Thursday, 10 September 2015

Beer Review: Fire Catcher

Ooh, is that the time? Time to start a review of some ale! What do I have in? Um... Ah, yes, this will do for the moment. May I introduce you to Fire Catcher, a golden ale from the Wychwood brewery that has the sort of bottle art one would expect from such a company that likes to juxtapose the fantasy setting with the ales that they produce. There's definitely mileage, I feel, from researching the links between folklore and the ales that hang around it trying to get some of the rub-off effect but I am not the historian you're looking for to make that link and make it interesting enough to read!

No, my job is just to taste and review the ale. Without further ado, then, let us get started! Would you like to know more?

The bottle for this tells me that there are Eagle maltings in the brew, that give it the fiery nature that gives it, in turn, the name of Fire Catcher. Hmm. However, there is no mistaking the delightful addition of New World hops in the aroma when it is opened and poured - the freshness of something akin to citra makes it easy to get straight into the tangy fruitiness and thus into the brew itself. There's a very quick head, full of vigour and activity but gone the moment it builds, that sits atop a surprisingly golden looking brew. I mean the full on tarnished gold that has been used in full rather than the brash almost straw like gold of the rings and stuff you see on the TV, mind.

Light and airy on the tongue, which is what you might expect from its colourful aspect, that is shot through with heavy carbonation in a light malt that carries over the mouth quickly and almost without a full impression. It is not so much thin as it is just plain light and easy on the mouth. It expands, certainly, and there is no gap around the edge but nor is it a velvet-like drape over the tastebuds, more like trying to capture the late summer evening in terms of it being more dense than air, say, in the middle of the day but before it gets too wet and damp in the evening humidity. There is plenty of the citrus one associates with hopping but there is little character and what there is becomes very hard to discern. It is almost as if the brewers were shooting for something to encapsulate a summer day without it actually being identifiable as a summer day. In short, there's no real depth to this, as soon as it hits the mouth it is gone, but nor, I feel, is it strictly needed.

There is a rolling malt with a soft mouthfeel that enters at the beginning with the harsh edges of something sharper in the maltings and the hopping. It's a quick run to the back of the throat, sort of a 100 metres sprint rather than a mid-distance run or anything like the endurance running of the 1,500m and over. This is definitely a charging ale, one that reminds me of the qualities of the Thoroughbred Gold (here) in terms of it being fast and quickly hitting the end of the race. Mind you, this does have an aftertaste that goes beyond the spice of the fuggles in that comparative brew and offers a similar warmth but with a hint of bitterness. The label suggests that this is akin to gooseberries but I am less than convinced, seems like they might be reaching with that description. That said, your mileage may vary because I like my gooseberries very much under-ripe. Perhaps this is the sort of gooseberry one has in a crumble with plenty of sugar.

Whilst I'm not totally convinced by this ale it is pleasant enough and so I wouldn't seek it out but nor would I turn my nose up at it if it were on offer. Basically a late summer ale with plenty of positives but nothing that sets the world alight. A workhorse of an ale that can be matched with many settings and places but not really one to accompany an evening so much as it is one to enjoy in the background with the right lighting and a good helping of food that you like. At 3.5% ABV this is a proper little brew too, one that fits the description of being a drinking ale, and that is perhaps what they were shooting for. This is nothing special because it does not aim for being special, it aims simply for being there to fill the evening and provide the warmth one looks for in a decent ale. That is what I mean by it being a workhorse - nothing special but does what it does neatly and with some aplomb.

Imagine this as the back room support in a club of your youth (or now, if you are lucky enough to still be enjoying your youth, whatever your chronological age). It's barely noticeable in amongst the general revelry and music of the evening, but then you didn't come to enjoy the fellow in the black shirt doing the technical bits or the young lady over there fiddling with the cables and setting up the stage. Hugely professional but it serves as the background to the main act or the main music. That said, if the people in black shirts weren't there then this would just be a night out in the pub with friends without live music and, frankly, there's little difference between the two when you're with the right company. So it is with this ale: nice enough at what it does but you won't miss it if it wasn't in evidence and would likely enjoy something else instead.

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