Sunday, 3 May 2015

Beer Review: Toasted Oak IPA

The weather was fine and warm, the garden was full of the scents of growing things and the buzzing of bees, I had a mountain of work to do that I was (and am) studiously avoiding on such a day and so it was definitely time for a beer. More than that, Willow had sent me out to find some compost on the proviso that I could have an ale in the afternoon, and I am not one that needs telling twice. It's a Sunday, it's sunny, my garden is free and I have a presentation pack to be getting through so it was perhaps inevitable that I would end up with something from the Innis & Gunn stable. One day I may be able to convince them, by force of will I suppose, to pay me to drink their brews but, until such time, I shall drink them by paying for them like pretty much everyone else.

The bench was rapidly running out of sun, so I ended up supping the Toasted Oak IPA on my feet and standing near the deep bed. This may sound awkward but I am made of such stern stuff and thus was unfazed by it.

Are you still in a mood to read further? You are? Oh good, then read on!

Willow was already in the garden researching for her book and having a read. The aroma of this ale was therefore tinged with the good feeling of sharing a quiet moment in close proximity of one's chosen life partner in the lovely sunshine of the spring slowly waxing toward summer in the embrace of the scent of many growing things from lettuce to radish and from clematis to garlic. At 5.6% ABV this was going to be a big hitter, though I had carefully selected it from what remained of the presentation pack to be the weakest. Luckily for me, it came in a 330ml bottle! In amongst the smells of the garden this came as a pleasant addition, reminding me of the hedgerow rather than the meadow  due to the abundance of fruits within, not a little unlike the scent of elderflower and the sort of wetness that one associates with blackberries and raspberries. In many ways it reminded me of the woods that we used to enjoy round the back of our old house and that was no bad thing. Toasted bread featured heavily, providing a sharpness in the nose that was not citrus and a roasted sort of feel to the whole thing that was hard to place. It would not have done badly in the company of nut roast or a barbeque actually. On the edge of the olfactory sense there was a hint of sweetened peel, not quite candied but nor completely left to be citrus and sharp and tangy as nature would have it, the sort of smell that would allow you to place the peels on the compost heap without fear of killing whatever lurks in there once you use it to plant something.

On to the taste, and this was a proper fresh IPA. There was no mistaking the wave of full-fruit hops that burst onto the tongue, citrus and full without being too bitter. Once again, there was a feeling of hedgerow about it, almost herb-like in quality, such as what one could associate with banks of wild mint and garlic growing behind some parsley (as we have in the space by the thing we use to store gardening implements - not a shed). There was a tropical sort of feel as it washed back to the back of the throat too, with a miniature malt rush pushing forward the toasted citrus wave, that put me in mind of something like melon or even passionfruit but it was fleeting and hard to place, It lacked the big whack of something in blonde style, like Dizzy Blonde (link), or the full fruit insanity of Peaky Blinder (link) but it maintained a healthy weight to it that made you want to come back for more. On the sunny day with the sun at my back, nary a breeze and the sound of bees in the clematis as I wandered about this scene of bucolic idyll, it was very fitting indeed.

All in all, this was fresh, golden and with a fiery quality to the aftertaste without it venturing into the territory reserved for spicy yeast and fuggles. There's a good carbonation here that allows you to experience the full taste without getting distracted and keeps the whole brew from being flat and uninteresting, despite the flavour journey here it could still happen with a carbonation that is too small or, worse, too much. I was pleasantly impressed and would have this again if it turned up on offer or even if it didn't. I think I may actually prefer this to the Rum Finish (link) that I had but that could just as much be down to the environment as it could be down to the ale itself.

Enjoyed best with a smoking fire pit spewing forth wood smoke on a lazy warm day. Let the crackle of the flame, the heat of the embers and the smoke of the slightly damp bark lull you into relaxation as this ale complements the red and orange flames licking their way across the dark wood and the bubbling sap from the larger chunks of wood. Drop on a few handfuls of dried grass and woody plants to help flavour the bacon and pork steak you have rubbed with pepper and chilli for the purpose and hung over the flames with the aid of wooden skewers. Drink deep, take pauses to discuss the politics of the day, and have a second on hand - you'll be in for a wait long enough before the chance to put that meat into a bun with sauce - it will serve you well.

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