Beer Matters

Wobbly Frame

I had been looking forward to trying Wobbly Frame. For a start it comes from the Hampshire Brewery in Romsey and I cut my drinking teeth on Romsey ale from the former Strong’s brewery. (Older readers will remember the big railway hoardings which read “You are now entering the Strong Country“.) Hampshire has been brewing since 1992 and subsequently acquired the Strong’s name and logo from Whitbread, who had taken over and closed the old brewery. Unfortunately I don’t get down that way as often as I used to and have had too few opportunities to sample their beers, although I do recall a superb pint of Pride of Romsey in Stockbridge a few years back. So when the Editor emailed me with the news that he had a couple of bottles for my urgent attention, I hastened to arrange a rendezvous.

Max clutching a Wobbly Frame prior to losing a QP at Fulham - not because of the beer! (photo by the RW Editor)

Wobbly Frame is a bottle-conditioned beer, as I failed to realise until I had upended it fairly roughly. (Rule 1 - Always read the label first.) In the glass it is a pleasingly traditional chestnut brown with a healthy but not too tight head. The aroma is fresh and hoppy with an underlying maltiness which promises a beer not lacking in body.

And indeed it has a fulsome, satisfying mouth-feel which belies its modest 3.8% ABV. The flavour is well-balanced with plenty of hops to the fore (nothing fancy here, if I am not mistaken, these are good old Goldings and Fuggles) and a pronounced yeasty tang (slightly reminiscent of Abbey Bell Ringer and rather more so of Sharpe’s Doom Bar). Its natural carbonisation is just right and it goes down well, leaving a lingering bitter finish.

On the whole, a very fine beer which deserves wider appreciation - a draught version, perhaps? Having rung my first quarter of Stedman Triples at Romsey Abbey nearly 40 years ago when the frame was no doubt considerably less wobbly, I wish the appeal well and look forward to ringing another on the rehung bells, followed by a few pints of Firm Frame.

Readers will doubtless have heard the sad news of the death of John Young, which coincidentally (or perhaps not) occurred the same week as the last brew at Wandsworth. He was, by all accounts, a great character and I shall cherish the card, hand-written in his customary black felt-tip, which he sent to thank me and the local band for our compliments on the quality of the Winter Warmer in 1993. May he rest in peace.

First impressions of the new Bedford-brewed beers? Well, the Ordinary hasn’t changed beyond recognition but aficionados tend to agree it’s lost that distinctive bitter edge, and the Special may taste a bit more like Bombardier but it’s difficult to be objective - pretty much what one might expect, really. And how long before the new company brewing both Wells’ and Young’s beers decides that a “rationalisation” of the product range is called for? I’ll give it 12 months at the outside.

My local Wetherspoon has just reopened after closing for a few days for refurbishment, including facilities for serving “super-chilled” beer. Thankfully, the cask ales are not subjected to this treatment, and the choice and quality seems to have improved somewhat. The rather lurid turquoise paint has gone too, replaced by a nice warm terracotta colour.

Among the ales on offer was Rutterkin from Brewster’s Brewery (Stathern, Leics). A brewster is of course a female brewer and Sara Barton does an excellent job; whenever I’ve tasted one of her beers, I’ve been seriously impressed. Rutterkin is a fine example of the modern golden bitter style but best of the bunch is Hophead - the name says it all.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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