Fiddler’s Elbow

I’m so used to Americanized versions of English styles that I thought it might be interesting to wade into some actual British versions. In this case, we have a simple, hoppy pale ale, though oddly, it’s a beer that brewer Wychwood doesn’t even list on their website. In searching around, there are apparently a few different versions of this beer, some of which even incorporate wheat in the recipe. My “imported ale” version doesn’t say anything about wheat on it and seems to have a higher ABV than the British version, though who really knows. Information about this specific beer is a bit sparse, though I love the evocative name of the beer (my nerdy assumption being that it was the old-timey equivalent of medical condition now known as Wii-elbow – ok, it’s also apparently the name of a nearby town in England, but that’s just boring). I should note that I also love the artwork on all of Wychwood’s beers (and even the unique bottle itself features the witch logo ingrained in the glass). They’re actually quite appropriate for this time of year:

Wychwood Fiddlers Elbow

Wychwood Fiddler’s Elbow – Pours a hazy golden orange color with less than a finger of big-bubbled head. Aroma is very distinct from typical American pale ales. Smells hoppy, but with lots of malt and yeast character as well. Even some caramel and toffee notes in the nose. The taste is more malt focused, again with the buttery toffee (perhaps even too much of that, and it’s got an almost burnt or toasted character to it as well – perhaps it’s butterscotch, typically a sign of a problem), though there is a small hop bite towards the finish and in the not-to-pleasant aftertaste. The hop presence here isn’t anywhere near as pronounced as American varieties. It’s got a medium body, and that overpowering toffee/butterscotch flavor makes it less quaffable than I’d really want for a beer like this. It’s an interesting change of pace for me, but it’s also not something I’d really go out of my way for either… I have to wonder if I perhaps got an old bottle, or one that had some other defect. It was certainly drinkable, but something seemed very off to me. D

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/4/11.

I’ve had a couple of Wychwood’s other beers, so this was quite the disappointment. I will one day return to this brewery, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon, as I have quite a backlog of bottles to get through and we’re coming up on my favorite time for seasonal beers…

2 thoughts on “Fiddler’s Elbow”

  1. I never cared much for that butterscotch tang in beers, but even less so after learning what it actually is. I tend to find it in some of the Sam Adams variants, one of the reasons I’m not a big Sam fan.

    I am fond of traditional English beers, though what we can get here in the States from England sometimes seems a bit “same-y.”

    I kind of want some Innis & Gunn, though of course, that’s Scottish, so really has nothing to do with this beer.

  2. A very slight diacetyl/butterscotch flavor can be nice, and apparently low levels of such flavors are intentional in many styles in the UK, but I think something was wrong with the beer in this case. It was far too overpowering to be intentional…

    I saw a blog post somewhere recently that was looking at the quantity of beer imported to the US, and was really surprised at how low England was on the list (somewhere around 3% of imports are from England). And when I think about it, there really aren’t many British beers I really go back to that often.

    Scottish beers, on the other hand, seem to be some of my favorites (Brewdog, Harviestoun, Innis & Gunn). It looks like I’ve posted 6 Scottish beers and only 5 British beers on the blog, but that doesn’t count the ones not reviewed on the blog (or duplicates, or what’s in my “cellar”).

    Incidentally, I had another Innis & Gunn recently with a caramel dessert, and it was a fantastic match. I just saw that they also make a Rum barrel aged version, which I may have to check out…

    And of course, I managed to get my hands on some more Ola Dubh (30 year and 18 year, I think), which I’m greatly looking forward to…


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