Sunday, 30 August 2015

Beer Review: Ilkley Pale

Back when I was up in Leeds (link) I was given some excellent ales by my good friend there, including some fine examples of his home brew. I confess that I didn't review my final bottle of that (which I aged in the pantry) because I couldn't remember which brew it was. What I can say is that it was very nice and welcome on the hot day at the centre of the heatwave earlier this year. One of the other brews he kindly passed on was from Ilkley Brewery and was something he'd tried on tap even further back (when I was on anarchist beers) when I'd visited (here). It was sunny again, some rain, and we've recently finished an extended 24 hour (as in, it was longer than that) test drive of an EV, more on that another time, so I felt the need to have me some golden ale.

Ilkley Pale fit the bill, despite not being golden, and stepped in to do its duty as ale. That is, allowing me to ignore the rising note of panic as I approach having to be a teacher in a classroom again (aaaaaa!) and enjoy the fact that it has been good weather and I have actually been helping Willow proactively. Yay! Not in the garden though, as there were sporadic showers.

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I was in the pantry of all places when I opened this and that is actually a logical place to start. Therein we keep our chinchilla and, as you can see from the photo, all the stuff to keep him in comfort and health. This means that there is a definite straw-like smell and a pungence of various feeds in that room. It is also kept rather dry in there and semi-cool, so that affects the atmosphere and changes the character. In short, it makes it hard to really make headway in getting anything out of the aroma. So I poured it first. I got a big head that stuck around a bit and plenty of fizz that was counter-balanced by the use of a pint glass and tipping it slightly to avoid too much and thus getting the bubbles up my nose. In amongst that dry straw-filled space I was able to get an impression of freshness and fruitiness that spoke firmly of Pacific hops. There was enough fruit in there that I was able to get impressions of mango and grapefruit - a mixture of dry but full sweetness and sour bitterness on the edge. It was, I feel, a good start and fit the mood of the evening perfectly.

First taste was dominated by the fizz, bringing with it plenty of hops that were able to hang on like commuters stuffed into the tube or fellow-travellers on all those library pictures of trains running across vast plains on the Indian sub-continent. There wasn't much of a punch from the 4.2% ABV of the brew but neither could you ignore it and you won't be fooled into going too far and ending up drunk too quickly, this is an ale that is reassuring in letting you know that there is some alcoholic content and doesn't let it get in the way of its craft. It's not a little unlike the kind of flavour that Dr Hardwicke's (link) managed, actually, but significantly less mental in the ABV department.

Once you have that hoppy fizz out of the way, and it's refreshing, you are treated to indistinct fruit and a small amount of malt, as though you've taken some malt loaf and are eating dried mango over the top of it so that your tastebuds don't know which way to jump. There's burnt edges to it, like they took a brulee torch to it as it was bottled, and the whole brew is a little on the thin side. However, in the context of a warm evening and looking for something to quench my thirst this is a positive. It's very fresh on the whole, as expected, and ends up dry and lively toward the back of the throat to leave a slightly malted hops aftertaste. It is on the strong side of 4.2% ABV (if that even makes sense) so the only bad choice was me leaving it this long to have and to review!

Enjoy best in summer, with the kind of close and humid days that cry out for rain (and may even get some) when you spend most of the day watering the vegetable patch and cutting the grass. You may end up shopping, but you'll walk, and even the car's climate control system will fail to keep a comfortable air, leaving you trapped in the house and garden. Oh no, whatever will you do? But, you know, have a bottle of this and feel all better.

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