Caught by the River

Pint by the River – Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop – 6.5%

Ben McCormick | 15th March 2011

by Ben McCormick

A huge great hulking bear of a bloke has been banging on at me for several months about the Bristol Beer Factory. I think he knows one of the people who work there, an even bigger chap aptly monikered ‘Big Chris’, and this is one of the reasons he’s such a fan. A resident of the hilly city, he also seemingly extols the virtues of Bristol to anyone who’ll listen.

I’ll be counting myself among those who’ll be listening in future. The Bristol Beer Factory, based in Southville, has been plying its trade since 2005 on the site of the old Ashton Gate brewery. Beer has been brewed on the site for more than 200 years and the Bristol Beer Factory is carrying on that tradition in some style. Not only that, they brew using locally sourced malt and hops, so you can assuage any guilt pangs you may have about the company’s corporate social responsibility credentials as well as slaking your thirst.

Southville Hop is apparently inspired by the often stupidly hopped beers put out by the craft brewing industry in the US. So the first thing you come across is the smell, which is that of a steadily ripening Brie de Meaux. It has a deep, golden, autumn sunset colour, although quite what difference that makes is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it’s meant to give you a clue as to the taste, but these things can so often be deceptive.

The pint I’m drinking is from a batch that’s been in the boozer for the last four days, although it is a relatively fresh barrel. From the smell, I’m expecting the kind of zing you usually get from deeply sour grapefruits, but this pint delivers a much more rounded, less bitter taste. This is apparently due to the ‘fine balance’ achieved with a strong, malty backbone, according to the tasting notes. Fortunately, in this instance, the notes are correct. And like a Jaffa Cake, it has a smashing orangey bit in the middle too.

My overall impression is that I’m drinking the bastard lovechild of Kernel SCCANS IPA and Theakston’s Old Peculiar. It’s not unpleasant by anyone’s standards.

I’m drinking it in a newly established beer specialist bar in Shoreditch called Mason & Taylor. And after a long, fraught, hassle-strewn day pock-marked with bickering and accusation, a fine balance between rounded, friendly malts and hoppy bitterness is as welcome as it is appropriate. So thanks to Bristol Beer Factory and to Sam Tait for recommending them. Southville Hop has put a huge tick in what was an ever-so complex box.