Some beers brood. Some beers glower and smoulder, slowly sharpening their knives, polishing their teeth, staring back at the drinker a silent assurance that they won't go down without a fight. Others promise class, refinement, an experience of delectation, and others still threaten with exoticism and wild attacks on the taste sensors.
Fluffy Little Clouds, the joint work of Wylam Brewery and Mad Hatter Brewing Company, promises nothing but happiness. All is well, the label murmurs into our ear as we slip into a slumber. All is well, the pies are still flying and the clouds are completely rainless. All is well.
So disarmingly charming is the label artwork, evocative of a 1990s third-party Windows screen saver, that it knocked this reporter off balance momentarily, his guard of suspicion and at least attempted objectivity dangerously lowered. I struggled to replace my game face, and found a bottle opener in this hell zone of a kitchen.
There is a rollercoaster-stop jarring sensation as the first scent from the neck is that of washing up liquid and after sitting looking at the delightfully illustrated bottle with a stun-gunned vacant smile on my face for so long this smell is disconcerting. This beer looked too good! Too pure for this world!
Say it ain't so.
By the time your correspondent had cupped his hand around the neck, creating an enclosed beer-face highway to get a better inhale, this rogue scent had flown, with wheat and real lemon, not chemical lemon, taking its place. An aroma unsurprisingly suggestive of a lemon-tinged Weissbier burbles up into the air.
The pour is thicker than expected, misty and fuzzy as the glass fills lemon-yellow gold, glowing up to apricot as the low East Hartford sun engorges it. The scent at this point is rich and saccharine lemon, fresh and moist. A tingle of saison-ish farmyardiness is present but barely so.
The first taste is wheat with tart citrus riding pillion. There are miles of zesty fruit-skin to chew through, and this sharp and juicy flesh gives way willingly with every bite and every swallow. The gorgeous scent rides above the sticky, tart, golden liquid and it's hard to take a drink without first taking another draw of that wonderful smell.
The base of the taste remains constant as the beer sacrifices itself on the face-altar, never losing its lemonality, while at times also bringing forth the taste of crumbly biscuits- beer and baked goods in synergy.
The mouthfeel is thicker than expected, perhaps as fluffy as the beer's name and label art suggest. The low level of carbonation adds a kick to the taste, letting the zesty and bouncy flavour take a little more of a run-up than the rules of the game allow. The aftertaste, which needs a little while between mouthfuls to fully develop, is a sherbet smack that sparkles then cloys, doing exactly what wet sherbet does.
All good things must come to and end, and the end of Little Fluffy Clouds comes with a final stroke of a lemon-flavoured pen, thick and sharp across the tongue as the last of the beer and the last of the carbonation are absorbed into the thirsty journalist.
At only 3.5% abv, Little Fluffy Clouds is an ideal all-day beer garden drink, a sweet little sour to sip upon under the sun. Its zesty lemon qualities also make it an ideal after-dinner drink, a palate cleanser after a heavy meal.
Little Fluffy Clouds is a simple answer to a complex question; a lemon meringue pie beer sounds like a head-scratcher, but Wylam, and Mad Hatter have made it look effortless.