by Ben McCormick
Ah, the legendary mahseer. Member of the carp family found in the rivers and sometimes lakes of northern India, Nepal and other parts of southern Asia. Famed for its almost brutal strength and ability to strip line off a reel quicker than you can say Jack Robinson, the mahseer is prized by anglers the world over.
When you think of a mahseer, images of baking heat, shimmering sunlight glistening off silvery rivers and harsh, rocky river banks flow mesmerically through the mind. Thoughts of grappling with a reel, straining the butt of the rod against your belly, faffing with the clutch and being giddy with excitement when you hook into one; all these are conjured up by even a passing mention of mahseer.
So when I heard Green Jack Brewery, based in Lowestoft, had an IPA named after this terrific fish, the hope was there that I’d stumble upon a beer of similarly legendary status. When I was bought a bottle in the office ‘Secret Santa’ (with a long yearned-for 10 pairs of black socks), it was clearly a blatant case of kismet.
It’s easily one of the more attractive labels I’ve seen on a beer since the minimal beauty of The Kernel branding. A silver-scaled, golden-finned leaping mahseer takes centre stage, splashing out of the water against a dramatically cloudy sky.
The beer itself smells less sprightly. In fact on first opening, there’s a sharp, unwelcome vinegar cloud puffs itself right up the hooter, not unlike the mahseer itself thrashes its way up tumbling rapids on its way to spawning grounds.
But the colour is spot on. Like the underbelly of the majestic mahseer, it glints in the sunlight (OK, there isn’t any actual sunlight here) and glows a warm, Indian gold.
Alas, there just isn’t enough fight for this to properly qualify as an IPA out of the top drawer. There’s nothing wrong with it; quite the reverse, actually. It treads a fine 10lb line between smoothness and tart and has a waft of bitterness about the finish, but it all seems too casual. A let-down, even. Not dissimilar to catching what for all the world feels like a hefty carp only to find you’re reeling in the acquiescent, snotty bin-lid of a bream.
Not that there’s anything massively disappointing about a bream; it’s a decent fish. But it’s no mahseer, much as is this is not a really convincing IPA.