01 June 2012

What's black and white and smells like a skunk?

Session logoThe Session rolls round once again and this time it's The Beer Babe hosting. She's gone all BJCP on us and has picked Pale Ale as the topic, offering a choice of 8C (English) or 10A (American). Specifically, two examples are required. It just so happened that I had a suitable pair in the fridge not getting any younger.

I haven't bothered the Badger in a while now, and vice versa. I've not seen so many of them about of late but it was sort of inevitable that the rising flood of bottled English ales would eventually wash a couple into my hands. And here they are: exposing themselves indecently at me through their clear glass bottles. I blame the parents.

Hopping Hare is the darker-coloured of the golden two, and the lighter in alcohol at 4.4% ABV. Lightstrike is present but isn't too off-putting, giving out a gentle waft more like a green-bottle pilsner than a fully skunked hop-forward English pale ale. For that I am some way thankful. The flavour is quite lagerlike too, and not in a good way. It's plain, a little grainy, and shows just a tiny hint of citrus from some token Cascade that's been thrown in with the First Gold and Goldings. It would almost qualify as sessionable, were it not for a rising, sharp, washing-up-liquid tang that coats the tongue and won't go away. I can't blame the bottle colour for my not liking this one.

I followed it with the slightly stronger England's Own: all of 4.6% ABV. No skunking at all here -- hooray -- but not much by way of hops, or anything much else, to be honest. It's all very light and inoffensive, even watery, with just a sweet fruit cordial flavour in the middle. The label describes this as "elderflower and white grape" which I'd accept as a descriptor without quibble. But that's literally all I could find in there to comment on.  England can keep it.

Pale ale -- bitter, for want of a better word -- is arguably the signature drink of England. When it's good it's very very good. So why so many of their medium-to-large breweries insist on tossing out these second-rate jobs in clear bottles just boggles my mind. I think we were supposed to find the good in pale ale as a style for this Session, but these two Badgers aren't that.


  1. Professor Pie-Tin11:05 am

    I say,well said sir.
    I often think some of these English brewers presume that just by slinging any old rubbish into a bottle it will somehow give it class.
    Even that old faithful Old Speckled Hen can be temperamental - over the last year I've had bottles that have gone from the sublime to the ridiculously bland.
    Maybe it doesn't travel well across the Irish Sea.

  2. Believe me, OSH doesn't seem to travel well into the next county (Cambs)never mind the next country. I find GK's other offering, Abbott Ale, much more reliable, even in a clear bottle.