Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Brewed & Reviewed: Cloudwater

Plus One Magazine is proud to present to you, the first in our new series of articles; Brewed & Reviewed. We’ll be bringing all the latest beers from your favourite U.K based breweries, as well as news, reviews, opinions and anything else in between.

The craft scene in this country is on a high right now, and with good reason. Some of the most exciting and innovative breweries have emerged from the north of England over the last few years, and this article will feature perhaps the most talked about, Cloudwater. They’ve been making heads turn with their dedication to ‘specialising in modern, seasonal beer’ especially their understanding of how to brew exceptional IPAs. The Manchester based outfit sent us a care-package containing some freshly brewed new beers, primarily from their new Spring/Summer range, and I for one cannot wait to try them out.

Cloudwater's Spring/Summer range
So, who are Cloudwater?  Cloudwater have been around for only a year or so now and started off working to strict seasonal projects. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each new season created fresh, new ideas. The premise; exciting, the logistics; a nightmare, but true to their ambitions they stuck at it and has paid dividends. They look to brew with ingredients from all corners of the globe whenever they are at their freshest. Hops from across the pond in America for example, are readily available from around January to July. Hops grown in Australia and New Zealand are available between August and March. This year however they have decided to make things slightly easier on themselves, and I for one don’t blame them. Four yearly cycles will be scrapped in favour of two, so this year they start out with the Spring/Summer range. A series of light, fresh and American hopped beers perfect for a warm Summers day, before switching to the Autumn/Winter range with more concentration on European and Australian/New Zealand hops along with darker, richer and stronger beers to warm you up on a cold Winters night.

My previous experiences of Cloudwater have come in waves. Last summer I tried their Summer Range IPA and for whatever reason was underwhelmed. I tried their Old Garde collaboration with Burning Sky with the same verdict. The Winter range came rolling in and I’d been hearing great things about that particular season’s IPA. I managed to pick up the last one in stock at Raynville Superstore in Leeds at the start of the year, and was blown away. It was fruity with a light malt base and was then hit with a bitter punch, exactly what you look for in a top IPA, in fact, that was my beverage of choice to celebrate the start of writing here at Plus One Magazine! Subsequently I picked up two more of the Winter Range in the form of Black IPA and Aus Hopfen Weisse, both of which were great examples of their styles, especially the Black IPA. Online craft beer communities couldn’t get enough of Cloudwater after the Winter Range, and I myself, who at first seemed sceptical, had become a believer.

There are other beers from the Spring/Summer range on offer, and others not from the range that have been released over the past couple of weeks, however we will review only the ones sent to us by Cloudwater.

US Light Comet Pale Ale: 3.6% Pale Ale

We start off with the mildest ABV in the pack, in the form of US Light Comet, a very sessionable pale ale. This particular beer was bottled a little over 2 weeks before I cracked it open so it was super fresh and exactly how Cloudwater intend their beer to be. It even says so on the bottles – ‘Hops fade fast – fresher is better’. The smell is certainly fresh too, a light yet zingy combination. The head is thin and lacy. The taste is really crisp, with a real floral backdrop and an undertone of lime. There’s a hint of bitterness coming through but it tastes like its coming from the aforementioned lime, as well as subtle tastes of straw with biscuit-like pale malts. It’s closely carbonated and really well hopped, especially for its ABV. This is a good ‘welcome to the world of craft’ sort of beer, its inoffensive, tasty, and a perfect summer tipple. 3.5/5

Eureka Lager: 4.8%

For a lager it’s very lightly carbonated so no worry of becoming bloated and gassy; unlike your typical supermarket lagers! Very clean and translucent in colour, although plenty of residue floating around. There’s an aroma of lemon drops and herbs, particularly oregano. The herbs continue on to the palate, along with some grass and earthiness. It’s light and clean with a medium dry finish. There’s a sweetness to this beer, it’s the real selling point here, the sweetness coming in the form of honey. The aftertaste is heavy with milk and cereal. This one reminds me a little of a German-style lager. 3.25/5

 Keyworth’s Early Lager: 4.8%

This one is a lot tamer than Eureka. It’s a more relaxed beer, much more in keeping with the usual lager style. To start there’s no sweetness like the Eureka but it’s very crisp indeed. Clear and yellow in colour and medium to high in carbonation. There’s a very light citrus edge to it, just leaning towards lime I believe but it’s nothing overpowering. The warmer it becomes, the sweeter it is. Fruit tastes of pears, apples and green grapes develop. Milk and cereal on the after taste again to conclude. This crisp beer reminds me a little of Camden’s Hells lager, but it should certainly give Camden (AB InBev) something to think about in terms of what they could achieve with this style of beer. 3/5

