Thwaites Get the C Word
No, not that C Word.
Well, actually, yes, because the C word that we’re seemingly obsessed with these days is still proving to be a hot topic of discussion. No matter what hand-wringing the people on the ground get caught up in, the big boys are making hay whilst the sun shines, slapping the word onto anything and everything they can, trying to capture the holy grail of every regional brewer leaning this way; capturing a slice of a new market, whilst maintaining the loyalties of the one that’s made your business a success in the first place.
Thwaites, in my opinion, have done this incredibly well; they’ve quietly assimilated The Signature Range into people’s minds and pint glasses, and changed nothing about themselves in the meantime. But the main reason The Signature Range works is the fact the beers taste damn good. Anyone with a keen eye on Twitter and Facebook will have seen the kudos being given out to beers such as 13 Guns, Fallen Nun and Old Dan. This, this simple aspect of what makes a brewery well-thought of, is so easily missed. I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off by a boutique brand because of the demographic I fit in, nor do I feel like I’ve simply roped in people to help us get the beers into places they normally wouldn’t. Not that these approaches are ‘bad’ per se…they just aren’t for me, generally.
So, when the offer of trying some early bottles of Thwaites’ new Crafty beer range, I said yes, for a change. They arrived all parceled up in a neat box replete with tasting notes, those crisp, very English labels looking as straight and true as a Buckingham Palace guard. I prayed that the beers within would stack up (ah, the Craft malaise; beer inside bottle not being as half as exciting as the label), but I needn’t have worried – the beers, generally, were very good indeed.
Triple C sounds like a beer I’ve enjoyed before; albeit it in a weaker, ‘session’ version – but upon closer inspection, it’s not. That version used only Cascade hops, that cornerstone of the US Beer movement, whereas this one brings the recipe bang up to date with a trinity of Chinook, Citra and Centennial hops. This muscular cousin retains freshness in the nose and body, whilst backing up the citrus with a thicker mouthfeel; smooth, sweet biscuit malt and a risingly bitter. catty finish. It hits all the right buttons for a modern strong pale whilst retaining balance, drinkability and a very respectable 5.3% abv.
13 Guns (5.5% abv) is the one that grabs the attention; it really does nail that American vibe right off the bar; amber in colour, that comforting boiled-sweet note in the nose rolling out of the glass and making you smile. Yet on the sip it’s nowhere near as sweet as you’ve braced yourself for; crisp as it finishes with plenty of pine needle and seville orange pithiness and a juicy, long bitterness. It’s good, very good – let’s hope it retains that character in cask.
Big Ben (5.8%abv) is such a lovely name for a strong, autumnal beer that it makes you wonder why no-one’s used it before. There’s liquorice and molasses on the nose (it’s the season, I’m sure, but I’m reminded of those treacle lollies we get around bonfire night – you know the ones, on a stick, with a foil back) with an interesting ‘spiciness’ grinding along underneath the sweetness. On the sip it’s actually cleaner than you expect (again), all plummy and raisin-y, a lick of milky coffee, a sprinkle of black pepper. Again, really enjoyable and perfect for the season.
So you see, it’s not hard; there can be a middle ground between the two tribes of Real and Craft. Don’t con people – and brew good beer, so that’s all the people have to talk about. Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to think we live in a world where eventually, the bad will fall away, and that will be the constant.
Just brew good beer.
In case I didn’t make it clear enough before, Thwaites sent me these beers. Frankly, I wish they’d have sent more. Whilst we’re on the subject, Half Nelson (snappy pale ale hopped with, well, Nelson Sauvin amongst others) is featured in the current Wetherspoons Beer Festival, and is delicious too – don’t pass it up.