Hyperbole. Modern, big-hitting, balls to the wall beer is full of it – or, more accurately, generates lots of it. I was accused (probably correctly) of blustering hyperbole just the other day, following a gushing report from the IndyMan festival. Well, I’m following that up with this:- I’ve just had not only one of the best saisons I’ve ever tasted, but one of the best beers I can remember drinking this year. And it came from a brewery less than five months old, who have a four barrel kit in rural North Yorkshire.
The Bad Seed Brewery are two ex-homebrewers, Chris Waplington and James Broad, who have started out on an industrial estate in Malton. BeerCaster Paul hails from that part of the world, and picked up beers from this brand new producer the other week, so we put them to a highly detailed tasting (we had eight, in total). Having spoken to Chris on the phone, it’s clear what stage Bad Seed are at – the first one; contagious enthusiasm.
It was great to spend a while chatting to Chris – meeting brewers just starting out is one of the best things about beer writing, purely because of the
samples infectious can-do attitudes that everyone has. “We’re just passionate about making beer that we like to drink,” he says. “We want our beers to be appreciated like wine; but we’re not going to push the abv’s just for the sake of it.” [for the record, their weakest is 5.1%]. So, why Malton?
“There was no-one doing this in Malton, but just before we installed our kit we heard that Brass Castle were moving here as welll, and there are others looking to do the same thing. It’s already a hub for great food, and we want it to be a hub for great beer,” he explains. But what do the locals say about the untypical styles? “Malton’s a place that doesn’t quite get [our style of] beer. We have a monthly stall at the food market, and we often have to go back to basics, explaining what IPA’s are about,” says Chris.
Having said this, Chris says the response has been hugely overwhelming, despite some people being initially unsure about ‘American style’ strong beers. Bad Seed currently have a core range of five, which will eventually rise to 8-10, following the necessary consolidation of the first releases. All are currently hand-bottled on site, but the first key-keg will head out this week, and a couple of collaborations are planned for the New Year.
The thing that stands out immediately about Bad Seed is the colourful, but simple branding. “When we homebrewed, we needed a quick way to identify what bottles were what, so we added a coloured swingtag to the neck,” Chris explains. “James’s were blue, mine were red. When we had friends round to brew on our 20 litre kit, they got a different colour. We carried this through to the branding, which we wanted to be clean.”
So, what are the beers actually like? First, the South Pacific Pale Ale (5.8%), which is earthy, yeasty, and has a bitter, slightly muddy aftertaste – it’s good, but more of the vinous kiwi hops need to come though – and they may well, Chris is quite open that they are still looking to tweak these core recipes as they continue to brew them. Of the 7.3% IPA, for example, we had three versions to try – and clearly picked out the progression towards the sweet, tropical flavours (the most recent iteration had been dry-hopped).
Changing tack, the Espresso Stout (7.0%) is robust, hugely carbonated, and rides the coffee through into an almost chilli-like sharp, bitter aftertaste. It’s fantastic, and in no way tastes anywhere near 7%. Neither does the aforementioned 5.1%er, which is a Hefeweizen. It’s also a cracker; with more of the toasty breadiness about it than the sweeter estery notes, it comes across extremely well indeed.
And that brings us to the Bad Seed Saison (6.0%). A shimmering yellow, it has a lovely aroma of sweet honey and zingy earthiness. The brew was indeed augmented with honey, as well as ginger and grains of paradise, and it’s a revelation. The balance is superb, the way it switches from a touch of bitter, prickly pepper to zingy honey and ginger sweetness is nigh on perfect. Neither of us could believe it. Yes, it’s hyperbolic. But bloody hell, it’s inspired. Bad Seed are definitely ones to watch.