Drink Magazine

Tasting Notes: Cloudwater: Forest and Main: Wind Suit

By Alcoholandaphorisms

Tasting Notes:  Cloudwater: Forest and Main: Wind Suit

Cloudwater: Forest and Main: Wind Suit (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Murky apricot to brown. Huge caramel brown mound of head that finally settles on late re-pours. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Dried apricot. Gritty hop feel and solid bitterness. Dried grapefruit. Dried pineapple. High hop prickle. Tangerine.

Body: Prickly, gritty, big bitter hop character. Malt chocolate toffee. Grapefruit. Mandarin orange. Choc orange. Pineapple. Bubblegum.

Finish: Choc orange. Mandarin orange. High hop bitterness and gritty hop feel. Pineapple. Pink grapefruit. Wheatgerm. Malt choc toffee drinks. Granite. Bubblegum.

Conclusion: Ok, call me an old fashioned fuddy duddy if you will, but, in my mind ESB is a style that should have a solid malt presence. This feels hopped like an IPA, with just a darker coloured and more cloudy base behind it. Like the ESB equivalent of a Black IPA. I mean, I like hops, heck, I love hops, but not every beer style needs to be dominated by them.

Ok, that is my old man whine over, let’s see how this does as a beer in itself then. Well, mixed. I can’t deny that it has massive presence – from the pop of the cap thick fruity notes float out of the bottle – dried fruit notes, or more correctly, dry takes on fruit notes, if that makes sense.

Sipping it, it is very prickly, very fresh in its hop bitterness. Unlike a couple of other Cloudwater beers recently though it thankfully manages to not suffer from hop burn. It still has a kind of gritty, rocky, quite rough hop feel, but done on the down low as a subtle element of the beer. Not my favorite but style I will say, but while the bitterness is high, the grittiness is an element that does not intrude too much thankfully.

Below that is fresh tart fruit – using grapefruit and pineapple for the old school tart hits against pink grapefruit and a range of fresh orange notes for the new hop style influence. This is the best element of the beer – fresh feeling and making the most of the new hop trend to add really bright notes to this beer.

The malt below that is … muddled. Toffee to choc toffee or choc orange sweets. It feels gritty again, murky in taste like the dirty river cloudiness that the beer has on the eye. It is ok, but a bit rough.

So, despite the fact that yes, I am looking at this side eyed as it doesn’t match what I would expect an ESB to be, I think that I can say that, aside from that, the hop forwardness really doesn’t work to its best here. It just feels rough and out of place. The flavor is great, but the feel that comes with it always makes it feel like something is out of wack.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer, but it definitely makes it sub optimal. It has an odd mouthfeel that doesn’t match what it is doing with the flavour, and isn’t an intriguing element by itself.

Good hops in a beer that doesn’t really reward it for that.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Cloudwater so far – some stonkers of beers, some real let downs. They have a huge rep and when they are on point they hit it, but they are a tad more variable in quality than I like. Still, I was intrigued by their last ESB, which was an unusual take on the style, so when I saw this collaborative ESB I thought I would give it a try. Don’t know much about Forest & Main by comparison, will see how that goes. Lots of unusual elements – uses JW Lee yeast – lots of hop use including Simcoe and Mosaic which I am a huge fan of. Put on Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt to listen to for this – looking forwards to seeing them again later this year. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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