The Wensleydale Brewery is located in Bellerby, a village at the lower end of Wensleydale in Yorkshire. Wensleydale has a special little place in my heart, as I used to camp there with friends during my teenage years. It is also where I first tasted Old Peculier, my favourite ale ever since. So when a friend recently mentioned that he had sampled some of Wensleydale Brewery’s beers and found them to be more than acceptable, I was reminded that I had bought some bottled samples a few months ago. Lantern in hand, I descended into the beer cellar at Alebagger Hall to bring them into the light of day.
I had three bottles, one each of Semer Water, Game Keeper and Poacher. All three had been purchased at the same time and each had a ‘best before’ date of September 2012.
I started with the lowest ABV, Semer Water, at 4.1%. This is described on the label as both a ‘Summer Ale’ and a Best Bitter. In the glass, it was a pale orangey yellow in colour, and although the beer is not bottle conditioned, it was still rather hazy. The beer was bready on the nose, and bread was also present in the taste. There’s a sweet maltiness and an underlying hoppy bitterness with citrus notes. This is all to the good, but overall, I found the taste ‘unusual’, and slightly acetic.
Moving on, I turned to Game Keeper, another best bitter at 4.3%. This beer is a darker orange in colour, but again slightly hazy, despite not being bottle conditioned. The smell is predominantly hoppy. The taste is also dominated by hops and is distinctly dryish. The flavour overall, though was not terribly pleasant, again as with Semer Water, there was a disturbing acetic backtaste. I’m afraid my kitchen sink drank most of this one.
Finally, I poured myself the Poacher. A 5.0% IPA, very pale orange in colour, this one at least was clear and bright. The nose detects hops and earth. All these beers have tastes that reflect the aroma quite closely, which is not always the case. The taste, predictably enough was earthy and quite dry. It was good, though not exactly to my taste. I would happily drink this beer from the bottle, but if other beers were available, there are many that would tempt me away from Poacher.
You can probably tell that I was a little disappointed with my tastings of Wensleydale beers. However, when it comes to beer, I am not a ‘one strike and out’ person. The haziness in the first two bottles, combined with the slightly acetic taste suggests to me that these two had begun to sour in the bottle. They shouldn’t have, of course, and maybe it indicates problems in the bottling process, at least for this batch.
On paper, or on the computer screen, my descriptions of the tastes of these beers (apart from the provisos) would certainly induce me to try them again. And try them again I will. Wensleydale produces quite a range of beers, and I will not be put off by what may well have been a faulty batch.
I’m therefore suspending my verdict on these beers. I’ll keep you posted.
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