Oh look, it's an update on a Sunday and I'm drinking another Innis & Gunn offering. This is becoming a real thing. Maybe I should just make a tag that combines the brewery with Sunday and have done with it... On second thought, I'm not getting paid and they're not offering me any inducements and I'm not a blog with a big enough readership that they would anyway and... who am I kidding, I'll just leave it the way it is!
Yes, tonight I shall be reviewing the Canadian Cherrywood stablemate of the Treacle Porter (here) because I have got round to it on my list and because why not. Busy weeks and lots of work can't stop me having an ale of an evening, right?
Would you like to know more?
I have to comment first of all how much I love the red-ness of this ale. It is a lovely deep colour and it truly does look like that, it's not a trick of the light or my poor camera on my phone, it really is that red. It also pours without too much fuss and there's no head to speak of. The aroma on pouring is rather interesting however. As I have come to expect from this brewery, there is a hint of oak about it and a strength of malt that eclipses the hops and the subtle flavourings imparted by the wood they use but this isn't the sort of malt that would find its way into a loaf or marmite. Identifiable as malt, certainly, but almost exotic in the spice that it is laced with. There's almost an element of gateaux here, like black-forest gateaux - the sort that my grandparents were obsessed with, and my mother, at Christmastime in days of yore. I was never really a fan as the cherries were always a little strong and the combination of the juice and the chocolate always made my mouth rebel. Not to say I didn't eat it, I am a proud glutton, but it's not my thing. This... this is different.
Anna was also intrigued by the aroma and both of us had exactly the same reaction to the taste. We sipped with a concentrated frown, trying to place that fruit in amongst the woody smells, then thought about it - oh, a normal ale - before raising our eyebrows as the whole thing came alive. It starts much like you'd expect, there's a note of hops on the tongue surrounded by the yeast and the fizz, then the malt comes in but before it can dominate the taste there's the wood. Oak rears its head, sniffs around for predators and then darts forth from the burrow, followed by the cherry one would expect from cherrywood and then there's a dry bark to it. I'm not doing a very good job of selling this, but it is not unpleasant. Then, as it nears a close, there's a taste like a dry summer day, the crackling of some far off woodfire, and the smoky sense of evening that one associates with birdsong, the dying embers of a warm day and open grassland stretching from the edge of some large forest.
If all of this sounds a tad whimsical and poetic that's only because the ale encourages this mindset. There's something of a Pale about this, maybe Bubba's APA (here) or the dry blonde of Venus (here). This is a fine ale, one to be savoured and enjoyed rather than knocked back. At 7.4% ABV it does not taste as powerful or as strong as all that but it will not be kind should you decide to session it. This deserves some time and appreciation and it rewards you if you take the time to get to know it properly rather than treating it like some cheap and disposable liaison to be discarded when the next big hit comes along. It's a shame that it is seasonal and limited edition because I could happily have this again. I prefer the Treacle Porter but I would not be disappointed to see this again.
Best enjoyed with some very close company and a warm fire in winter or else alone in the outdoors in the summer months. Either way, listen for the small sounds and the quiet and let the elements come to the fore. Sink into the embrace of that close company or into the soft grass of the garden, lie back and close your eyes as you sip - that's you relaxing - and let the taste do the work. It may not be the fierce adventure of Wild Raven (here) but it is close in terms of miles travelled!