What madness is this? Another sunny weekend and another chance to have an ale in my garden? Surely the end times cometh! Well, okay, maybe not, but at the very least this is a moment to celebrate and enjoy the moment. And I shall enjoy this moment with a Red IPA from those people over at Sharp's, they of the Doom Bar (link) brewers, and obviously have something a wee bit different in their Wolf Rock that has been sitting in my kitchen, biding its time and waiting for this moment. Well, it has its moment and I have a trowel and a place by the sundial to dig some soil ready for planting something and the time to spend having an ale to enjoy the sunshine and the weather.
Yes, the madness has been unleashed for another Sunday and you have, as ever, the choice on whether or not to continue into the rabbit hole. As Morpheus asked: "how deep does the rabbit hole go?" And, as I often answer when watching The Matrix, this isn't Alice in Wonderland even though you referenced the white rabbit in a convoluted sequence earlier.
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I've had this in for a while, waiting for the right moment, and after the wonderful Red IPA from Sadler's (link) I'll admit that I was rather expecting great things from this ale. Not least because I have read people saying quite nice things about it compared to the Doom Bar and in the company of august ale-chasers too. So, with the sun high in the sky and the garden awash with warmth and interesting sounds of current music drifting over from the next door neighbours, I decided that it would be a good time to try it.
On opening there was a brief cloud of carbonation hanging in the neck, a film of perspiration about the glass though I hadn't really tried to chill it - I was entirely dependent on the coolness of the kitchen versus the slight heat outside for the effect. Immediately there were soft and bitter jhops, though not so strong and tangy to throw one out of a melancholy strain nor so soft that you were unaware of their presence. Letting the brew sit for a moment, I had to take the above photo somehow, allowed that aroma to grow and the hops to improve their strength and their character - the New World hops offered hints of there being cascade and citra amongst them, though the latter is a complete guess whereas the former copuld actually be correct. I'd check, but I'm still a bit mellowed out by the ale so I won't. Definitely a summer smell and that's no bad thing.
Once in the mouth there's an initial thin quality to the citrus hops, with not a lot to back it up, but then it explodes just as you're about to get disappointed into full fruit, keeping that thin edge of bittering hops throughout. There's a minimal malt in this, hiding around corners and slinking forward under cover of the hop and the lemon and lime taste to it all. There's a definite element of tartare sauce here, with the mayonnaise and pickle(?) plying their trade waiting for the touch of something like a decent haddock or sole to really come alive. The bottle does make the bold claim that this would be best paired with a seafood meal and it ain't kidding around! That element of zest allows this to be a quenching summer-like brew, despite the reddish tinge and the 4.8% ABV, that gradually mellows toward the back of the throat. Eventually one is left with a tropical fruity memory and a lemony zest on the edge of being real - the sort of taste that would truly do well with some fish and chips actually, without my normal gravy. Those who know me will also know just how much of a huge admission it is to say that something would accompany fish and chips better than gravy. Anyone not from the north has now snorted in disgust and widened their eyes in wonderment. Some people States-side are wondering how their gravy would go on fish - trust me, our gravy is not your gravy.
Enough of this! The point is that this is not a bad brew at all. Best served with something like fish and chips on a summer lunchtime during a weekend when you can sit on a wooden bench amidst nature and chat to a friend. Use those wooden forks you can get from the counter, the ones that have enormous splinters so you don't stab your lips, and lashings of salt and vinegar. Take off your coats, look up at the brilliant blue of the sky and eat hastily to keep the heat in the food. Blow on the chips, suck at the fish a bit and take untidy sips from the bottle or the glass of ale. You won't regret it.