Classic Beer of the Month
Hall & Woodhouse Tanglefoot, 4.9%
Back in the 1980s, changes in the beer market set British brewers thinking.
As a way of regaining sales that were increasingly being stolen by lager producers, it seemed like a good idea to create their own pale-coloured beers. If we can’t beat them, the feeling was, let’s join them.
Down in deepest Dorset, the brewers at Hall & Woodhouse were early drivers of the golden ale resurgence. Their contribution arrived around 1982.
Against the usual brown bitters, their new beer stood out. It was light amber in colour, although not as ‘yellow’ as others that were to follow. It was also rather deceptive, the pale colour and sweet, fruity flavours suggesting that you could perhaps drink more of it than was good for you.
A story is told that John Woodhouse, the head brewer of the time, fell foul of his own deception. Attempting to rise after a few pints, he found his legs no longer worked. Thus the name ‘Tanglefoot’ was born.
A more modern telling of the tale puts the blame on John’s dog, who tangled him up with his lead. But whether either – or neither – of the tales is true, the name has stuck, making Tanglefoot the beer that Hall & Woodhouse is best known for today.
Modern English Golden Ale
Tanglefoot is produced using Flagon pale malt and seasoned with Golding, First Gold and Challenger hops. It’s a classic example of a modern English golden ale, the hops being beautifully fragrant and herbal without the sometimes wearing forcefulness of New World varieties.
The aroma is delicately perfumed, with a squeeze of lemon and some syrupy malt. The taste is lightly fruity – lemon and gooseberry to the fore – falling just on the bitter side of bittersweet as herbal, grassy hop notes push through.
Beneath all this sits a base of moreish, silky pale malt then, after a little more fruit on the swallow, those herbal hops take over again in the long, dry finish.
If you want to sample Tanglefoot in cask, then I’m afraid you’ll have to travel to the South of England as Hall & Woodhouse no longer sells beer to the free trade, but you can always buy it in bottle.
It’s not the same, of course, and is certainly not helped by being packaged in clear glass, but it’ll give you some idea of what – possibly – caused the head brewer to momentarily lose his coordination some thirty-five years ago.