There's a certain sense of rush-job about the branding on the can of True Blonde, the stark canary yellow makes me feel that the brewers may be slightly ashamed of it; that the 5%-er is a commodity beer, designed for nothing more than to fill a space in the line-up. Which is a shame because it's really rather nice. It's nearly but not quite clear yellow and has a lovely soft easy-going texture. The flavour offers mild lemony bubblegum, a helles-like lagery grain, and a cheeky pinch of spicing right on the end: cedar, sandalwood or something similarly aftershave-ish. If it happens that you are just looking for a commodity quencher then this will fit the bill very nicely indeed, but it rewards more considered drinking as well.
I followed it with Rudie, a session IPA with a very modest 4.5% ABV. I think it suffers a little from the lack of malt gravity: the hops are harsh and grassy and the finish is an abrupt watery stop. The fun features of hops are all present: juicy mango and passionfruit, plus heavy oily dank, but you only get flashes before they're buried under the acidic burn. I appreciate the brewers' efforts at squeezing all the stonking hop flavours of a big IPA into a low-alcohol package, but it hasn't really worked. This needs more malt or a gentler hand on the bitterness dial.
Which brings us to Modus Mandarina. I'm on record as being basically against the fruited IPA trend but Ken in DrinkStore asserted that this one is worth trying. The can tells me it uses orange peel rather than the whole fruit or its juice and that's in its favour. It's a beautiful dark copper colour and smells faintly of old-fashioned orangeade, the lurid stuff we drank as children which had never had an orange anywhere near it. The peel really shows itself in the flavour: oily and waxy, but not unpleasant. And that's about all that happens. A burning bitterness finishes it off but there's not much flavour contribution from the Mandarina Bavaria hops. One-dimensional, perhaps, but it is enjoyable to drink. There's an uncomplicated richness to it, a luxurious quality that I found very relaxing. Most importantly it's not trying too hard to be an IPA.