Friday, 4 May 2012

Bitten by a snake

Yesterday evening, there was a documentary on Channel 4 about the World’s Largest Snake, a 48-foot monster that lived 60 million years ago. By coincidence, I happened to be sampling a serpentine-themed beer in the form of Wychwood Snake’s Bite, described as a “cider apple fruit beer”, and currently on offer at Morrison’s at a very reasonable £1.25 for a 500ml bottle..

In my youth, a Snakebite – a mixture of bitter and cider – was considered a distinctly edgy and dangerous drink, something favoured by bikers, punks and crusties that no respectable person would touch with a bargepole. Many pubs would refuse to dispense them, full stop.

While making a nod to the name of a Snakebite, this one is definitely a fruit-flavoured beer, not a cider or a beer/cider mix. It comes in Wychwood’s trademark brown glass bottle with apple green highlights on the label. On the back of the bottle it says “Give in to temptation with this sinful blend of traditionally crafted beer, infused with Cider Apples. Forgive yourself for enjoying its truly distinctive, refreshing fruit flavour.” The strength is 4.2% ABV, although the picture shows it as 4.0%.

It has an unusual sour fruit aroma which is quite un-beery. It pours a pale amber colour, more like a palish bitter than a lager, with a slight orange hint. There’s a decent initial head, but it quickly dissipates to a thin collar of foam. Carbonation is evident, but not overpowering.

The initial impression of the flavour is distinctly sweet, with a subdued apple fruitiness, and little evidence of hops. However the more sour, tart character returns in the aftertaste. Well chilled, this would be a thirst-quenching beer on a summer’s day.

It’s an interesting experiment, and considerably better than I might have feared, but ultimately to my mind rather falls between two stools.


  1. I have forwarded this to Dicky English & Mike Benner as evidence that you've broke the beard club rules and drank chemical fizz.

  2. Unlike a certain local CAMRA branch chairman, I haven't bragged about it on Facebook, though. And nor have I set foot so far in the new BrewDog bar in Manchester.

  3. I was unfortunate enough to also be suckered in by the pretty label and £1.25 price tag, my review is in progress but suffice to say I can't come up with anything positive about this beer other than the label

  4. I occasionally used to drink Snakebite in the 70s, although never in a real ale pub. CL can forward my name too if he likes, but as I'm regarded as a bit of a maverick anyway, who cares?

  5. Not sure I like the sound of this one. Definitely seems a bit gimmicky to me!

  6. It's not really intended to appeal to the beer aficionado and, while I probably won't buy one again, I found it rather better than I might have feared.

  7. Just because one is active in CAMRA it doesn't of course mean that one should limit oneself to CAMRA approved beers (unless you are some sort of beer bigot that is - and I think we both know plenty of them).

    And I think that's my annual quota of "one" used up.

  8. Surely Snakebite is lager and cider? At least it was in my student days.
    Ah, the memories of a lovingly concocted mixture of Diamond White and Skol.
    Actually, scratch that. There were very rarely any memories after an evening on that stuff...

  9. Snakebite was originally bitter and cider - it may have changed in meaning to include lager and cider once lager became more popular.

    Incidentally, does anyone remember a "Chinese" - a mix of bitter and lager?

  10. Snakebite was always a bitter cider mix when i was a lad Only girls drank lager in those days One of the strongest ones i had was a mix of skullcrusher bitter from the shetlands and scrumpy jack Two pints would have you well on your way Lager/bitter was known in my neck of the woods as a mickey mouse Bitter and barley wine was also a popular mix


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