Five ‘O Clock Shadow, 7.0% ABV, Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja, 5.5% ABV, Boring Brown Beer, 8.2% ABV, Holy Hoppin’ Hell, 9.5% ABV, Fade To Black, 6.5% ABV
“No gimmicks, no crap and never knowingly under hopped” is the mantra that the two award-winning home brewers of Weird Beard hand-craft their beers to. Based in west London, Weird Beard brew beers with higher than the average alcohol and hop contents and specialise in experimental, high-flavour beers. Inspired by the American and British craft beer scene, as well as “great music, exquisite food, and epic beards”, Weird Beard craft beers that push flavour and alcoholic content to the limits, challenging ideas of what ale and beer should be. Excited by all this, we went to their brewery in Boston Manor for a tasting. Fittingly, the plant and all its equipment resembled Gustavo Fring’s lab in Breaking Bad, and we came away rather hopped up to say the least.
Five ‘O Clock Shadow is our first beer, an American IPA that’s described as “The real Desperate Dan of the beer world”. Certainly, it’s a powerful beer, and at a very enticing 7% ABV, Dan really does take you by the hand, to the hop-filled land. There’s a little resonance of malt in the smell and a very big taste. The Five ‘O Clock is almost spicy and has great bite, but like its name it’s not too hairy, rather well-balanced.
Next we have the curiously-titled Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja, a German Pilsner, with cheeky amounts of citra hops, that has reassuringly been given “plenty of time to lager”. The taste is clean ‘n’ crisp, but the citra brings a hint of more tropical flavours. Of the Weird Beard beers we try, this is the most ‘ordinary’ or ’straight’ tasting of all the brewery’s twisted concoctions and closest to other beers, in alcoholic content as well as flavour and smell. Nonetheless it’s a lovely, refreshing beer, and they’ve even started doing it in cans.
Don’t be fooled by the title of the following beer, the Boring Brown is anything but. An imperial best bitter aged in Ardbeg scotch barrels sounds like a complete culture clash but this beer just about pulls it off. Pale and malty with a single hop used as well as English Ale yeast, the Boring Brown Beer is Weird Beard’s homage to the great English pint. At first this is a confusing beer – you want to take decent sups since it is a beer, but the high, whisky-drenched aroma and aftertaste tells you to sip. That said, it really puts a kick into the mornings, and the smokey smell/taste makes this one of the most interesting beers I’ve ever had.
Batch #6 of the Holy Hoppin’ Hell double IPA is what we wet our whistles with next. With three different prominent hops it doesn’t take long to see how they settled on the name of this beer. By taste alone, it’s deceptively strong – very refreshing but bolstered by great alcohol content. This makes Holy Hoppin’ Hell distinctive, powerful, but not overbearing enough to prevent enjoyment, which is an admirable balance.
Lastly, we’ve got Fade To Black, a fitting title for the final beer in this alcoholic odyssey. If Boring Brown seemed like an odd combination, get your head around this Black IPA. That’s right, a Black IPA. Fade To Black is comprised of fruity hops, dark toasty malt notes and spicy rye. Drinking this, you can detect a coffee resonance but it’s not heavy enough to be distracting, which is fortunate for coffee-loathers like me. The thrust of the dark malt works well with the refreshing lightness brought from the hops. I’m not sure I could drink Fade To Black all night, but despite its unorthodox nature this is a very, very pleasant beer. I can see the roasty smell and aftertaste, which lingers tantalisingly in the throat, as mixing well with meat dishes.
Out of all of these taste bud-blasting beers, I’ve got to go with Holy Hoppin’ Hell for its strength, flavour, and balance as my favourite. The more manly beer drinker (or, rather, pretentious asshole) might go for one of the (many) more robust Weird Beard beers. However, with their great titles, label design and descriptions, and of course the unique beers themselves, Weird Beard represents the more inventive, daring, and imaginative side of craft brewing, and should be on the lips of anyone talking about London beer.