Bedlam Brewery is based in Sussex which means they are not named after London’s infamous Bedlam (Bethlem Royal) Hospital. Instead, the name comes from an ancient Roman road which runs close to the barn in which the brewery was founded, in 2012.
Since then, the brewery has grown at an enviable pace and this year has secured some impressive investment to support their growth.
The branding is very ‘craft’, with beautiful 330ml screen-printed bottles, a slick “all on one damn page” website and a mission statement about using “only the best ingredients” – unlike all those other breweries then!
The range itself is bemusingly traditional; there’s a nod to the crafterati with the newly launched Pilsner but the rest wouldn’t look out of place in the most CAMRA-awarded pub. So how does it taste?
Benchmark is a standard Best Bitter; brewed at 4.0% ABV, it’s a golden syrup-coloured ale with a open, fleeting head on it.
The aroma is biscuity, with a very British hop scent of damp green vegetation and just a slight metallic tang underneath.
In the mouth it starts out gently sugary, slowly revealing digestive biscuits and a nicely building bitterness underneath. There are soft touches of red fruit, and it delivers exactly what it promises – a deeply traditional, drinkable Best.
Pilsner is the brewery’s newly launched beer; a bright gold 4.2% version of the beer that just about everyone now seems to feel obliged to brew.
The aroma is light with honey and touches of citrus underneath. It’s light and sweet in the mouth, with subtle and gently lemony hops slowly putting in an appearance. The finish is dry without being bitter and it’s another highly drinkable classic.
Golden Ale is, as you may have guessed, a golden straw-coloured 4.2% ale with a decent foamy head.
The nose is light and floral, with a gentle peachy fruitiness. It’s just as light and delicately fruity in the mouth, with a surprisingly substantial bitter finish, almost too drying for my taste but without being obviously heavily hopped. This one isn’t quite to my taste.
India Pale Ales always have me wondering if they’re aiming to be British or American in style. The blurb on the back of this 4.8% ABV bottle talks about dry hops and a “wonderfully full aroma”, so I’m expecting a classic US-style IPA.
It’s a rich amber coloured ale, with very little head in evidence. The aroma is unexpectedly restrained – soft caramel and a touch of red berries but no real evidence of all those hops.
Initially sugar sweet in the mouth, the hops finally start putting in an appearance with quite a deep, dry character coming through. There’s just a hint of citrus flavour that briefly appears but the beer lacks the fruit flavour punch and aroma I’m expecting.
Finally, Porter is a 5.0% ABV beer, the strongest of the range.
It certainly looks the part, with a dark reddish brown colour and a small, light tan head. The aroma is full of toasted malts, with just a hint of black treacle underneath.
It’s rich and full bodied, but without being very sweet – there’s a bitterness from almost-burnt malt and an mildly acidic finish that is simply heavenly. There isn’t much hop character here, but it’s a porter – it doesn’t need it.
Overall, I’m not too sure what to make of Bedlam. The beers are tasty and deeply traditional, but the branding clearly suggests something different. I’m left wondering if they aspire to be more ‘crafty’, or if they’re just eyeing the craft wallet.
Many thanks to Bedlam for sending me their range over to sample.