Recalling the rather nice experience of the beer 'festival' in our local JDW and the rather nice brew from Wadworth I decided to take a punt on this offering. It was no doubt helped by the fact that it cost me the princely sum of £1 and that it sold itself up front as a bottle conditioned strong ale. I refer to the disappointingly not a stout Old Timer which shall set the scene for tonight's review of ales and the journey on which we are about to embark together. Isn't it exciting?
It isn't? Oh. Well. Whatever. If you do wish to look into this brew further then you need do no more than click below to learn more.
There's a decent head that pours from this, and though a fair amount hangs around, it's not the head one would expect from the activity in the ale. It's also a lovely bottle if you ask me, full of the sort of promise that one associates with darker and stronger ale (this is 5.8% ABV) and so much so that I was rather surprised by the colour of the ale as it poured into my glass. You can see from the picture that I was expecting something dark and brooding, hence the slower shutter speed, and, instead, I was left with a bad photo of an amber ale. I'd say something like "I'll learn" but it should be clear by now that I don't think I ever will. The first thing to point out is that this smelled much better than the London Pride that I tasted in London. Where that was insipid and boring this was smoky chocolate malt with a hint of sharp black cherries on the nose. This was the ale equivalent of a fruits of the forest cheesecake in that regard, familiar on the surface but also slightly unexpected and a little bit bonkers. I wouldn't have been surprised to find this being made by Brewdog but it wasn't.
On tasting the first thing to note is the decent carbonation which suggested that there had been carbon dioxide added at some stage in the process but the bottle claimed it was bottle conditioned and so it may well be that I picked something up toward the end of its shelf life. This is not a bad thing, I think the extra carbonation worked well with the syrupy texture that provided a considerable amount of weight despite the amber nature of the ale. There's was some of the stout-ness that was suggested by the bottle in the taste and that was something that was welcomed. It's no Barbarian Stout (here) but it is a decent heavy ale with something to it that speaks of dark days on the fells or in the dales - in any case, it brings to mind burly men doing shepherding on dark nights, wizened faces set like granite 'gainst the wind and the Scot so to keep their flocks and worry over the fact that the grass may be infecting them with lethal doses of radiation via caesium from Chernobyl. The deep malt, heading towards a chocolate tone, gives a food top end of carefully chosen hops, with a fruity sensation that lasts, something to bed down upon.
That fruit is more a dried fruit taste, fruit loaf style (yes, I'm still thinking about my trip to Lincoln), than it is a tropical sensation like Jaipur (here) or Barry Island IPA (here) but that's no bad thing. The aftertaste is a pleasant dull tang that wistfully reminds you that this is a strong ale at 5.8% ABV but there's none of the hit that would make this too strong to deal with. Not as dangerous as the Molotov Cocktail (here) in that it does let you know that it packs a punch but it is not the only selling point either and that is welcome. A good addition to an evening that is not otherwise spent drinking ales or even having food but definitely one to enjoy in good company.
Enjoy this best when playing chess, take sips as you plan and plot your next moves or, as I do, simply try to avoid being caught out by fool's mate. As the attack develops and your defences crumble you could opt for a second of these so that by the time your opponent can declare victory you can claim that two strong ales dulled your wits but led to a more interesting game. It is never the winning that counts, it is the journey there instead. And then you can share one with your opponent and claim victory in life rather than victory in a game based on life.