In case you missed it, today was the day of the results for thousands of sixteen-ish year olds. In solidarity with that generation of callow youth I, of course, decided to have an ale and raise a glass to all those who have worked hard and deserved their final grade, whatever it may be. The governments successive, of all political stripes, have denuded the actual tests of meaning beyond shaming but still they whip the profession and the children subsumed by it into a frenzy of stress. And seriously these exams are taken. Cheers, fellow toilers! I plucked the Rip Snorter from my shelf of goodliness brewed by the lovely people at Hog's Back Brewery because it looked like the sort of ale that could do the job asked of it in my overlong introduction.
I have not been disappointed and this is definitely an ale that I could have again. Would you like to know precisely why?
First point of order: I would have got this much cheaper (and probably a better batch) had I bought it at the brewery. Instead, because I am too cautious, I believed the brewery to be shut and got it at the local mini-mart instead. Not that this was a totally bad decision, no, just that it wasn't the best one. Being a ruby ale, and it did look red, there wasn't too much unexpected in the initial pour. As surely as rivers run to the sea this gave a quick and proper ale-style head with froth and the right amount of fizz. Aroma was restricted in area of effect, requiring me to lean in to get the best smell out of the brew, and I wasn't disappointed. There was a sweetness to it that made me think of bourbon biscuits, as opposed to the liquor, and that was no bad thing - enough chocolate to hint at the malt but enough dryness to prevent it being a chocolate ale. Chocolate ales are no bad thing (just check out the last brew I had from Hog's Back) but there can be too much of a good thing. For a summer evening when humidity is high and the temperatures warm, this was better suited than a chocolate ale is what I'm saying, all things have their place.
On tasting the faint citrus edge, steely like my sword, was surprisingly absent on the tongue, indeed, the whole mouthfeel was soft and flowing like the waters of a beck on the top of the fell driven by a pure spring and untouched by human hands, the sort that you can taste directly provided there are no dead sheep and know that it is as pure and safe as the stuff you get in your tap - and there aren't many water sources that can boast that pedigree. A small amount of fizz with a malty opener belies the impact of the 5% ABV but gives way to a lite hops middle to trantalise and quench nicely, revealing that citrus but also ensuring that it remains accompanied by biscuit malt. From there we have a long interlude provided by the bittering hops, playing the main act of the little concert being played - imagine an elongated version of the best song in the band's playlist that gets the audience singing along and losing track of time as the musicians give it everything they've got - before leaving on a sharp finish, blade out and flashing to provide the coup de grace in the little struggle in your mouth. No, wait, that's not what I wanted it to sound like. Back to that stream, it's the kind of finish that the beck would bring and allows you to feel freshened without diminishing the ale as a whole.
There is definite bourbon biscuit in that opening though. I'm not complaining, when I was growing up these and custard creams were the staple of the biscuit tin (which wasn't a tin, it was a plastic tupperware box that said 'biscuits' on the side in 1970s vintage orange) and wrapped biscuits were a special luxury. However, the lasting impressions, despite the chocolate in the aroma, are the bitterness that provides the main show and the sharpness at the end providing the main part of the thirst quenching nature. In that sense this is something of a chameleon.
Enjoy this best outside and in a long glass. It's a drinker rather than a sniffer and could be had straight from the bottle if that's your bag. On a hot evening you may even wish to chill it before imbibing, though I am a heathen and prefer mine to be room temperature, but it would work just as well as the coldness crisps around you and the mornings threaten a frost. Any more than that and you want to be indoors where an open fire would catch the ruby of the colour and sparkle just so in the half-light.
It's not going to knock Red IPA (here) from my top spot for ruby ales but it is going to be something I look out for again and will buy from the brewery when I am next passing.