Thursday, 15 November 2012

Beer Review: Cumberland Ale

Tonight is the turn of a beer that was brewed close to where we went on holiday and is a reminder of my life in Carlisle - specifically attending a friend's birthday on the way to Workington - Jenning's Cumberland Ale.

Cumberland doesn't exist any more, of course, it's part of Cumbria now and the label carries views of the Lake District - as if that makes any difference. Still, its heritage is apparent in the taste - very much reliant on the yeast and the hops than the malt. There's Golding in there, I think, and it shows through more than the yeast. A citrus tang pervades both after-taste and aroma, which is not unpleasant, and there is a fire to it - something I like in an ale. I have memories of this as the first beer I ever tasted at a mate's eighteenth birthday do and I remember it being creamy. It is not creamy at all. Fuzzy little head, like Ruddles, and a finish to that as it fizzes away like you see on streams running over rocks. It is very carbonated too, close in fizz to Veuve Clicquot champagne actually, and this has the double effect of making the alcohol go to your head faster and masking the taste a little. Both are not positive parts of the experience - they aren't bad, they just aren't positive.

It weighs in at a pretty strong 4.7% ABV and it is slow in letting you know about this. Sovereign sort of announces its strength by beating you over the head, in a good way, but Cumberland sort of creeps up on you after several sips and tastes beforehand. As a bottled ale it does not do as well as it ought, it is much better on tap from the cask at a bar. It is a 'cold' beer, in that it is not a warming taste even when served at room temperature. It is a summer drink.

Drink this in the garden from the bottle or, better yet, in a pub watching the cricket. Best in a breezy, and thus not too hot, summer day on wooden benches and tables. Eat proper pub grub, for this is a table ale, like steak and chips with a French mustard. It is a slow drinker and can stand to go a bit flat from the bottle or simply drunk over time from tap. Don't expect too much and this will serve you well. A perfect companion ale, to be had in the background rather than taking centre stage like a good understudy. Never a first choice but, equally, should never be left til last either. Choose above Square Ale (Black Sheep) but eschew in favour of Thoroughbred Gold.

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