What funky glasses! Probably not to the purists taste, but I quite liked the Camden ‘Jack’ glass that was thrust into my hand when I went down to Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds to have a try of Camden Brewery’s latest ‘Versus’ collaboration.
The glasses were designed by Jack Smith, of well known designers SmithMatthias, hence the ‘Jack’ monicker. Easiest way to describe it is a squashed pint glass, shorter and broader. Fits nicely in the hand, more jam jar than a traditional schooner. I quite liked them, particularly the half full/half empty lining.
They’ve brought out two new glasses by well known designers. The other one is by the knight of design, Sir Kenneth Grange and guess what the tall slim lager glass is called; ‘Kenneth’.
So much for the glasses, what about the beer? Building on the Versus collaborations with other breweries and on a previous Double India Pale Lager Versus brew by Wicked Weed and Camden, the new one is essentially a toned down version of the previous 8.5% DIPL but with the emphasis on the A rather than the L.
There were quite a few members of the Camden crew on hand to tell people all about the beers and Lucy explained they wanted to brew an IPA, rather than the L leaning beers that Camden have specialised in.
Essentially an IPA for the masses, the beer is brewed as an ale, in their new(ish) brewery in Enfield and available nationally through M & B outlets.
In order to describe the 5.6%Versus IPA, I’m going to tell you I also tried the 8.5% Wicked Weed Freak of Nature DIPA. Strangely they wouldn’t serve me a half, only thirds and two thirds schooners? It was a very nice, hazy, juicy, hoppy, well balanced in terms of malt and alcohol, accomplished beer. I thought it was pretty decent.
I’d liken the Versus IPA to a Camdenized version of the Freak of Nature. Everything toned down and an input of that unmistakeable Camden signature, almost like a shandy made from Freak of Nature and Camden Pale.
In the ‘Jack’ glass the Versus IPA was a hazy yellow/straw colour with a thin white head. There wasn’t a great deal of aroma and I think the broad glass allowed any aromas to dissipate. The taste was an initial lemon citrus feel, subtle grapefruit, mangoes and a hint of apricot. There was some hop bitterness but it wasn’t excessive and it would suit most palates. It was, as described, an IPA for the masses; one that most people could enjoy drinking all night.
I wondered what influence ABI has had on Camden? Lucy told me no one had wandered into the brewery and told them how to brew stuff and Camden were keen to retain their independent values and beliefs, whilst developing new styles and taking inspiration from themselves and other brewers. Apparently the biggest influence ABI have had is to gain them better and easier access to hop sources in the US. Having said all this, it needs to be borne in mind that ABI also bought out Wicked Weed in 2017.
All in all, I think they’ve produced a decent beer that will appeal to mainstream tastes whilst gently pleasing those who like a bit more oomph in their beer. If it were a cheese it would be a decent mild cheddar rather than an extra mature vintage version, but isn’t that the sort of thing that Camden do so well?