It was had whilst on holiday in the North, obviously, hence the fact that the picture below was not taken in my house (because I know that you all secretly stalking my life through beer reviews... or not). Anyway, we're back home now and this review is due.
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Obviously, the big point about this is the famous link of the brewers, and I am not above being a little starstruck by the fact that they appear to have had a big hand in making this brew. Whilst I ruminated on this I poured it and got an eyeful of a lovely deep and dark porter - just as I like them! It was a bit low on the carbonation but that's a good thing in my book, and a quick head hung around for a bit before slowly disappearing. This added to the colour that was expected of a porter and the first taste was not wholly unexpected - there was a definite feeling of porter about it. Now, what does that actually mean? It means that it was thick and heavy in all the right places on the tongue, with elements of chocolate and malt, more malty than chocolate-y, with a surprising amount of fizz given the placid nature of the brew in the glass. A little bit like something that Madness would have produced back in the day. In fact, the taste puts me in mind of this classic from them in 1981, it follows much the same rhythm as it progresses through toward the softer end of ales:
The aroma is a little understated but this is probably down to the quite tame 4.6% ABV of the whole brew - strong enough to pack a punch but light enough to prevent headache and allow a couple more of an evening, which is as it should be with something like this. There's a light coffee smell to it on the nose, weaving in and out of a base of very faint chocolate, prefiguring that malt that dominates the taste when sipped, and you'll want to sip this rather than knock it back. It's the sort of ale that you could have a few of or simply stop after one. It may not be the sort of ale that instantly begs a repeat, and it doesn't in my case, but I shall be keeping an eye out and having this again. It is a good little brew and very much inkeeping with the character of the famous brewers (I think I've said that a few times already).
Aftertaste, building up by this point, resolves itself into a soft little velvet number with no punch to it, much welcome after the day I'd had before drinking it, making it an easy drink to relax with. Relax I did too, not a usual side-effect of me having an ale, and this did the job. There's a bit of molasses and bitterness to this as you continue through the bottle, the former building and the latter coming to dominate the initial blasts of malt from the first few sips. However, the one criticism is that the whole thing has too quick a taste, blink and you miss it sort of thing, which does the job of keeping you drinking but isn't really good if you're trying to make it last. No, you can't knock it back, but you also can't nurse it a little to have a conversation.
In which case, this is best enjoyed at the mid-point of a night out, after you've had some big and clever ales at the beginning - maybe you want some IPA like those from Hardknott (see this link). Then you have a couple of these and then move onto something big and powerful at the end that brings you back to your senses and closes the night in some decent conversation, like Titanic Stout (here). I shall be having more of this, but in amongst others.
Finally, I'm sorry, but Night Boat to Cairo wasn't the first song that the ale brought to mind, this was. I'm so sorry: