Thursday, 30 April 2015

Beer Review: Peaky Blinder

This came heavily recommended, though I've had it in for a while now, and tonight was a good night to have something heavy, dark and brooding. The name, Peaky Blinder, speaks of something dark, mysterious and a big boggy and so it seemed to fit the mood. Obviously you, good reader, will be the ultimate judge of that one. But it's another from T. A. Sadler's that I knew would be more common as time goes on. And, you know, as the marking abates a moment and I can see the clear road to planning for next year up ahead I thought it was a good time to be having an ale.

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This pours dark and powerful from the get go; there's a deepness to it that looks back like the abyss in the works of Nietzsche and the biscuit-coloured head tops it off nicely, a great start. The head arrives in an orderly fashion, no excess fizz or drama, and then slowly recedes to leave just the basic blackness of the mere beneath. Chocolate malt is the dominant aroma, mingling gently with biscuit tones (not a little unlike a chocolate hobnob) and the tropical tang of hops. I was surprised when I checked the bottle and found that amarillo, chinook and citra were key players but I shouldn't have been because they pretty much dominate the nose like some invading army playing hide and seek amongst the waves off the coast. Lying in wait, like Norman horsemen, they play through the surf of the inky dark and assault the small force protecting the beach atop the stones.

Once inland the invading force fans out, going into the mouth with a certain element of caution - though blessed on their mission by the Head of the Church there's no immediate guarantee that God is on your side - and the malt takes that point position. Laying the work through the forest allows the mouth to get used to it, a sparkle from the fizz denoting the blazes left in trunks for the footmen to follow, the cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops following behind as a vanguard, filling the cheeks, before the wave of the main force, chinook and amarillo, mingles back with more of the malt to march steadily toward their goals. All is softness, the footfalls of the men thudding gently on the leaves and litter of the forest trail made up by that heavy thick malt base and the yeast spiralling up in the warmth of the late summer and early autumn. Frost is coming on the mornings but the closeness of the humidity speaks of the possibility of storms to come yet. At 4.6% ABV this is unlikely to take prisoners and, as a black IPA, this is good.

Painstakingly slowly the whole juggernaut reaches a crest, letting the hops have one last battlecry, before they wind softly back into the deep of the woods with nary a disturbed blade of grass to mark their passing and the aftertaste begins to shine through from the canopy, neatly causing the chocolate to show itself, scowl at the new dawn, then run for its own cover back into the holts and animal holes whence it came. A velvet blanket of peat draws over, punctuated by the heady fruit of the citra as the throat warms to its passing, a morning with bright sunshine and the prospect of battle!

As may be obvious, I rather like this brew. It is not a typical stout and makes me look forward to the chance to create my own version of something like this (I'll say no more for fear of embarrassing myself, I have to actually get in the ingredients) and it is a good and interesting ale. This could be had as part of a longer evening, I get the feeling it would fare well in comparison with standard ambers and goldens as part of a longer walk or pub crawl. Mayhap the sort of ale to begin a walk through the Dales as opposed to the Lakes (where it would be better as one to finish the walk over the fells of Blencathra or around Windermere), I suspect Dovedale would be a good call, and then a gate-keeper to other ales. Yes, this would be good followed by something like Red IPA (here) by the same brewers or a blonde like Jorvik Blonde (here) though, of course, Normans never faced off against the Vikings in 1066.

Enjoy this best however you wish, though I recommend on a misty morning in early Spring or a misty evening in late summer after a day of humidity and the still copper taste of a potential thunderstorm. Wear some soft leather on your feet, walk a long way, smell the forest and the floor as you go and pay attention to the wheeling of birds of prey, the calls of the blackbird and the noises of thrushes and mice in the undergrowth. Expect to see deer or outlaws, eat from the hunk of bread without butter and appreciate that you are here, now, the apex predator on this green earth.

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