Curlew’s Return, from Allendale Brewery, is reviewed by Ruari O’Toole.
A few weekends ago I dropped far too much money on a batch of fine ales from Allendale Brewery, and last night I was surprised on going through the little cupboard in my kitchen that tries to pass itself off as a beer cellar that one of these bottles had escaped my attention.
I’d convinced myself I was all out of beer worth writing about, so I seized upon this bottle of Allendale Brewery Curlew’s Return with an absolute vengeance!
Curlew’s Return is a seasonal ale, brewed in Hexham throughout spring and early summer, and on opening has a powerful yeasty scent, with a surprisingly carbonated pour that forced me to really take my time getting it from the bottle to the pint glass.
Safely transferred from one glass tube to the other, Curlew’s Return shows itself to be a gorgeous ruddy brown, and the very bubbly brown head takes its time to relax down to a thin off-white dusting over the roof of the beer.
With the first drink this beer shows off its floral taste in no uncertain terms; there’s a feeling almost like taking a mouthful of grass and wildflowers that rides in with the sharp, warm and bitter taste of Curlew’s Return. Things get a little incinerated on further drinks with a surprisingly tasty undertone of burnt leaves and roasted chestnuts (I know, the burnt leaves thing sounds weird, doesn’t it? Trust me though, this is a good beer!).
All the way down to the bottom of the glass (and by the way, this beer left not a single stain on the sides of my straight pint glass until the last couple of mouthfuls) there are jabs of wheatgrass and citrus that come out of nowhere and disappear as quickly as they came, and all of this in a beer with the perfect amount of carbonation – subtle enough to give a little extra bounce to the drink without being especially noticeable.
Towards the end the taste thins out, but this leaves the final mouthful tasting sweet and subtle rather than anaemic, and pretty much compels the drinker to have another one. Not all beers are a pleasure to the last gulp, but this certainly is, with a slightly sour twist to the drink’s parting shot.
Balance in beer is a funny thing, and a “balanced” drink is hard to define. It’s not essentially a good thing either; some of my favourite beers are not so much unbalanced as completely unhinged with psychotic tendencies, but Curlew’s Return has the kind of balance that you see in a perfectly mixed Long Island Iced Tea, with a collage of different tastes coming together to make something beautiful, refreshing and smooth.
Finishing a bottle of Curlew’s Return made me instantly desire a warm spring or summer evening in which to drink it, preferably outdoors and with good company. It’s a beer I could easily devote a night of drinking to, and at a pleasant 4.2% ABV it’s a beer that can be savoured in multiples before things start to go a bit misty.