Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Driftwood Twenty Pounder Double IPA

I had only recently finished typing a comment on someone else's blog about how to deal with bad beer experiences as a beer blogger when I found myself — like a character in a Charlie Kaufman movie — intimately enmeshed in the very world I was describing.

I am drinking Twenty Pounder IPA, which is a much-awaited beer from my absolute favourite local brewery. It was released today. It is one of my favourite styles. And I'm not enjoying it at all really.

The blog post I alluded to earlier was one of a series, really. A few British beer bloggers have been tossing back and forth about how to deal with bad beers. Should you be honest? Should you even review them? Is it fair to say bad things about good people who have crafted a beer that you just happen to hate? That sort of thing.

I have no answers to those fundamental questions. I focused on what I consider to be the blogger's duty to his reader(s?). This is my bit:

One overlooked variable in the quandary of how to approach negative criticism is the nature of your blog itself. No one is a mere "blogger" — our blogs are driven by different aims and angles. A blogger identifying as a straight reviewer or appraiser absolutely has the responsibility to be frank about poor experience, whereas the philosopher or geek of beer minutae can dodge even having to think about how to handle it.

Bloggers who consider themselves more generic or personal in their approach are obliged in other ways. You build up a relationship with your reader who — in turn — trusts you and expects things of you. If you have spoken candidly on poor experiences in the past, or made gestures at cutting through the crap, then you would serve your reader best by spilling the beans. But if your tone is overtly sympathetic and your readers view you as a convivial proponent of the whole good beer scene — then you would not be misleading anyone if you were to damn with feint praise now and then…

SO where does that leave me with the Driftwood beer? Well, I've always screamed at the top of my lungs about how much I love them, and I've always been honest. I feel I have no choice.

The beer pours a mid orange, with a chunky head that leaves some persistent, patchy lacing. It is a crystal clear DIPA, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that Driftwood have begun to filter a little.* The aroma is very reminiscent of the Fat Tug IPA, which isn't my favourite Driftwood beer, nor is it my favourite local IPA, but it is a worthy brew that I often order and enjoy.

The nose is powerful, orangey, thick, tropical, somewhat cloying, but pleasant. Initially it tastes like a barley wine: syrupy and luscious, but with fairly sharp hop notes. The hops never really get going for me; they are excessive in no particular direction, lending to a rather characterless effect. Stewed apricots come through, but that's about it. I think that malt-lovers would be disappointed, hop-heads alienated.

Then the worst bit: a brutally astringent, chemically finish with all the grace and élan of a nail varnish jell-o-shot. Bad enough to be called flawed; so much so that I'd chalk this off as a bad bottle had it not only just come off the line. If this is 20lb-er as intended, it definitely falls somewhere between "not-for-me" and plain old "gross".


*I don't know why I wrote that Driftwood have begun to filter their beer. I think I got my wires crossed somehow based on the fact they have recently introduced an "unfiltered" sticker to some of their beers. Pure confabulation. AFAIK they do not and never have filtered. 


  1. 'Tis an interesting quandary, one which I sometimes struggle with myself. Some folks say you should never even review a beer until you have had it more than once. I get that, but... who would want to have another beer after the first one was no good? I have had a few bad bottles in my time, but I still review them. I just say that I think they are an off bottle - why should I cover up someone else's problem? I want quality control, dammit! I don't think there's really any legit excuse for packaging (or brewing) problems. If you sell it, it had better be your best.

    That said, I think I aim to be pretty objective and "respectfully honest" when I review any beer.

  2. This beer is getting blasted from pretty much anyone I've heard of that has tried it, so don't feel bad. Hopefully they'll just chalk it up to an utter failure release and learn from it in the future.

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