It's not even close to Autumn, probably about as far as you can get from the season in fact, but I saw this and had to buy it because I really enjoy this one. And then realised that I have never actually managed to review this brew and so decided that I really ought.
It is Shepherd Neame's Late Red. For a commercial brewery I seem to end up trying a lot of their stuff and seem to like them rather a lot. Indeed, if we were having some kind of competition then I suppose these guys would be winning even over Marston's and Black Sheep which saddens me as it looks like the South is winning.
Would you like to know more?
It pours nicely from the clear glass bottle, a lovely rich walnut colour and a nice smell that puts me in mind, for no particular reason, of Bonfire Night. There's something woody and smoky in the aroma that is subtle rather than over-powering and is contained by some nice hoppy edges to it. The first sip is, therefore, as you'd expect it - the carbonation managing to carry the hoppy smoky flavour rather than destroy it or over-power it, which is no mean feat. Despite the 4.5% ABV it doesn't feel like the clout gets in the way of the taste and it doesn't dominate badly at all. I had it with a ham and mushroom pizza from our local and found the two complemented each other quite nicely. Something about the salt on the meat made the beer sit up and pop in the mouth, so this is a good eating beer rather than a drink alone effort.
There's a refreshing quality to it, so that it actually quenches thirst, which I find very unusual in a beer at the best of times. Once again, it is a room temperature ale and does well when it is left to breathe in the glass before quaffing. A transient head arrives and is quite thick if you don't pour it right, a bit creamy, but mine left much quicker than the image above would suggest. In fact, the colour of the ale is what I actually think of when people tout ruby ales - though that is as much to do with the name as it is to do with the colour of the liquid.
Drink this in Autumn or on autumnal days, with woodsmoke hanging in the air and a sense of melancholy at the dying end of the year. Drink with a meal near a crackling fire, be surrounded by woodland, and imagine squirrels searching out and hiding nuts for the lean months ahead. Enjoyed best with close friends or family rather than large drinking trips in large crowds. Not really a sharing ale unless you all have your own to drink the full pint.