It's time to have another ale, thank goodness, what with the week I've had? Jimmeny! Anyway, the point is that the weather is warm and my garden is lovely, lots of bees buzzing and other such quaint and garden-y things. I think I may be developing a little too much attachment to the bucolic for a townie. Or perhaps it's just the time of year. Whatever. the ale of choice tonight has been sitting about since Nutbrook Brewery's farm, Oakfield, had a bit of a beer festival. Very pleasant it was too (I've got some mead waiting from it) but I picked up a bottle of Derventio's Cleopatra and now seemed like a good time to try it.
It is, after all, a fruit beer. My track record with these is spotty despite them being very much my staple ale of choice after my brother's stag do when I found Fruli. I also, much to the ribbing of my contemporaries, had a peach number on a night out later on. I stand by those choices. Let's see if this can stand amongst that august company.
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Straight on opening I was assailed by the smell of apricots. Being that this is an apricot fruit beer I assume that this is a good thing. Also, with the weather, I had had a hankering for soft fruit and bought in a load of apricots. I have never had fresh apricots. And after them, an apricot fruit beer. Truly this is odd. Or boring. Take your pick. Point is, the nose was exactly what you would expect from fruit beer that speaks of apricots and the pour revealed a lovely summery colouring that did indeed continue the apricot theme nicely. At 5% ABV this is one of the stronger ales that I've had in for a while and so I had decided to try it at lunch time rather than the usual evening just in case. In case of what I have no idea, but you can never be too careful with these sorts of tricksy ales, I find.
There was definite strong fruit atop a mini-malt with bittering hops, a quick succession of roiling chaos that did the tongue well on the first contact. Indeed, so overpowering, in a good way (picture marines establishing a beach-head in Normandy) that it was hard to tell where everything went next. The salvo of apricot put my tastebuds off guard, shattering the concrete a little, and then the stormfront of hops and malt back-up just swept away the barbed wire and the mines so I was forced to try a second taste to see if I could place what happened and where that crowd of marines went after the initial waves rode ashore. Sure enough, the second taste confirmed the power contained within the golden tinged brew and then faded, allowing me to pay closer attention, until I had the aftertaste cornered just on the main road. A quick exchange of pleasantries and for it, the war was over, it soon revealed the secrets and I could discern warmth, and not a bad kind, from the alcohol. This faded to the background radiation of dried apricots, much like my daughter used to eat, and there it remained with some hoppy bitterness to it that was not a bad thing at all.
Straight back into the fray and it was a good thing that the day was hot because this is a thirst quencher. Having it alone, without food for a change, was a nice change of pace and I think this would work quite well as a dessert to a good meal. It has just enough sweetness in it to carry the taste after some decent stodge but not enough that it can challenge the evils of Forest Fruits (here, if you dare) - I take all of these as positives. The next foray gained critical intelligence on the mouthfeel, which was layered: fruit sandwiched twixt hops and malt, putting me in mind of the sort of chocolate bars like Mars and Double Decker except that there was no chocolate or caramel. Maybe the sort of jammy dodger type of biscuit but with less biscuit and more malt loaf (with raisins) and topped with bittering hops rather than, uh, more biscuit. This was truly a battle.
In the end, of course, the ale carried the day and I was forced to abandon the outer fringes of my beach defence. I suspect that this ale will be repeated and shared for the dessert value, but there will be no conquering of the area behind the coast, I believe that the ale is good but doesn't have the chops to wage a full enough campaign. The darks and the stouts have that well-covered!
Enjoy this best as a dessert, as a follow up to a lovely meal, and the first glimpse of the session to follow. Stop after one, it's enough, and then move on, weather permitting, to something light and airy like India Pale Ale from Shepherd Neame (here) and then on to the formidable Red IPA from Sadler's (here) before ending on a coffee note from Bateman's in the form of their excellent and, as yet unbeaten, Mocha (here).