Rascal's Brewing announced themselves with their Ginger Porter in 2013 and have been producing a shapeshifting range of draught since then. At last their beers have been packaged for takeaway consumption in the form of these three cans, new arrivals to many outelts around the country in the past couple of weeks.
I start with Yankee White IPA, listed on the Rascal's website as one of their seasonal world hop series. Hopefully this is now a regular beer, because it is absolutely fantastic.
A clear, pale gold it pours with a small white head, and the aroma is a fresh and clean blend of lime and grapefruit, juicy orange and an ever-so-slight witbeer wheatiness. It may have been a cold, January afternoon, but with the sun shining on and out of the glass, it felt like July. To taste it's a dry, coarse, wheaty grain bill to start, with bitter citrus backing this up immediately. There's definitely a good fist of wit-like spiciness, despite the absence of any actual wit spice - it's soft and full yet drinkable, and has flashes of mellow pepper and candied lemon rind. It strays from bright, US citrus fruit to a very European crunchy greens thing, all the while remaining dry, super clean and eminently drinkable.
Seriously good stuff this.
I followed with Big Hop Red, a beer I first had at last year's cask festival at the Franciscan Well. It's dark copper and on the nose seems a bit more rough on the edges than the Yankee, offering caramel and orange and not a whole lot else. Despite the name it's not hoppy in a very big way, but it does offer orange and... well, orange, atop a chewy caramel fudge base. What I don't appreciate is the slightly rubbery, burnt bitterness we usually get from a black IPA. In the end it's better than the blandest of Irish reds, but far from the punchy, hop-forward red I was expecting, or indeed the flavourful version I'd previously had.
To finish is Rascal's flagship beer, their Ginger Porter. Like any good porter this one's black and just off-white and gives light roast and milk chocolate on the nose. It's sweet, here, and the aroma suggest anything of the ginger. Ditto on the palate; this is seriously silky, light and drinkable, and plays friendly, thin milk chocolate notes against a lovely sweet and spicy fresh ginger backdrop. The ginger is mild, measured and mannerly without seeming limp or lost, so gingerphobes needn't worry about being. This is very deftly put together beer, a million miles away from the hamfisted spiced beers we come across every autumn or winter.
All are worthy of the effort and the money of buying them, but to this drinker, the Yankee shines as the crowning achievement.
Bonus points are awarded here for being easily the prettiest cans in the country.