Cheddar Ales, Goats Leap IPA
A very english IPA... in keeping with a brewery that carefully walks the line between traditional craft and ambition.
If you've never visited Cheddar you would no doubt imagine it a sleepy world of cheese, caves and tearooms. In the most part you'd be right. However, you may be surprised to learn that Cheddar is a producer of more than just its eponymous dairy products. A stone's throw from Cheddar's famous gorge, at the foot of Somerset's Mendip Hills, you'll find the village's only brewery.
In just seven and a half years Cheddar Ales have successfully managed to secure a solid foot hold within the local pub market. Their 'Gorge Best' and 'Potholer' brews are particularly popular in this area, with many punters consistently opting for one of these traditional British ales week in, week out. Owner and head brewer Jem Ham may have honed his craft over 15 years at nearby Butcombe Brewery but Cheddar offers much more than just reinterpretations of classic real ale. Move past the casks and you'll find a selection of bottle conditioned beers that truly have an extra bite.
This need for a range that offers more than just pub staples gives rise to Goat's Leap; Cheddar's India Pale Ale. In keeping with a brewery that carefully walks the line between traditional craft and ambition, Jem assures us that he strongly believes in brewing to style.
Yet this hasn't stopped him from producing a brew that's special; for him there was no point in producing an IPA at 3.5% volume with a meagre hop count. Goat's Leap is brewed using the highest quality Maris Otter, Wheat, Crystal and Cara malts and hopped with a blend of English Goldings, Challenger and Fuggles whole hops. As Jem summarises, it's a "very English IPA, fully Englished Hopped Bitter at 5.7%" It is this hoppy character that is immediately noticeable and Jem has worked hard to ensure that the bitterness consistently retains its trademark kick: "I had a couple of bottles last night, the bitterness started to slip away but we've got it right back where it should be again. It's absolutely cracking at the moment, it's really good."
To the eye Goat's Leap is clear amber in colour; of course, this is through no accident. Jem explains: "I personally like clear beer because you haven't got any of the hindrance of yeast or protein haze in the beer, which to me take away from the flavour of what you should be tasting. To my mind yeast is there for a purpose, it's there to ferment beer, it's then there to settle out and then you don't drink it."
Goat's Leap is not your typical modern IPA with a massive punch of new world hops, instead it relies on a balance of pale and crystal malts backed up with traditional English hops. This combination gives a big malty hit which trails off into a bittersweet floral finish. For a beer that is just under 6%, it still remains light and refreshing, perfect for the British summer.
This week's write up is by Mike Jenkins & Simon James, co-founders of Hop & Barley, a forthcoming real ale and craft beer publication. Thank you to Jem Ham from Cheddar Ales for taking the time to talk to us. Follow us on twitter @hopandbarley or drop us an firstname.lastname@example.org