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A couple of quick ones from Thornbridge today.

First up is Pondera, their contribution to the west coast revival. For some proper west coast cred they've called in Firestone Walker from California to collaborate. It's a pale yellow colour with more haze than one might expect for west coast, though the aroma is a bright and zippy citrus. So I was expecting lemon zest going in, forgetting that it's a full 6.7% ABV. That extra heft means the flavour is bigger too, and a thick oily dankness is the first thing out. Citrus follows, concentrated and realistic, like lime peel. The oils give it a long finish, and there's a fun peppery spice at the fade-out. Big and chewy; strong and well-hopped with signature American flavours: this gets the west coast stamp of approval from me. Lovely stuff.

Something less serious next. Thornbridge began making an ice cream porter called Lucaria several years ago, but deeming that insufficiently silly, has released a series of ice-creamier variations, including Strawberry, Mint Choc Chip, Rocky Road, Christmas Pudding and this one: Salted Caramel, the only one sold by the can. It doesn't smell as sweet as I anticipated: there's a dry wafer effect with a little mocha but nothing daft or extreme. It's only 4.5% ABV (original Lucaria was 6%) and the thinness makes the chocolate difficult to carry, causing it to taste very sweet but also watery. I couldn't detect any salt, and the caramel just melds into a general chocolatey sweetness. Though perfectly drinkable, and not cloying, it's a bit dull overall. Maybe all the massive pastry stouts have trained me to expect a bigger hit, and maybe the market does need the candybar effect in a lighter package, but this wasn't for me. I think a slight ABV boost would have helped it enormously.

I like how different these two randomly selected Thornbridge beers were from each other. I guess that's the kind of variation you need to be putting out to stay viable these days. The occasional IPA of Pondera's quality helps too, I'm sure.