Generally I prefer stronger, darker beers. So when I came across a really pale lower gravity beer I wasn’t sure if it would have enough body and taste for me. Mind you, it was brewed by Thornbridge Hall brewery and they ARE one of the best up and coming micro-breweries I have encountered recently. It would be rude of me not to give it a chance now wouldn’t it? Two pints were duly ordered (one for me and one for my husband ~ I’m not THAT greedy) and we proceeded to give it the taste test! .and the verdict? Read on and find out!
As I mentioned Wild Swan is brewed at Thornbridge Hall Brewery, which is based in Ashford in the Water (not far from Bakewell in Derbyshire). They were set up in a converted outbuilding of this minor stately home in October 2002 and have since begun to grow into a respected and rather excellent brewery. The Hall itself was formally the home of the Longsdon family before becoming a teacher training and education centre. It is now a family home again, but it is also a very successful business.
Their beers have already, in a very short space of time, started to win awards at beer festivals and their bottled beers have been accepted by the national Real Ale in a Bottle scheme. Their core range of beers has grown since brewing began (they started off with four regular beers and some occasional specials) and consists of a massive seven regular beers. These are (in order of alcohol content) Wild Swan (the subject of this review), Lord Marples (a classic bitter at 4% ABV), Brock (a smooth, creamy stout at 4.1% ABV), Blackthorn Ale (a golden bitter ale at 4.4% ABV), Bohemia (a Czech style cask lager at 5.2% ABV), Jaipur IPA (a pale strong beer at 5.9% ABV) and St. Petersburg Stout (a VERY strong Russian style stout at 7.7% ABV).
Thornbridge beers are available in a variety of pubs in the Derbyshire and Yorkshire region and are regularly featured at beer festivals nationwide. You can also buy their bottled beers via the brewery web-site.
Wild Swan weighs in at 3.5% ABV and is classed as a low gravity pale bitter.
*Look, Aroma & Texture*
As you have probably guessed Wild Swan is pale in colour. It is in actual fact one of the palest beers I have ever come across. Imagine an extremely light straw/pale gold colour with a slight hint of greenish yellow ~ almost like a lime cordial or a lager with lime. There is a slight almost translucent head that is made up of small bubbles and soon fades. Aroma is fresh and light with the scent of lemon hops and a small amount of fruit (grapefruit mostly). Texture is quite carbonated, light bodied and rather thin.
*Tange’s Taste Test*
After being initially put off by the extreme paleness of the beer I persevered and gave it a taste! First taste to be honest left me struck by the lack of body and I did dismiss Wild Swan has having very little taste. I had bought a full glass so I drank on and was VERY glad that I did. The flavours that come through start off very subtle but gradually develop into quite a tasty little beer. The dominant taste is the bitterness of lemon from the hops, but this is joined by grapefruit and a spicy hint of pepper (a small hint, but certainly there). As you drink it gets increasingly dry. The bitterness builds into a finish that is clean and very dry. After taste is short lived but refreshing, with that same lightness I described in the texture.
~~~WHAT I THOUGHT.
I AM glad that I kept drinking my pint of Wild Swan. Some people I know have been put off by the look of it saying that anything that resembles lime and lemon can’t make a good beer! Once again Thornbridge Hall have managed to make a lower alcohol beer tasty ~ just recently they brewed two Mild ales which, despite being a meager 2.9%, had bags of flavour and unique characters. This is just the same as Wild Swan! At only 3.5% ABV it is an excellent choice for a Session beer and would also make a good choice for a summer drink because it is nice served cool and is rather fresh and light. It is subtle and very well crafted too.
Wild Swan would also be a fine choice to tempt the lager drinker away from their tasteless fizz. It looks more like a lager than most cask beers and isn’t too malty (although there is a slight buttery flavour in the beer). I have tried it on two separate occasions and enjoyed it immensely. My first time was at Barrow Hill beer festival ~ they were co-sponsored by the brewery and a good number of their beers were on offer. The second time was at The Industry Inn, just outside Chesterfield town centre. The first time I paid 1.00 for a half pint of Wild Swan. At the Industry I got a pint and paid 2.30. This seems to be a pretty standard representation of the various prices you can pay for Wild Swan in the pubs in my area.
One thing that I must mention is that this is the least common of the Thornbridge beers I come across locally. I’m not sure whether this is because it isn’t as popular among the local licensees, who tend to favour the more popular and more standard strength beers, like Blackthorn and Lord Marples, or whether it just isn’t brewed as often. Whatever the reason it does need to be more readily available to allow drinkers to get the taste for it! I am sure that once people get past the strength and colour barrier they will start to drink it more and more.
Look out for Wild Swan and give it a try. You might even like it!
Thornbridge Country House Brewery
Tel: 01629 640617