Cloudwater Vermont ESB

Cloudwater: Vermont ESB (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Apricot to brown. Loose brown creamy head that leaves lace.

Nose: Watermelon and grapefruit. Fresh and tart. Mild gherkin. Slightly bready.

Body: Thick and viscous. Vinous notes. Smooth and creamy. Brandy cream, Mild gherkin. Raisins and Madeira. Glacier cherries. Caramel. Blood orange and tart grapes.

Finish: Light bitterness that raises quickly. Walnut oil. Malt drinks. Pineapple chunks. Kiwi. Watermelon. Light acidic drying feel. Tart grapes. Palma violets.

Conclusion: This very smooth, very smooth indeed. I think this, unlike the DIPA v3.0 is showing how the Vermont yeast works, based on the descriptions I have heard. It is smooth, creamy and really lets the hop flavours show.

Speaking of the hops flavours, for me ESBs have always been a malt led beer choice. This one on the other hand very much emphasises the tart fruity hop character. Though for that it does have a low bitterness, with the exception of the finish – it instead pushes really high on the tart fruit hop flavours.

In fact the fruit – the pineapple, blood orange and the like, feels so fresh that you can almost imagine fishing fruit pulp bits off our tongue – the texture is smooth but somehow you still have the urge to lick off psychosomatic flecks of fruit. This fruit tartness leads to an acidic dryness in the mouth, again almost akin to consuming the fruit itself.

Unfortunately due to this the traditional ESB flavours are pushed to hide as backing notes, especially early on. Though when they do come through, and are more notable late on they are done very well. Lots of spirit soaked notes, malt drinks and dark fruits, just hid much more than you would expect. The smooth texture lets the stabbing spirit notes stand out and gives the creamier, brandy cream influenced notes some play, so it really feels like the yeast could make a good malt led ESB if they wanted to lean that way.

So, yeah, it is interesting to note that the Vermont yeast used here has none of the brett style notes that were in the DIPA V3.0, which confirms my suspicion that the beer had something off with it. As for this beer itself, it is very good, but feels almost like a fruity IPA over an ESB base rather than as a firm example of the ESB style. It maybe could do with the malt side pumping up a bit.

As a beer in itself, rather than as an example of the style, it is lovely. A spirit touched tart fruit hop fest – the light use of the ESB style makes if feel like a barrel aged IPA, with a freshness of spirit character I do not feel we would see any other way.

It is a luxurious base beer with tart challenging flavours. A mix of relaxing and awakening. In the end it is a style mash up I can highly recommend. It may not be weak at 6.5% but it delivers a boom that tastes 8% or up with all the spirit notes, the thick character and the big hops. It earns every inch of the abv it uses. Very impressive.

Background: After my set of notes on Cloudwater: DIPA V3 a few people let me know that the weird Brett style flavour in it wasn’t similar to their experience, so I may have got a just slightly duff bottle. As of such I was interested to find another bottle made with Vermont yeast for comparison. Thankfully Independent Spirit had in another Cloudwater beer made with that yeast – this ESB. So, here goes my quest to get used to what this yeast does.

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