Origin: Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, England
Under its picturesque disused windmill, Batemans has proved one of England’s more enduring and adaptable independent breweries since half the Bateman family took the leap of faith necessary to buy out the other half and keep the brewery open back in the 1980s. Sales of solid traditional cask bitters like XB and XXXB may be declining, but the brewery has compensated by introducing new styles and specials, both in cask and in attractively packaged bottles for supermarkets and export.
Combined Harvest is once such novelty. Head brewer Martin Cullimore set out specifically to experiment with several different brewing grains when he created it for the bottled market in 2001, including malted oats, rye and wheat in the grist as well as barley.
The bottled beer proved a notable success, winning a gold medal at the International Beer and Cider Awards in 2002 and being selected for inclusion in the book 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. A cask version now appears as an occasional special, at a lower gravity (the bottled beer is 4.7%) and with a single hop, Challenger, at a modest IBU rating of 32.
It was the cask version that proved to be one of my pleasant beer surprises of the year when I happened upon it in top condition at a suburban Wetherspoon – a truly unusual and very complex beer that’s packed with flavour for a modest gravity.
The pale copper beer had a bubbly yellowish head and a very alluring aroma with fruit, slightly oily spice and malty cinder toffee. The palate was very full and complex with grainy rye bread notes, a touch of roast and vivid citrus hints emerging, the combination of grains yielding an intriguing mix of spicy dryness and firm sweetish malt.
A very smooth and nutty swallow was followed by a subtle and gentle but tasty and notably lasting finish, with orchard fruit and a gentle hop burr building to a light bitter bite.
You can read more about the brewery in a useful and relatively recent writeup by Roger Protz.