And there's Disney too. I do rather enjoy, guiltily it has to be said, that film. And so there's also that link. It also forms a lovely pair with the last review on here of Maid Marian (link) though I lacked the wherewithal to have two ales on a single night. Which is ridiculous seeing how many I can get through on a night out! See this link and this link for evidence of the insanity. Anyway, one ale it is and one ale it shall be.
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I recall this from that time at Christmas (here) where it turned up in the wrong place given that the focus was supposed to be on golden ales. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the aroma of the brew being direct and uncomplicated and, sure enough, we're back there again. There's a light citrus on the nose atop a smooth malt with not a lot going on. Indeed, uncomplicated is definitely the name of the game here, there's no clever little notes or hidden depths lurking beneath the surface of this chestnut coloured number and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Less carbonation than the stablemate of Maid Marian (that link again) and that is definitely a good thing, but a bigger head that sticks around a little more and is no less manufactured. Despite being chestnut there's more orange here than brown and the whole thing seems a deeper version of Maid Marian, which may well be the point.
Taste is cooling. There's a sense of the yeast in the initial burst, mingling in and out of the fruitier trees that line the path. A swell is detected, like large rocks in ancient pathways and trackways that weave in and out of the Sherwood Forest whence this hales. In the depths there one can make out the dead tree and the Major Oak in the roiling mists, playing like phantasms on the mind as the malt flits beneath the citrus but carefully pruned back hops. Nothing takes the lead here, much like the anarchy of the original Merry Men, and yet the whole thing hangs together without too much trouble. In that sense there is some robbing from the yeast and the malt to give to the hops as we move toward the aftertaste but all is overshadowed by the subtle but distinct 4% ABV that dominates the final gasp and then we're into the long dryness of the aftertaste. This is a good ale to end an evening on, as I do here, and one that complements the dryer meals - like the ones with much salt in them that I have had. An accompaniment of darker chocolate in the Jaffa cake I've just had can't be seen as a negative either.
This is nothing to write home about, no great shakes and no great interest, but as a proper 'British' (whatever that means) ale there is much to commend it. It is decent, straight-talking and stand up honest. It does exactly what an ale should do, it fades into the background with a good energy to allow for conversation, reflection and expounding of thoughts and ideas. It is the sort of ale that one can session should one wish to, all night without complaint, or that sets up a proper tasting session. There's a touch of palate cleanser to this as well, maybe good to have between two other ales of very different tastes or between courses in a fancy-pants meal. As to its namesake... I don't know. It is more a Little John than a Robin Hood, to my mind, being strong and direct enough to hold a bridge but lacking in the intelligence or cunning parts that may make this the sort of ale that one would handle alone and with care like one would have done the eponymous hero.
Enjoy this on a less wet evening than the one on which it was tried, have some trees nearby but a river or fast flowing brook or stream is a must. Drown out the noise of modern life and let that water do the trick as you close your eyes and let this direct ale do the work of loosening the tongue after a day at work. Eat with pretty much anything as an accompaniment, though steer clear of something too spicy or strong-flavoured that you drown out the subtle tones of the malt and the yeast.