 Table Beer Juniper Pale Ale: 4.2%

An unexpected sour intro and then quickly into bitterness to complete both the middle and the end. That first sip had such an array of tastes that have no business being together in one mouthful. There is a lot going on in the whole beer actually, maybe a little too much. A broad spectrum of flavours. There’s lemon, there’s grass, pine, pepper, dried herbs, do I go on? It’s very yeasty, with a slight farm yard style funk. A strangely tangy beer. There’s a few floaters going around in this one but it doesn’t bother me one bit. The main focus here is that it’s really lemony and intensely bitter, lingering well after the swallow. 3.25/5

 Bergamot Hopfen Weisse: 6%

On label alone, this one leads you to believe that it’s going to be a lemony palate buster that makes your face gurn with sourness. Ignore the label, it’s nowhere near as lemony as you’d expect. It is tart, don’t get me wrong, in fact it coats the tongue, I picked up a touch of salt too, but honestly it isn’t that bad! This is another one that was bottled a little over a fortnight ago so the flavours should be at their most vivid and best. The pour leaves a nice thick head which fades rapidly. The back-bone is wheat malts which have been used with the right balance and with any wheat based beer, I detected the taste of banana. It’s softly carbonated and light, and at 6% I struggled to notice any alcohol at all. It’s floral and has a nice lemon sherbet type quality. This is the perfect sweet and sour beer, both elements, one glass. 3.25/5

 Session IPA E.431: 4.5%

The name of this one comes from the experimental 431 hop used. It pours an attractive light orange with some floaters. Big aroma of grapefruit, a fruit and flavour which has so far gone unused in the above mentioned reviews. The initial taste is an absolute triumph of fruity goodness. Grapefruit and juicy grapes hit you in the face with a refreshing and glorious intro. More fruit flavours follow with mangoes then orange coming from the Citra hops. It’s not really bitter but there’s certainly a trace of it. The mouth-feel is quite slippery, I know that sounds a bit of a silly when talking about a liquid, but it’s more of an oily feel. The end is soft, and even more fruit. I’d certainly be happy to drink this one time and time again. Cloudwater, please experiment more with this hop! 4.25/5

 Session Bitter: 4.5%

I’m finishing the batch off as quickly as possible before full blown man-cold strikes and wipes out my ability to taste, so I hope I can do the beer justice. Frothy and close-knit head with poor retention on the pour. Both peaches and apricots greet you to the glass well before the first sip. Taste wise, we go straight into grapefruit, and in a big way, bulldozing its way through the entirety of the experience and leaving a deeply bitter trail in its wake. The bitterness however does come in batches, always a constant but sometimes it fills the mouth and lingers. It’s very pithy and peppery, with a hazy straw-like taste. An enjoyable drink, it does remind me more of a bitter IPA, perhaps like a sessionable Jackhammer by Brewdog, with its grapefruit bombardment. 3.5/5

There are a few absences from Cloudwater’s Spring /Summer range here, Citra IPA the most noticeable. I have purchased Citra IPA myself and while I won’t review it formally, I will say it gets better as it warms up, still a solid and tasty IPA but for me it isn’t quite as good as the hype would make you believe and in fact the real winner of this range seems to be well under the radar. For me, there is a clear winner. The Session IPA E.431. It could be that I, like a lot of craft beer fans, am a total IPA nut, but I’ve tried my fair share of IPAs and this one is in the upper echelon. All the beers here scored at least 3/5 which is some going really, I can appreciate the quality of each style on offer, but I went for the overall flavour and taste personally, rather than how to score each one on the basis of its style.

Whilst many craft fans left the lager stage behind long ago, Cloudwater decided to brew four different lagers for this range. This seems a little excessive to me, I suppose we won’t see if that was a good business idea or not until next year when we see how many lagers are on offer then. Another point of note from the range is the heavy citrus influence featured in all of the beers. Predominantly in the form of lemon and lime, but there are uses of grapefruit and orange in the Session IPA and informally reviewed Citra IPA. I wonder if they could look to challenge Beavertown next year and brew using blood oranges, or maybe look to brew with a different sort of fruit altogether.

So, what’s in store next for Cloudwater? Well as we write this, their DIPA v3 is about to drop. I’ve managed to secure myself one already and if it lives up to v2 then I am in for a real treat. Sadly, I didn’t get my hands on the first in the series. My question is though, where will it end, will they keep going and going, seasonally brewing a DIPA that aren’t in their seasonal ranges, will we get up to DIPA v18. I think I know the answer - yes. Paul Jones, one of the founders,  has already stated that there will never be a core range and that all of their product will be artisan. It’s a very shrewd business plan, it will certainly get the die-hard craft beer fans chomping at the bit to be able to purchase such limitedly brewed beers and will keep the beer fans talking about them. This way, they will always stay relevant.

Thank you so much to Cloudwater for being kind enough to send all of these brews out to us for review.  This batch of beers are definitely designed to keep you going through the hotter months, you can’t help but think during each beverage (I was inside and it was raining while drinking most of these) just how great it would be to enjoy them all at a BBQ or out in the park on a hot summers day, and with that in mind, their target has been met, and I would judge it to be another successful season for Cloudwater. 

Words - David Dickinson (Beer_Baron_Lincs)


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