"If there is a brewery in the UK more on top of its game than Hawkshead, name it."
There were plenty of responses, and calls for other breweries that were on level pegging, but very few people disagreeing outright. Personally I'd argue that in terms of consistency combined with great tasting, interesting beers (which is surely as good a measure of a brewery as any) that Magic Rock and Summer Wine are both up there too.
Hawkshead's "Well Hopped" range is probably their most beer geek focused output to date, and yet remains hugely drinkable and well structured. Here's what I thought to the three bottles Hawkshead sent me through to try (thanks guys):
The aroma is tangerine, lime, zest, pith, orange booze. Lighter than I expected though.
The beer itself has a sweet piney backbone with layers of pithy hops on top, bitterness in the finish, but then a lasting hop depth. It's unbelievably layered in its hop flavour - Orange, mango, lime, pine, tangerine pith, grapefruit, sweet gooseberry.
Complex and deep yet instantly gratifying.
The aroma is actually lighter than I expected. I was expecting an IPA but this is a funny one, and has much more in common with the regular windy pale than I was expecting. The aroma is a mix of grapefruit, citrus, orangey fruit salad, but there's a little hay in there too.
The flavour is lightly sweet, dry and grainy with a bitter, fruity finish. It's good, but is it better than the classic windy pale? I'm not sure. Is the extra hop hit a success? On the whole, yes, it makes a nice alternative to the original Windermere Pale - but it's not a superior beer in my opinion.
Cumbrian Five Hop
The aroma is tangerine, grapefruit, lime with a lingering sweetness. The flavour is initially a big waft of mixed citrus and grapefruit before a malty sweetness breezes through, very swiftly followed by a resinous, puckering dryness with lots of pine and more bitter grapefruit.
That bitter dryness really kicks your arse at a point when you almost think the beer has shown all it's cards. It pulls you in for the next sip though, which is just as good as the last.
All in all, these are fantastic beers. I think I'd find it hard to choose a favourite between the Cumbrian 5 Hop and the NZPA, but I'm struggling to think when I would choose this version of the Windermere Pale over the other two. It's still a very, very good beer. But just misses the mark by comparison in my opinion.
But maybe I'm a little biased as the original Windy Pale is a personal favourite.
On top of their game? I'd certainly say so.
Hawkshead Well Hopped range - NZPA, Windermere Pale and Cumbrian Five Hop
Hawkshead Well Hopped range - NZPA, Windermere Pale and Cumbrian Five Hop Reviewed by Neil, Eating isn't Cheating on Monday, July 16, 2012 Rating: 5