Right, lets get the label of Ridgeway’s Bad Elf out of the way first; in my opinion, it’s terrible. I really don’t get on with that whole cartoon elves and goblins type label thing, it’s just not my frothing mug of beer. I know that some people like it though, a few folk I chatted with at the regional heat thought it was great, or funny, so your milage may vary. However, part of the judging criteria at the regional heats was to take the label into account, so for me, it shouldn’t even be in the competition, no matter what it tastes like.
Surprisingly, this is the first bottle I’ve had in this years competition that’s been bottle conditioned, I’ve been quite surprised at how few of this years selection are. That meant the pour was slightly more delicate than all the others so far, I didn’t want any sediment in the glass. It poured a marmalade copper colour, with a very loose marmalade tinged head. The head was slow to form and I had to pour from a bit of a height just to get a single fingers worth. It was one of those heads that foams as you pour, a melee of bubbles popping into and out of existence. It didn’t last long and dropped to a patch in the centre of the glass in short order, before disappearing completely.
I didn’t get much on the nose, at least not much that I could identify, as whatever was there was so faint, I couldn’t pick it out. If I’m being generous, I’d say there was a faint aroma from some of the malt, what it actually smelled of though, I couldn’t say.
It was instantly obvious from the first sip that this bottle hadn’t conditioned correctly, as the beer was practically flat. That meant that it was really soft in the mouth and the flavours were a bit muddled because of it, it could really have used a bit of effervescence to lift the differing flavours apart. It had a good body though, but for my tastes, wasn’t quite balanced enough, the malty sweetness overcoming what little bitterness revealed itself. I’m going to have to be generic here and just say it tasted malty, because there’s nothing else I can really say, there was no obvious marmalade, caramel, toffee or any other kind of obvious malt taste, just a general maltiness. At least until the aftertaste, which had a spiciness to it, think ground coriander and that kind of thing.
All in all, a disappointing bottle from last years winning brewer. However, like all bottle conditioned beers, it could just be this bottle being duff, I’ll have to buy another and see if it exhibits the same problem. My main gripe though, is that claim that there are three pounds of hops in every barrel, implying that it will be quite a bitter beer. All I can say is that it must have been a very big barrel, as it really wasn’t that bitter at all.
Ah, there’s nothing quite like a bit of brand extension to get the heart racing, or maybe not… Harviestoun’s Wild Hop IPA was one of my favorites in last year’s competition, so it was a bit disappointing to see them doing a Greene King (IPA Gold, IPA Reserve…!?!) and releasing a different beer under the Wild Hop name. Why not just call it something else, Golden Hop or something, it’s almost like they’re trying to cash in on the fact they had a similarly named beer in the stores last year. I’m sure the beer buying public could handle a different name.
Anyway, it poured a surprisingly light copper colour, I certainly wouldn’t have called it golden. It had a loosish white head that was easily formed, but dropped fairly quickly. The nose was chock full of ripe mango which was really nice and thankfully without any of the cat wee aroma that using too many Citra hops can result in. I’m not sure I picked out any Simcoe though, it’s normally quite resinous, what a lot of people would describe as piney, for me it was tropical fruit all the way.
This was probably the most flavourful beer I’ve had from the competition yet, with massive hop flavours rampaging around the mouth. It was quite well balanced though, not overly bitter, but just bitter enough that you couldn’t really discern any flavours from the malt backbone. In fact, it almost felt a bit watery in the mouth at the start, but this might just have been down to the fact that it made the mouth water with all the juicy tropical bitterness. Ripe mangoes, pineapple, maybe even a bit of lychee and passion fruit, it was fantastic. The only letdown was a little bit of that Citra cat wee flavour coming in right at the death of the aftertaste, but it was just a teeny bit and didn’t really detract from what is so far, my favorite beer in the competition
- Wild Hop Gold, 4.4%, 500ml
If I have any complaints, it’s that I thought it could have done with a touch more bitterness. It was very, very flavourful, but not overly bitter. I would have loved for it to just have had a bit more bite, but that’s brand extension for you, I’ll just need to track down some bottles of Wild Hop IPA for that.