you’re quick, you might also get to try a beer overlooked on this occasion, but which I managed to sneak in a half of: modern classic Jakehead IPA (6.3% ABV), from the Wylam Brewery in the North East. After all that haze, a change of direction to finish the session — robust cask IPA, quite British in style, with the unmistakable marmalade orange flavour against a cracking rich malt.
And a lift home, too (thanks!) … who could ask for more…?