Sunday, 28 December 2014

Artesian Ales: a double header

More ales, this time a brace, to review and it would appear that they are joined somehow. It would be wrong not to review them as the pair that they are. I picked them up for a pound apiece down at a supermarket I don't get to much - they have a good selection of real ales without being expensive. However, they remain an evil empire, not the Evil Empire, but an evil empire nonetheless. Even so, I was intrigued enough to pick these up as part of my ale-inspired Christmas present from Anna.

It was only after I got them home that I realised the horrible truth: they were both brewed by Shepherd Neame who seem to stalk my every move in beer reviews! Not that I'm complaining, they do appear to be one of my favourite brewers, but it is slightly annoying the way that they turn up without me even looking for them!

Rare, but I know where I stole this from:

And so, tonight, I am reviewing Artesian Dark Ale and Artesian Light Ale - why not - and thus face you with two paths. One will lead back to sanity and normalcy as you click on the address bar and type in a new place to visit, the other, the dangerous path, is to click below and read more. So, what is your choice fair traveller?

It won't surprise you to learn that I have sampled the delights of the Dark Ale first. I have something of a predilection for the darker fayre when it comes to ales and this is to prove no exception. Opening provides a nice snick that shows a good level of carbonation without being excessive. There's a bitterness to the aroma like lime or lemon, edging a definite mustiness of yeast with a solid malt bedrock. Good frothy head on the pour devolves in short order to a brewer's bloom that reminds me of the wort. Taste is thick, opening with a deep smokey malt and bittering hops; goes yeasty with a spicy hop toward the middle, reminiscent of a Thwaites actually, before fading to a strangely chocolate finish with flecks of orange like in those sticks one gets around this time of year - they do mint ones too. No, we haven't got any in. Hmm, I appear to be jonesing for mint-sticks now. Damn. Never actually conforms to any expectations does this ale and thus is very much worthwhile - especially given the price of this and the fact that it's mass-produced to be so cheap in the first place. This is a sessionable dark ale that hints at being a stout and, actually, does a far better job of being a stout than Oyster Stout does from Marstons, so make of that what you will. However, it never lays a claim at the mantle of stout and, for that reason, I am inclined to like this little cheap renegade, even at the rather weak 3.8% ABV.

Secondly there's the Light Ale, which was had after some gap in order to avoid contamination in terms of taste. I'm glad that I did. Despite only being 3.8% ABV it is a rather nice little number that has all the warming qualities one needs in a winter ale. Of course, this would be equally at home in the summer. There is a definite light malt tinge to the nose, full of hope and promise, Where its stable-mate is all about being a stout without actually being one, this lets the fruity hops do the talking. And they are definitely there on the first taste, taking the opening like they should and then mellowing softly to a light malt follow-up, flecked with points of yeast, before a long and slow run to the final chapter, where the hops hit the back of your throat and the whole thing just slips down without a fight. After that, it's just the after-taste that remains very much on the upbeat and the soft. It's a pleasant little ale that I can imagine would work well with a big meal at the end of a long day. It's the sort of thing you have with company and, because it is what it is, I imagine it would work well as a sessionable ale. However, as a stand-alone, this does not do the same job as the heavier dark version. I think that is a shame, but the amber-like nature of the pour and the overall feeling makes this a decent enough ale that would bear repetition quite handily. Indeed, I can see myself getting a few of these in for Eastertide when I would want to be out in the Dales or up the Trough of Bowland with some big hills down which to roll eggs (apparently that's a Preston thing) and some small streams to dam with big stones.

This is a good brace of ale, with some lovely little surprises. I am pleased that I got them in for the Christmas season and pleased to have tried them. At the price they are in the evil empire that they reside I will definitely be seeking to try them again, they are sessionable and I can afford to session them. Of the two, I think I prefer the dark ale because, well, it's dark and thus more interesting. Certainly the time of year plays a huge role in my decision and I shall be getting more in for the season, with the light ale playing second fiddle until, like I say, I get it in for Easter.

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