I had to review these two bottles together really, as Williams Brothers Hipsway is named after an Eighties Glaswegian band of the same name and The Honeytheif was the first song on their eponymously named debut album from 1986. I find it quite interesting that the punters at the Great British Beer Hunt regional heat liked both of them enough to get them through to the final; different, but connected.
I decided to start with the Hipsway, a beer that is cold conditioned on an infusion of whole hops and strawberries. It poured a slightly hazy amber colour, mainly as the bottle had thrown a touch of sediment and I didn’t notice until it was all in the glass. The loose white head didn’t last and dropped to a patchy covering fairly sharpish. The nose was interesting, as you could smell the strawberry, it was subtle, but there, lending a nice sweet fruitiness to the aroma.
It was quite full in the mouth, with a soft and delicate mouthfeel that wrapped the palate with comforting flavors. The malt profile felt quite neutral and well balanced with a subtle fruity bitterness, that was pitched so as to be almost unnoticeable after the initial prickle. Everything about it was subtle and soft, even the strawberry flavours were subtle.
Imagine having a strawberry coulis, jam packed with strawberry flavour. Now imagine how your mouth tastes a few minutes after your last mouthful of it, that’s what the strawberry flavour in this beer was like. It was almost like it was the last vestiges of the strawberry flavour, there and then gone. It was an interesting beer with some interesting flavours, but given some of the other beers in the competition, it’s a solid effort, rather than a spectacular one.
The Honey Thief poured a pin bright straw colour, with a solid white head sat on top. While the head dropped to a covering fairly quickly, it looked pretty nice and appetising sitting in the glass. The tasting notes on the back of the bottle claimed that there would be lemon and gooseberry notes in the aroma, there might very well have been, buy my olfactory senses couldn’t pick any of that up.
They did pick up a hint of honey though, which was unsurprising given that the lingering aftertaste of this beer, is all about the honey mummy. It started out with an initial citric bitter prickle, before giving way to a fruity maltiness and finally that honey tinged, pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
Honey beers can be quite divisive, most fall into the love or hate category. I like mine to have a powerful honey flavour, like Thornbridge’s sublime Bracia, which is brewed with Italian chestnut honey. I don’t know what honey Williams Brothers used in this, but it ticked all my boxes. I thought it was really, really nice, with the honey working really well with the flavour and bitterness from the hops.