In Newcastle over the summer I was keeping a special eye out for Mordue Brewery's Workie Ticket. Back when beer blogging was new, this dark ale was cooed over and given awards by those in the know about British beer. It didn't show up in any of the pubs I was in but I did see it on the shelves of a convenience store so couldn't resist buying one to take home. So how does it live up to the hype in a British beer culture that has changed substantially since I last heard its name mentioned?
Reasonably well, is the answer. It's a dark red-brown and smells worryingly sweet, like brown sugar and treacle. This migrates to a kind of burnt caramel on tasting, which is comforting, and the residual sugar is further offset by a generous dose of green vegetal English hops. I don't quite understand the hype, though that may have something to do with me drinking it bottled rather than draught. Served cold, however, it is refreshing and quenching, despite the sweetness, and aided by a light 4.5% ABV. A little like Newkie Brown, in fact: a beer I've long had a bit of a soft spot for.
The shop where I bought it was running a three-for-£5 promotion, so I brought this one back with a couple of companions. One was Mordue's Radgie Gadgie, a strong bitter at 4.8% ABV. It's a little to the red side of gold and smelled somewhat skunky at first, but that dissipated quickly leaving a quite lagery mild golden syrup smell. Tastewise it's almost as sweet as the previous beer, showing slabs of hard toffee and Lucozade. A late bitterness sweeps in behind it but the effect is nothing you'd call balance, being too sharply acidic. Nowhere near as much fun as Workie Ticket. My fiver is seeming less well-spent now.
Back to brown ale for the third of the set: Vaux Double Maxim. Well, sort of: it's definitely more red than brown. Unsurprisingly given the clear glass it's quite skunky, though the main feature of the aroma is the sweet toffee typical of boring brown bitter. There's a richer caramel in the flavour, a tang of damsons and a little milk chocolate. The texture is full and smooth yet somehow still manages to convey a certain wateriness due, I think, to the paleness. Workie Ticket isn't anything like as nuanced but is definitely a better beer for all its loudness.
A mixed bag, but I think the 1997 Champion Beer of Britain has the edge.
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