Thursday, 18 December 2014

Beer Review: Aile

It is late in the year, it is dark and the cold is drawing in upon both the landscape and the people. As the night turns black so people turn inward, toward the warmth of hearth and family, huddled against the darkness without in small spaces. Blankets, coats and pyjamas used 'gainst the freeze about lest the fire draw the attention of the eyes of others not of our kith or kin. It is time for beer, time for ealu.

And tonight's guest to the rug before the fire is Aile, being the Manx Celtic for 'fire' or 'flame', which seemed oddly fitting. It is brewed by Okell's in the Isle of Mann and I have a few of theirs hanging around so expect to see them again.

Okay, okay, so I had it at lunch...

Bad poetry aside, this bills itself as a Porter and so I was expecting something heavy and stout-like, if that's not your bag, desist! Otherwise, you know, feel free to dive right in by clicking on this not-at-all ominous and significant link in order to plunge through the dread and eldritch portal.

Christmas is near upon us and so the darkness of this bottle called the most. Reading the little description on the label about it being named after fire also helped a little. I am not a huge fan of the Festive season - it seems to go on a little too long and get a little too desperate for any genuine cheer to be had, but this is a time of other things (such as my father's anniversary of birth and being off from work for a time to enjoy being with the children) so I can't complain. Still, the allusion of fire already made this an attractive little ale.

On opening the promised fire had an immediate effect with a burnt biscuit teasing the nose amid the usual chocolate-y tones one associates with stouts and dark ales. No heavy hopping, nor rich fruitiness one normally sees in the cluster of Christmas ales, just letting the malt and the mash process do the work. And fine work it does, there is a hint of the burning peat here, dark and rich and mysterious whilst losing nothing of the smoke without the deliberate tang of woodsmoke. Enthralling even.

First taste is not what I expected at all. It was much thinner than the colour, a brooding blackness, would suggest and there was more fizz than the faint head would have alerted me to - mind you, I did pour it carefully and so there shouldn't have been any head at all. There is, however, an immediate depth to it, that brings that peat to mind once more, before that malty fizz takes over for a time and rolls across the tongue. A minimally bitter ending, but not sweet, rounds out this warming and strangely thin full-bodied ale. It was a better choice for the season than the Pale I have lurking on the kitchen counter but that's not to disparage the pales. In that sense, then, this is similar in texture to Oyster Stout (link) but much much nicer and more rewarding. Not as heavy a hitter as the Barbarian Stout (here) or the Anubis Porter (here) but it definitely holds its own at 4.7% ABV and a brooding darkness that would rival that of Edward Norton or, in the right film, Helena Bonham Carter.

Do not enjoy this ale, for this is a warming smokey mixture designed to keep you safe on frost filled nights in the frozen wastes of wintertime. Pull your cloak around you closer around the crackling flames of the campfire out in the fields surrounded by the pitch forest and ghostly white of the birch among the undergrowth. Talk in low voices over a pint as you listen with half an ear to the sounds of the forest to detect any change that may bring warning of danger or worse. An eald ealu ffer an ealder ham, sculd thu see then scalt thu see and aile wilt ail thu.

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