Mad Squirrel, $umo
Two big hops wrestle it out in one (big) can.
Mad Squirrel occupy an unusual position on the UK’s craft beer map. Both in terms of their geography and evolution. Founded in 2010 by business partners Greg & Jason they were originally called Red Squirrel, and, with a focus on traditional cask ales, produced beers for their native Hertfordshire. It could have all been very safe and, well, traditional.
“Where we are situated is a bit of a cultural gap, beer wise” says Marketing Manager Tim Hickford. “We are 20 miles from the centre of London, yet we are definitely not London! Our brewery is surrounded by rolling fields, we are too far out to be a part of the London beer scene, but not far enough away to be a part of anywhere else’s scene”. Cultural geography can be tough like that.
Mad Squirrel's Brewery View
As the team at Red Squirrel grew they found themselves becoming increasingly excited and influenced by the modern, hop forward beers coming on to the market. This in turn became reflected in their beers which, over the course of several years, became increasingly contemporary.
Things came to a head in early 2017 when Red Squirrel took the unorthodox step of completely rebranding themselves. A transformation that led them to become Mad Squirrel.
“What we were finding was that the beers we were now producing were jarring with the folksy, rural imagery of our old branding. Rather than do what many breweries do by setting up sub brands or offshoots we decided to go the whole way and completely visually reinvent our company” explains Tim. “The whole rebrand was done in house, by those of us who brew and sell the beer, so we feel it is authentic to us. 18 months later I can categorically say it was the best thing we have ever done!”
The rebrand didn’t start and stop at a name change though. It coincided with the building of a brand new state of the art brewhouse and canning line which kicked into action last August.
It may have seemed like a brave move at the time but it looks like it’s paying off. Mad Squirrel are set to brew two million pints this year and have commissioned three new triple fermentation tanks to be installed in early 2019. If you’re a native to the Home Counties you will have probably seen (and tasted) their beers thanks to your local indie bottle shop of one of their six Tap & Bottle Shops.
If you were particularly fortunate you might have tried this week’s beer, $UMO, already. Their flagship American Pale Ale, the beer is named after Summit and Mosaic, the two hops that star in the beer.
“We changed the S to an $ to tie it back to being an American style beer, it’s like a cryptic crossword clue name” says Tim. The beer is unfined, unfiltered (and therefore suitable for vegans) and pours with a hazy golden orange colour and billowy white head. On the nose aromas of citrus, orange, grapefruit and lychee are prominent. It’s a beer of two halves. First from the juicy citrus fruit hit of Mosaic and then the dry, almost herbal finish of Summit. It’s less of a fight and more of a fine balance which showcases the very best of these two big hops.
A bit like traditional Japanese wrestling, it has gained quite a cult following and we’re pretty happy to be sharing $UMO with you this week.
We've put together a mixed case of Mad Squirrel beers, which you can buy here.