The brewery, you might recall, was founded in 1981 by two enthusiastic home brewers, Ray Ashworth and Dr David Crease who named their brewery after an eighteenth century Norfolk clergyman who had a reputation for enjoying fine ale – Parson Woodforde.
On a cold dark January night I turned my attention to a couple of their stronger brews, Admiral’s Reserve a 5% ABV strong ale, and Head Cracker a golden barley wine brewed to 7% ABV.
Woodfordes Admirals Reserve 5% ABV
Admiral’s reserve pours with what I described as a ‘reluctant’ head, it took quite a bit of ‘rough’ pouring to coax any foam from the brew, but the head left some healthy lacing down the glass as it subsided.
The brewery describe the colour as ‘dark chestnut’ but to me it was a perfect copper colour, I remember my parents having a polished copper jug that was exactly the same colour.
There’s not much of a nose to speak of, but the flavour is well balanced, there’s a rich, hoppy bite that gives way to an underlying fruity mellowness. It’s complex, but accessible, perhaps a little bit on the strong side for a session beer, but I wouldn’t have any problem reaching for a second, or third.
Three and half stars, very drinkable.
Woodfordes Headcracker 7% ABV
Another ‘reluctant’ head, and another bright copper coloured ale. This bright copper seeks to deceive, as the ale lurking beneath that bright copper is a potent 7% barley wine, usually a much darker colour.
This brew has been runner up in a number of Barley Wine competitions, and gained a bronze in CAMRA’s 2005 ‘Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain’ awards.
The brew itself is warming and complex, a balance between rich fruit and sharp, citrus hops. There are hints of plums, damsons and sour apples – only hints mind – but a very satisfying brew.
Again, this probably owes more to the stronger German Ales, such as Weihenstephaner Korbinian, in that it tends to mask its potency, it’s not ‘in your face’ STRONG… but rewarding for its understated strength. It would be oh so easy to pour another…
Four Stars, very drinkable, very dangerous.