Dorset’s own Badger Brewery has been producing beer since 1777. The historical Hall and Woodhouse building overlooking the River Stour in Blandford is as imposing as it is characterful and the town just wouldn’t be the same without it. Fortunately, despite having to survive the threat posed by a large fire in the adjacent warehouse a couple of years back, it is still going strong.
The kind people at Badger Beers sent us a box of their bottled beers to try and to give them some feedback. We’ve been a bit slow in getting around to them, largely because we don’t have a big enough fridge – I need to get one of those Union Jack mini beer fridges for the office – however, unsurprisingly, once we got started, we didn’t take too long to polish them off.
Six of the Best
The box included a bottle of each of the following: Tanglefoot, The Fursty Ferret, The Golden Champion, The Hopping Hare, The Blandford Fly and The Cranborne Poacher.
At first glance, the colour and clarity of each of these ales is perfect. Even with my crappy photography, they all look pretty damn tempting and even more so in the sunshine.
When you look at the bottles lined up, you can see there is a theme. A very local theme. Despite the fact that Hall and Woodhouse are an established company and have been for many years, they are a Dorset company and very proud of it. So much so, that their heritage is a massive part of the story they tell with their branding. I’d love to learn more about this, so will be “badger-ing” them for a tour as soon as the current crisis is over.
Onto the beers then…
The Hopping Hare
I’ll start with The Hopping Hare. This is a Pale Ale. Hoppy (possibly inspiring the name), slightly zesty and very refreshing. I really liked this one. The only mistake I made, and I knew this with the first sip, was that I should have saved this one for a hot day. It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d want to drink whilst sitting on the patio in the shade of a parasol on the sort of afternoons we’ve been enjoying lately.
The Golden Champion
Next up… The Golden Champion. Please forgive the rubbish picture. The truth is, I was waiting for a nice day to go outside and take a picture as I’ve done with most of the others. The football was on the telly (remember football?) and it had been staring at me for days whenever I opened the fridge. So I caved. I didn’t even remember to take a picture of it in the glass. I’ve had this one before. I already knew I liked it and the light inside the fridge was shining through the back of the bottle, illuminating it as though I should have been hearing harps playing at the same time. This is another one I would strongly recommend on a warm summer afternoon… in fact, I think I took a picture of one a few years ago so I’ll include that instead. I’m really not that good at tasting beers and breaking down ingredients, but the Badger Beers Website describes this one as having a “crisp taste of summer with floral hints of elderflower”. I’d say that’s pretty much bang on. “Crisp” is the first thought that comes to mind. Yummy, is thought two.
The third one I tried (I’m doing these in the order I drank them), was Tanglefoot. I have to say this one would probably be my favourite “year-round” beer. This is described as a traditional golden ale. There’s a slightly more malty taste to this one although I wouldn’t go so far as it say it tasted malty. Like I said, I’m not the best qualified to go into minute detail, but I could see myself drinking this one throughout the colder, darker months as well as during those long summer evenings. This one has a darker colour than the Golden Champion, but like the other golden ale, has a crispness to it. It’s a belter.
The Fursty Ferret
Fourth was The Fursty Ferret. This is an amber ale which I really enjoyed. It was the hardest of all to pick out individual tastes as there is quite a lot going on, but all flavours come together really nicely. There’s definitely a slightly floral taste and bear with me here, the first thing I noticed…. Have you ever dipped a malted milk biscuit in a cup of tea only to see the bottom half fall into the cup, but you drank it anyway? No? Yeah, me neither. Well there’s kind of a hint of that to it. Not so much the tea part, but the diluted flavour of the malted milk. That’s probably a really bad analogy, but, it was the first thing that came to mind. Everybody interprets tastes in different ways and I don’t suppose everybody would have the same reaction. If I had a drinking problem, this is the one I would have instead of a cup of tea when I woke up. To be clear, it was about 5pm when I drank it, just after cutting the grass. I really hit the spot.
The Cranborne Poacher
The last two surprised me. I’ve never been mad keen on anything too fruity. I usually find when those sort of beers are created, there is too much of the fruitiness and not enough of the beer. A bit like in the days when you’d have a lager and lime and the bartender would go way too heavy on the lime. Fine margins, but a huge difference.
The Cranborne Poacher, which is a Ruby Ale has a liquorice flavour and you can also detect a chocolatey note. Two things I would normally be put off by, particularly as when I’ve come across either of these flavours in beer before, I haven’t really enjoyed them. This particular beer won me over however. As I said just now, we’re talking about fine margins between a beer with a hint of something and a beer inspired alcopop. Both The Cranborne Poacher and The Blandford Fly are great examples of what can happen when the right balance is struck. This one has a very dark, rich appearance which given its key ingredients isn’t a surprise. It all comes together so well, that even for someone that doesn’t like liquorice, it works. I’d have it again, I’d recommend it to anybody wanting to try something a bit different and I’d say I’ve been proven wrong on my preconceived notions about strong flavours.
The Blandford Fly
The Blandford Fly… This was a really nice surprise. There is a subtle ginger taste to this one. It’s definitely there, but it does not overpower. This is a golden ale. Even with the ginger and the sweet taste it has, it is definitely still a golden ale. There isn’t a huge amount I can say beyond that. It’s just a really nice drink. Sweet, refreshing, and when the time comes that we can mingle again socially, if I was to invite friends and family to a BBQ, I would make sure I had plenty of this and would be encouraging everybody to try it.
Overall, I was pretty amazed by the range offered by Badger. So many subtle variations to create such different and delicious results. What’s more, the way they describe their beers is absolutely bang on. If you try them for yourself, don’t take my word for it… take theirs. There are so many adjectives that can be used to describe these ales: crisp, delicious, refreshing… but if I was to pick one word that sums them all up, I would say “balanced”. Every flavour is present to the degree that you know it’s there, it tastes great, but you still know what sort of ale you are drinking. It’s a wonderful range.