Hud-a-wa Strong (English Strong Bitter, 6.8%). Brewed at Invercargill Brewery for Yeastie Boys (Wellington, New Zealand). $5.79/330ml bottle.
I’m convinced one of these days Yeastie Boys is going to come up with the world’s greatest beer. The Rex Attitude shows the extremes to which these guys are willing to experiment and yes, it’s virtually undrinkable as everyone knows by now but it is utterly unique. I love a brewery that doesn’t care for trends towards insane hoppiness or ridiculous strength and is prepared to risk toxicity in order to create beers that are memorable. And so, I always try a new Yeastie Boys brew in a spirit of adventure; let the chips fall where they may. I was only mildly disappointed then when the Hud-a-wa turned out to be foul, stenchy and noxious, though as I channelled the spirit of Shackleton and chewed my way through the pint I began to realise that even if it was my lot to suffer in silence – for such is the price of bold adventure – I swore there would be no way in hell I would fall for the same trick twice. But this is redemption Thursday; that evening in the Bru Haus was last year and as memories fade, forgiveness grows in the hearts of those who have been wronged. For the first time since then I return to the Hud-a-wa to see if it still has the power to buckle knees and turn stomachs.
Well, it looks fine. Clear, darkish amber with a soapy, medium, off-white head that has some resilience. The aroma is sweetly alcoholic with a kind of fruitiness, not citrus, not dark but difficult to pin down, also (possibly) piney hops and caramel malts are in there as well. The flavour reflects the aroma pretty closely as the malts come through – mostly caramel/toffee with hints of roastiness – but there’s an undercurrent of something else; something complex and maybe warming, almost peppery, something I can only presume is the effect of the yeast (London ESB if that helps) that complements it nicely. It feels good, rich and full in the mouth with a dry, lingering, even slightly sticky finish maybe with the vaguest hint of some sourness but it’s not disagreeable. There’s a lot going on here and I can’t pretend to have a handle on all of it but it seems harmonious enough and is distinctive, rewarding and reasonably potent as well without being stupid about it. About all I can say for certain is that It doesn’t resemble the pint I had on tap last year whatsoever. This is one I will definitely want to come back to, soon.
I’m kind of hesitant to match music with anything from Yeastie Boys because I’m pretty much on their home turf with that sort of caper. Suffice to say though that the name of this beer is for a Scottish ancestor and has no pop culture references I picked up on, but since I couldn’t find any Scottish experimental rock I liked (everything about Yeastie Boys screams experimental and indie to me) I’m going instead with Man Man’s second album Six Demon Bag. I love the the chaotic, carnival feel here but instead of a kind of shoegazing, lo-fi amateurism you often get with experimental rock there’s a real assuredness and energy to these songs, while still remaining determinedly adventurous and non-commercial. It’s messy, raucous and there’s more than enough to keep you guessing but at the same time it just works and sounds like a bloody good time.
Yeastie Boys take risks that sometimes don’t pay off. It’s possibly safe to assume that with their adventurous spirit they tweak recipes as they see fit which might explain some of the difference between the pint I had last year and the bottle I had today. But the moral of the story, again, is if you get served a dodgy beer on tap, please, please take it back and everyone will be better off in the long run. This is a good beer that I’m sorry I missed out on over summer, though I shall try to make amends as often as my wallet and liver allows.
Verdict: A fine and distinctive drop; rich, flavourful and strong enough to do damage. I’ll try and hunt down a tap version again but in the meantime consider this one redeemed. 71/100.