I've been beaten to this ale by another competent reviewer but, being me, I am not deterred. The tree is up, the children and Anna erected it on Friday, and today has been spent running about sorting Christmas stuffs. The Boy.exe stopped working, crashed and failed to reboot from start - we suspect an ear infection - meaning that he has vacillated between running around like a hellion and falling asleep leaning against one or other of his parents. For those keeping track, Willow is feeling better than she was but not out of the woods yet.
The scene was thus set for a proper ale of an evening to help me into the next week of running around and sorting yet more stuffs. Therefore I did not feel quite so bad going for another ale from the evil empire of Tesco, I refer, of course, to Revisionist (this time running cover for Marston's) Rye Pale Ale. Well, why not?
On a cold day, where the sun barely managed to beat the frost and melt the ice on the paths about town (and the frost formed after the break of dawn, I watched it happen to the rooves opposite) I lacked stout in the kitchen, but this pale has been waiting a while. An end, then, to waiting! Would you like to come with me further?
I was actually quite looking forward to this, despite the disappointment of some Marston's efforts in bars and pubs of late. I mean, they do good ale, but not achingly beautiful ale (like Halcyon here) or adventurous hops (like Wild Raven here), and so I have learned to view them as a decent ale to have of an evening but not something to write home about. Nevertheless, the bottle proclaimed that they had used American hops and combined two rather nice varieties in Citra and Amarillo. Both of these I have had before, memorably the Citra from Oakham Ales (here) and the Infinity from Blue Monkey (here), and so I decided that this may be worth the punt. Indeed, it poured with a rich brown to it, chestnut almost but not quite, and a decent head that was persistent. I think it has benefited from being in my kitchen for a few weeks as the weather has taken a cold turn and we haven't had the heating on.
Aroma was as expected, but the amarillo dominates over the tropical fruit of citra so that the overall impression is more muted and careful. There's no edge to the way the hops work, which is not so bad at all and may be a point in favour of this ale, but it means that it simply cannot compete with Citra at all. This is hops lite. Mind you, it does say that it is dry hopped and that is very clear in the way they suffuse the air. I like it, after all that, and the persistent head, apart from being vaguely disconcerting, does rather help when it comes to the first taste. The carbonation is strong, not overpowering, and allows the hops to rise to the forefront of the taste as it hits. The spice of the yeast mingles with the warm nature of the amarillo to allow the citrus tropical citra to ride clearly over the top. But as soon as you can discern the citra it is joined by the strange malt of the rye, which is very different from the barley of which I have grown accustomed. Again, it's not a bad thing but nor is it something that I'm going to rave over for hours on end.
Once that odd malt has faded slightly there's a pulse of bitterness, another bout of carbonation as it swirls, and then the long drive toward aftertaste. The swallow is good, a weight there that reminds you of the 4.3% ABV, not too strong and not weak neither, and then the memory of that rye. It's oddly bread-y as a consequence, with the definite bitter reminder of the citra and the barest hint of the dullness of the amarillo. It's almost the reverse of Dr. Hardwicke's Double IPA (here) actually, and that's not a bad thing necessarily. I can't see myself rushing out to buy more of this, but it is good for an evening of sorting out Christmas presents and ordering things from the internet whilst cutting wrapping paper as quietly as possible so as not to tempt the still-awake Girlie down to investigate.
This is best enjoyed in the dying light of the day, whatever the season, and preferably outside. If warm, I would suggest a combination with something that has been cooked over an open flame without seasoning and, if cold, I would recommend having after the meal has finished. In either case, have a brace on hand and share with a companion. An introductory ale if planning a sessionable evening (may I recommend following with Quint Essential here, or Business As Usual here, for the actual session). It's the sort of ale that will be kind on the following morning, but it does come from Tesco and so there is that hint of evil about it...