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04-05-2017, 11:51
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This is the fourth of a selection of Essex beers chosen for us by Justin Mason (@1970sBoy (https://twitter.com/1970sBOY)) and it’s a 3.9% ‘session beer’ with Polish Marynka hops (https://www.wibblers.co.uk/the-beers/regular-beers/apprentice).We bought our 500ml bottle from Essex Food for £3 (http://www.essexfood.co.uk/product/wibblers-apprentice/)*and*went into this with low expectations. We’ve previously moaned about regional gift shop beers — the kind of thing that seems to be brewed with minimal skill or consistency primarily to appeal to Buy Local obsessives who pick up a bit of beer at the local owl sanctuary or farmers’ market — and that’s what this looks like. The label is straight out of 1998, the brewery name is of the forced-jocular school, and we’d never heard of the brewery until Justin’s email which*shouldn’t be a mark against it except that we’re partial believers in the wisdom of the hive mind*and all that (http://boakandbailey.com/2015/02/so-who-are-the-usual-suspects/).
In particular, as is often the case with bottle-conditioned beers from unknown breweries, we assumed the worst and prepared for a gusher, teatowels at hand. Thankfully we were greeted by an assertive hiss with no accompanying drama. In the glass the beer was clear, amber, with a delicate, soft-focus look about the head — very cask-like.
The ambient aroma, which is what we’re now calling anything you can smell without sticking your nose in the glass, was primarily sheer booziness — quite an achievement at this strength. Closer up, there was just a whiff of hedgerow, or bramble, or fruit tea.
We took a few sips, then a couple of swigs, and noted some ups and downs in the story. First, there was a moment of concern — something was a bit off, or stale, a cardboard note — but that was soon followed by a pleasing essential, unpretentious*beeriness. Of brick-built unadorned solidity. There was toffee, a flavour rather out of fashion these days, which was balanced against*waves of round, orangey, spring-fresh hop flavour. Finally, there came down a steel trap of bitterness.
Apprenctice has a lot of flavour, a lot of body, a lot of everything except alcohol, without being showy about it. It is old-fashioned and*reminds us pleasantly of our days ‘sampling ales’, pre-blog, with Michael Jackson’s hit-list at hand. There’s a resemblance to Badger Tanglefoot, once a pretty cool beer believe it or not, if you want a point of reference.
We grew more impressed the more we drank despite*the lingering stale note. This, we concluded, is another fundamentally decent beer — the kind we really like — that’s been somewhat let down by the packaging process. Still, we’d drink it again, and we’d love to try a cask version in a creaky old pub in the kind of village where the clock in the square stopped in 1923.
If you like trad, give it a go.
Magical Mystery Pour 28: Wibbler’s Apprentice (http://boakandbailey.com/2017/05/magical-mystery-pour-28-wibblers-apprentice/) originally posted at Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog (http://boakandbailey.com)

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