Warm summers, strong sunshine, autumn leaves, cold white frost an inch thick on frozen surfaces, huge downpours onto moist Spring ground, lovely rare steak and venison, lamb casserole, beautiful red wine. The feeling that its Friday morning when in fact its Saturday and you can close your heavy eyes and get back to sleep. All things that can easily, for me at least, be associated with Halcyon. No longer, alas, with the Thornbridge beer of the same name.
I used to love Halcyon. It was, frankly, a completely terrific beer. Bundles of fruit and citrus hops balanced perfectly in a scrumptious mix to make the ideal fruity pale ale, but with beautiful lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. In 2012 I came back from a week of slightly less inspiring beers in Crete and went to the Bath Hotel for a pint. I wasn't actually enamoured with the selection of real ales and kegs so went for a bottle of Thornbridge Halcyon. I absolutely loved it.
This was the first beer that I loved in cask, on keg, and in a bottle. It was so well balanced, it hit all the right notes in my book for a wonderfully refreshing strong pale ale. Its arrival at any pub was a triumph of delivery over expectation because it was also almost always better than I hoped or imagined it would be.
Three weeks ago, likely more, I was in the Bath Hotel, talking to Chris, or a man with a similar or entirely different name, who is currently running the pub. I have been going to the Bath less often lately but that isn't a reflection of beer quality, more of a different drinking pattern, less often being one feature. I noticed that Halcyon was on keg and was about £4.70 a pint, and ordered it with glee. And then I tasted it.
Um...someone forgot to add the citrus hops and mouthwatering fruit flavours for a start. And the bitterness was there, but was bleak and harsh and a little like paracetamol. I had expected a wonderful taste, and hadn't had some for a while, but this was a terrible re-enactment of a once wonderful beer.
I don't know enough about brewing to figure out what changes have been made to the recipe, or indeed why Thornbridge beer has become so poor - especially given the excellent pale they brewed back in September. I do think that an alleged merry go round of new brewers in quick succession may have destabilised the brewing, but if that is the case the solution is surely simple.... employ a good reliable brewer on a long term rather than short(est) term basis.
I am sure that running pubs makes Thornbridge more money than brewing beer does, so as a business I can forgive them for prioritising one over the other (if they indeed are) but I can't forgive them for ruining one of m,y former favourite beers ever, and making a rubbish version of Halcyon, worse even than the needlessly sweet Belgian version.
What lies ahead in 2017 for Thornbridge? I hope its better beer, simple as.
Yours in regret and disappointment