It's been a bit of a while since I reviewed anything in the Innis & Gunn line-up, and I feel that this is a shame. That said, they were getting a bit same-y, which is a shame when one considers how nice their original brew is and how different it is to the competitors. So, I think I shall turn to this old acquaintance again tonight to provide me with grist for my mill in the form of American Oak Pale Ale and see what we can find.
I suspect that we shall find an ale and a review. I suspect that we shall find much in the repetition of words in phrases that lends itself almost to poetry, but not necessarily in the review so much as in the introductions. We shall also once again find ourselves indoors over lunch or something because that is, you see, how I roll. Also, we shall find ourselves a comfortable chair and ruminate in our repose about how this ale tastes and fairs 'gainst the slings and arrows of its rivals.
So, to business then: would you like to know more?
This comes in a clear bottle so even before the pour you know that the colour is more of a copper and bronze than it is a straw or golden brew with the smell of something that is dipped in toffee and left to dry, allowing the fruit of the hops to come through the toffee effect that virtually everything that Innis & Gunn brews is draped in. That's not a criticism but it does rather add to the inescapable conclusion that the brewery is something of a one-trick pony. Still, I cannot complain too much of this as, as a teacher, I find myself relying on the same jokes with the same lessons each time they get reused, so I am very similar in that regard. It pours nicely with the right amount of fizz, that is, not enough to really get too excited or exceed the edges of the glass but enough to give a head that fills one with some confidence. That colour you saw in the bottle is maintained and does not metastasise in the air, as one would expect, catching the light pleasantly without becoming one of those glowing types that I occasionally find.
From the beginning this is much of what you would expect from the brewery. There's that slightly toffee edge with the vanilla undertones of being brewed in those casks that the brewery seems to use for all of their different recipes, enough to make me yearn for their original but not enough to really set it apart from the other offerings. Now, had this come first in my tastings from their stable then maybe I would have more to say, but I have to say that by this point this whole trick is a little too expected and so I find myself without too much to add. Mind you, this is different in being only 4.4% ABV and therefore it is not trying to be the big hitter of its family and that does go some way to making this a good ale to have with food. It's still strong, don't get me wrong, but it isn't trying so hard.
It's decent enough, not quite dry enough to accompany a fish dish (we were having salmon) but the carbonation suggests that this is the best food with which to pair the brew. It fills the mouth nicely enough, lacking the gaps and missing sections that some of the lesser ales I've had seem to display (yes, I am still a little traumatised). There's little in the way of sophistication or subtlety but this is guileless and that can be seen as having a certain quality to it. Anna informs me that the whole thing is, and I quote: "fizzy and pale" - which is about as much as I can expect. Yes, there's nothing big or clever about this ale and the aftertaste continues that feeling being a bit dry and boring but not too sweet.
In short, this is the sort of ale that you would buy cheaply down the docks of a Friday morning before grabbing a fresh selection of haddock or sole. You enjoy the atmosphere of the market, the calling of the catch, and get yourself a bargain. That evening, after a day at work in your idyllic small-holding, you mix up some breadcrumbs and lightly coat that fish before frying it in a shallow amount of oil and a specialist frying pan. As you add the ground black pepper and tarragon you pour this little number and then slowly sip it in preparation of the meal ahead. Game chips crisp in the oven, the smell reaches a crescendo as you finish both the cooking and the ale, steaming some fresh broccoli and asparagus, and then you pour a neat little white for the meal itself and leave the bottle for the recycling.