Looking for Summer is an IPA brewed with raspberries, passion fruit and vanilla; Loose Leaf is an IPA infused with Earl Grey tea leaves; and East & West Pale Ale is a fruity, tropical pale brewed in collaboration between Vocation and Hong Kong brewers Gwei Lo. All are vegan-friendly but contain gluten.
As I write this, we’re staring at the prospect of a four day Easter weekend. This means it’s time for three things:
- Atrocious weather;
- Carbonising perfectly good food on the barbecue;
- Juicy, hoppy pale ales.
Fortunately, this weekend has offered up all three. The forecast for tomorrow is, incredibly enough, predicting snow. I’ve produced decidedly mixed results with my debut onto the 2021 barbecue scene. And Vocation has me covered with the next tranche of beers from their 440ml Showcase Selection.
Looking for Summer
In an unusual turn of events, it’s actually sunny outside allowing me to take a somewhat thematic picture of this beer. Looking for Summer has a cloudy, orangey-pink body with a loose, white head. It contrasts beautifully with the can: cyan with a multicoloured sunglasses motif. Regardless of how it tastes, this beer is going to do extremely well on Instagram.
Which is probably for the best, because unfortunately this beer doesn’t taste great. I think I can see how it works in theory: the tart, astringent flavours from the passion fruit seeds and underripe raspberries get balanced out by the spiced sweetness of vanilla. In practice, the flavours hit one after the other, rather than blending elegantly all at once.
A shame though perhaps not a complete surprise: odd flavour combinations like this are often hit and miss. Still, I’d hoped for better.
This looks like a far more refined experience than the previous beer: an elegant and floral afternoon tea, as opposed to a fruity milkshake.
Loose Leaf is an intensely hoppy IPA, infused with Earl Grey tea leaves from Yorkshire blenders Antonia & Panesar. That hop character is the result of cryo-hops, which we last encountered in Bristol. These hops have been concentrated into lupulin-rich pellets, perfect for packing in juicy, resinous flavours.
Concentrating the hops hasn’t contained the haze: this is a seriously hazy, bright orange beer. The aroma is also intensely orange, a mix of juice and blossom.
The palate starts with those powerful juicy flavours, before being overtaken with floral notes from a combination of the concentrated Citra hops and the Earl Grey. Bergamot adds to the citrus salad, before I get punched in the mouth with bitterness.
As Vocation puts it: this is not your grandmother’s cup of tea. It’s punchy, powerful, and pretty damn good. Sure, the metallic tiger printed on the can makes this beer look a little like a middle-aged man’s van. But unlike the van, the contents of that can smell (and taste) excellent.
East & West Pale Ale
We’re intimately familiar with Vocation, at this point. We’re also no strangers to Gwei Lo, having bumped into them on a trip to Hong Kong while Covid-19 was still a twinkle in a pangolin’s eye. So seeing these two names in collaboration together was enough to pique my interest.
The can art is a little underwhelming next to the other two specials: dirgey blues and browns show iconic imagery from the UK (stamps, Big Ben, the Yorkshire rose) and Hong Kong (taxis, the Hollywood Road sign). Within, however, we’re greeted with a pale yellowy orange, opaque beer with a brilliant white head.
The aroma is full of tropical fruit notes: dried pineapple, papaya, and guava in particular. This beer risks becoming sickly and overpowering on the palate with so much syrupy, tropical fruit flavour, but the balance of carbonation and oaty thickness keeps it from becoming cloying.
It’s only towards the end, particularly on the finish, that the dank, grassy hop notes show through. In that sense, I feel like I’ve been taken on a journey. East and West doesn’t just describe these two brewers from opposite sides of the world: it also applies to the style of beer, which takes us from juicy, hazy New England to the piney, grassy West Coast.
An excellent beer, and one that reassures me I’m right to gush on so much about Vocation’s and Gwei Lo’s beers.