Wensleydale Coverdale Poacher IPA
There’s a theme that I’ve returned to before about writing a beer, or a brewery off. We all do it; some of us after a couple of failed attempts; bad pints served in perhaps bad places by bad staff, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Some of us, including myself, have sipped and drained, vowing never to buy again, cutting that brewery off without so much as a second chance.
Obviously, as I get older and (hopefully) wiser, I’m trying to curb this behaviour. Life is, as they say, too short to drink bad beer – but it’s also too short not to give second chances out. A brewer once told me (I think it was James Farran from Summer Wine) that ‘There’s no such thing as bad beer; only bad gyles’ , and I understand that now.
Mentally, I have a little black book of breweries who crank out beer that’s either poor or not to my taste; a few years ago, this was running at about ten. Now, there’s only one who I can think of who I generally steer well clear of after repeated blown chances.
My first encounter with Wensleydale’s Coverdale Poacher was a good few years ago, both in bottle and on cask within a month of each other, and both resulted in a thin, only-slightly-refreshing beer. No real body, no real life. A lack of taste I can almost deal with; a lack of life (zest, spritz, spark, liveliness in taste, whatever you want to call it) I cannot. So, that was that.
Then, a short while ago, Wensleydale again popped up in my life, in sort-of-spooky circumstances. I was enjoying a boozy Monday night with a well-known Leeds Pub manager and a certain Spectral blogger, who, when asked what was good these days, replied ‘Wensleydale’s beers are really good at the moment’. Eyebrows were raised, advice was taken and noted.
Then- that weekend – my wife picked up a beer that was reserved for me from a highly regarded Leeds Beer retailer, and decided to cram a few more treats into my delivery; because she’s good like that. Picking purely on her well-tested strategy of ‘Beers whose labels I don’t recognise from Leigh’s stupid Beer Cupboard‘ she happened to choose Wensleydale’s Coverdale Poacher (5%abv). When I saw it, nestling amongst the other treats like a Cuckoo’s egg, I laughed, explained the story, and cracked it open there and then.
And yes, I was an idiot. Something has changed for sure, and this could be a classic example of brewer’s evolution that Boak and Bailey spoke about of late. Clear as a bell, burnished gold, with a slightly yeasty note to the aroma underneath waves of Mango and Orange. On the sip, the body of the beer was smooth and robust – pleasantly sweet – and finish is high, dry, and bitter enough to back up its claims of IPA. At ‘only’ 5%, it’s certainly a UK interpretation of IPA rather than the US hop-bombs that are the benchmark these days; but it’s a lovely, lovely beer. It manages the required assertiveness without overpowering, and remains entirely drinkable. It’s just a drinkable, pleasurable beer. Period.
Well done, Wensleydale. You’ve proved me and my stupid ideals wrong. I’ll have another, please.