Great British Beer Hunt: Willy Nilly and Scarborough Fair IPA

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

So we get to the final two beers in this years competition, have we saved the best till last…?

Brains Willy Nilly poured a slightly red tinged chestnut brown, the level of the red varying depending on what light or surface it was held against. A tan coloured head was easily formed, but it was very loose and foamy and dropped to a patchy covering fairly quickly. The nose wasn’t the most powerful, but it was there and distinctive. Mostly it was just general fruity malt type notes, but they had a certain red berry quality to them, red currants, or some sort of red hedgerow fruit.

It felt like it had quite a nice body to it, while it could maybe have benefitted from just a bit more weight, it was fine and didn’t feel watery or thin in any way. It was quite nicely balanced, with strong fruity malt flavours, think red berries and stewed fruit, and a nice mouth tingling bitterness to counteract them. The aftertaste was a nice combination of both and while it initially left the mouth all juicy and watering, it ultimately left it feeling dry and slightly dusty.

My main beef with this beer though, was that it should have been bottle conditioned. I thought the force carbonation was just a bit too much and nearly ruined what should have been a nice soft and warming beer. The natural carbonation of bottle conditioning would have been perfect with those flavours, giving them just enough life and spark to stop them becoming jumbled. I just think that the bitterness that swept through the mouth would have had less of a carbonic edge to it and would have been better integrated into the beer, if it had been bottle conditioned. Otherwise, it was a perfectly decent beer and better than I was expecting.

I was a bit apprehensive about trying Wold Top’s Scarborough Fair IPA as I’d heard good things about it. But I’d also heard good things about their Golden Summer, which was in last years competition, and I didn’t really see what the fuss was all about, so I was hoping that this one would live up to the expectations I had.

It poured a lovely golden colour with a loose white head. The head was pretty decent and appeared to be quite solid, it fell slowly to a patchy covering and then a ring round the edge of the glass. Evidently this beer has Maize in it to aid head retention, on this showing, they need to add a bit more, as it didn’t last all that long. There wasn’t much on the nose, if I’m being generous, I’d say that taking in a lungful was similar to walking past a breakfast table that had some grapefruit halves laid out on it waiting to be consumed. There was maybe the merest impression of grapefruit, but it could have been anything slightly citric.

It wasn’t as full bodied as I was expecting from the ABV, it certainly didn’t feel like a 6% beer in the mouth. It was quite fresh tasting, even though there wasn’t an awful lot going on in either then malt or bitterness departments, it was still quite nice. Initially there were some pleasant soft and subtle grapefruit and mandarin type flavours, before some nice bitterness prickled the mouth and delivered it into a mouth wateringly juicy and nicely bitter aftertaste. Eventually the mouth was left with some pleasing marmalade flavours, but in a refreshing way. Having said all that, I think I might have drank it a bit cold, or my palate took a bit of time to adjust from the Willy Nilly, but the more I drank it, the more it gave and the more it gave the better it got.

It wasn’t a brash in yer face from the get go type of beer, it took its time to lay a solid foundation in the mouth and then when you weren’t expecting it, it kicked the overdrive pedal on and turned the amp up. The bitterness increased with each mouthful and the marmalade changed from Tesco Value Shredless to a decent bitter Seville oragne Olde English Thick Cut, everything just increased in intensity. It still wasn’t a brash showoff, just a beautifully composed and balanced beer.

I was initially going to write this off as another beer that didn’t quite make the grade, but I’d so glad it proved me wrong. While it might at first seem a bit restrained, stick with it, as it’s a really, really nice beer. Hopefully it’ll do well, I think it’s one of the best in the competition.

4 Replies to “Great British Beer Hunt: Willy Nilly and Scarborough Fair IPA”

  1. In what may count as a massive insult in beer geek circles, I’m going to ask, given the problems you’ve had retaining the heads on several of these beers, whether you’re getting your glass quite clean enough? While I roll my eyes every time someone goes on about ‘beer clean’, I do tend to give beer glasses a wash on their own in really hot water with plenty of liquid, then rinse them very thoroughly under the cold tap, and rarely have problems with headless beer.

    1. Ask away! My dimpled mug gets washed on its own in rather hot water, before getting a long rinse under the cold tap, it’s then left to drain for a bit. I normally then give it a quick dry with the tea towel, which could be the issue, depending on how clean it is. I should probably skip that step to be honest, might try that with the other bottle of Scarborough Fair IPA that I have in the fridge…

      1. Yes, skip the tea towel, unless it’s fresh from the linen drawer and totally lint free. (Glad you weren’t mortally offended. Brought back memories of the time when I was five and asked my aunt why her carpet was so dirty. Caused a diplomatic incident…)

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