Sunday, 1 March 2015

Beer Review: 617 Ale

I have made no secret of my lack of patriotism, I hope, and I even wore that as a badge, of sorts, when reviewing London Glory (here) back before, or around, the 2012 Olympics. I mean, I did see the opening ceremony of those Olympics, finally, earlier this year thanks to a colleague of mine and I was wrong not to watch them at the time, but, still, I am proud of the NHS (now that I contribute to it via tax) and I am proud of not a lot else. Accident of birth and all that. Anyway, I was late to latch on to this tribute to the Dambusters in the form of 617 Ale by Batemans as a consequence - it was brewed for the 70th Anniversary of the raid in 2013. So, yeah, quite late.

I found it on offer and I think that my review may be a little late if anyone actually wants to, you know, drink this themselves, but so be it! Maybe people who have had it can compare notes and declare my prattlings to be, well, prattling. I don't think anyone would have trouble denouncing my blog as being too verbose.

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Despite the evidence of the picture above, this 3.5% ABV golden ale gave quite a bit of a head on pouring and needed some blowing to remove the initial whisp from the carbonation. Its deep copper colouring was evident from the clear bottle but seems to have increased in depth by the pouring. Good aroma too, with a delicate summer meadow atop the malty yeast of the carbonation. A tang within hints at the hops but mostly it's that meadow flower smell that you get from it. True enough, the bottle boasts of the floral tones and I suspect that it is not lying. Head rapidly diminishes, the kitchen remains pretty cold, and so you are left with a decent ale with a skein of bubbles but not much.

First taste is remarkable for the lightness of it, there's an element of lighter than air elements to this, like if you have too much you'll end up sounding like Joe Pasquale - though you won't, so don't worry, you're safe - or floating up to hit the ceiling. Hops arrive at the opening, hitting hard as they ought with some light citrus, I can't claim to taste the lychee that is suggested by the bottle's label. Then there's a very light and fast malt that puts me in mind of Thoroughbred Gold (here) whose bubbles bring little pricks of that floral citrus hop again before it all passes into a ball of bittering hops that explode out of the back of the mouthful and barely hit the back of the throat. the whole thing seems to centre around the sides of the tongue and then... nothing.

In many respects this ale is perfectly suited to the dambuster raids as it follows the same pattern: a long run and then the bouncing of the hops in and out of the malt before an explosion of sensation and nothing following - the aeroplanes return to base and the valleys of Germany are deluged with gallons of water pouring from fissures within concrete dams. I'm not sure what effect the raids actually had, only knowing the fact that strategic bombing increased productivity in Nazi Germany and that the war as a whole prolonged the NSDAP's time in power. Still, a good film and a symphony and now a decent summer ale are not to be sniffed at. So, decent rather than awe-inspiring and pleasant rather than moreish. There's nothing wrong with it at all, but it's nothing to write home about either.

Drink this in that difficult moment as spring rolls into Easter and, with it, into the faint stirrings of summer - when the first warm and mellow days come rolling in over the horizon and around the time when a clear blue sky ceases to be a harbinger of sub-zero temperatures and becomes, as it should be, a joyous occasion to enjoy the sunshine and wear lighter clothing. Sit back in a lawn chair or recliner in the garden, alas not possible for this review, and close your eyes. Sigh. Let the cool breeze make you shiver for a bit and then, on finishing the ale, retire indoors and wait for the proper summer to roll in later on in the year.