In some of my reviews of British Beers for The Brew Club I have bemoaned the dominance of global brewers that have attempted to stifle the industry and shifted brews away from their natural homes – Yorkshire Bitter being brewed in Lancashire for example. As I mentioned in a review of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, the top three brewers (InBev, Carlsberg and Heineken) are now so dominant that even if number four (Greene King I think) were to buy every other brewery, micro and brewpub then they would still be number four.
That’s not to say we don’t have a wealth of independent breweries, and when I mentioned to a friend that I’d been writing these articles for The Brew Club he insisted that I should try TEA. Or more accurately T.E.A. – Traditional English Ale from the Hogsback Brewery in Surrey. Incidentally the ‘Hog’s Back’ is the name of a hilly ridge along part of the North Downs in Surrey, to the south west of London – the A31 trunk road from London to Winchester follows the crest of the Hog’s Back for some distance.
The story of the Hogsback Brewery has some resonances to the ‘home brewing ‘ articles Scott’s was featuring. Back in 1991 a guy called Tony Stanton-Precious contacted the editor of ‘The Grist’ – a now defunct home brewing magazine. Tony had found a library book ‘How To Start Your Own Brewery’ and was seeking advice. The story from there is a fascinating one, and well recounted on the Hogs Back Brewery’s own website, so I need not retell it here.
The brewery’s first brew was started on 4th August 1992 and they now produce a three regular brews and nine seasonal variations. T.E.A. was their first brew and at 4.2% ABV is still viewed as their flagship brew. I’m not a great follower of Awards and Medals for beer, but this did win a Gold Medal at the Great British Beer Festival for ‘Best Bitter’.
So, pouring gently, as this is bottle conditioned, the beer pours with a rich golden colour, verging on the orangey or bronze. There’s a reasonable head that disperses slowly and no noticeable lacing. There’s not much nose to speak of either, maybe a hint of malt but no real hops to speak of.
The mouth feel and flavour are as the name would suggest, a traditional English ale, not too heavy or full bodied, quite light and refreshing. There’s a good balance between malt and hops, with the hops maybe just winning out. There’s a hint of citrus hanging around in there too. All in all very pleasant, and certainly something I’ll look out for when I’m next in that part of the country – which is quite likely as my daughter lives in that area.
So, in conclusion, a modern British craft beer that does what it sets out too without too much pomp and ceremony… a traditional English ale. Light, slightly bitter but very refreshing.