White Lady and Screech Owl

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

I think Cairngorm Brewery’s White Lady has an identity problem, as it claims to be a crystal wheat beer, which is a German style, yet it’s brewed with orange and coriander, which is definitely a Belgian style. Now Belgian Wit beers aren’t generally clear, they normally have a slight haze from all the proteins in the wheat and/or the yeast, so maybe they’re gunning for a new crossover Crystal Belgian Wit style. Personally, I’d rather have had a bit of yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle, so that I could shake it up and add that extra dimension of flavour like you do with a normal Belgian Wit beer.

Anyway, it poured a lightly burnished copper colour, with a compact white head. The head was easily formed, but dropped pretty quickly to a patchy covering, before dissipating to a faint ring around the edge of the glass. There wasn’t much on the nose, just a fresh sensation and maybe a hint of some orangey malt. After a few mouthfuls it changed and any malt aromas had gone, leaving only the faint whiff of stale carbon dioxide.

It felt quite fizzy in the mouth, turning to bubbles when swished around over the tongue, although it wasn’t obviously over carbonated by looking at it. There was also a vague carbonic edge to it and a bit of mouth prickle which I can only attribute to overly forced carbonation. It was hard to tell how well balanced it was due to it turning to bubbles and the mouth prickle, but I’d say the body was fine, with a decent level of bitterness. After the carbonic mouth prickle had dissipated, the mouth was left with a slightly juicy, faint orange flavour, which was joined for a bit by some coriander seed spiciness.

Overall this was a really disappointing beer, as I know Cairngorm produce some fantastic multi-award winning brews, like Trade Winds and Black Gold. It would have been so much better if it hadn’t been force carbonated so heavily, that stale carbon dioxide thing that it had going on was really poor.

I wasn’t too sure about this Castle Rock Screech Owl from looking at the bottle, a "Strong IPA" is it? Well no, it’s only 5.5.%, that’s not strong! That’s not as strong as Thornbridge Jaipur IPA or Summer Wine Diablo IPA or any of The Kernel’s amazing India Pale Ales for instance.

As it turns out, I’ve actually had this beer on cask; my untappd comment just says Very Nice, which wasn’t very helpful in reminding me of what it looked or tasted like.

It poured a lovely copper colour, with a fluffy white head. The head was easily formed and dropped relatively slowly. The nose was really exciting, with an obvious hop presence; in fact it reeked of subtle pithy orange and grapefruit. While it wasn’t a patch on the aroma of some beers from some of the UK’s new wave and progressive brewers, any Kernel Pale Ale for instance, it was still pretty decent.

It felt quite full bodied in the mouth, with a bit of malt flavour to support the wave after wave of bitterness that swept through the mouth. The subtle pithy orange and grapefruit aromas of the nose, were also present in the taste, at least initially. Once the bitterness cut in, it pretty much swamped everything and by the time it settled, there wasn’t much left, other than a juicy mouth. Eventually though, the mouth dried out and a slightly yeasty, orange flavoured cardboard taste was left as a last reminder.

It was a beer the promised much and while it delivered most of it, was unltimately a bit of a let down. The bitterness wasn’t integrated well enough with the rest of the body and the aftertaste was non-existent. What should have been a long and lingering bitter orange and grapefruit flavoured taste sensation, was nothing more than some juicy cardboard. Initially I thought it was a good attempt, but the more I think about it and about most Kernel Pale Ale’s I’ve had, it becomes more and more of a let down.

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