Thursday, 31 March 2016

Beer Review: Benjamin Disraeli Hughenden Ale

Spring has sprung, wind has blown, and there is rain and wetness all across the land. Easter has been and gone, the hour is forward and there is light where there was none previously. Time to stop dwelling in the dark and enter truly the light and taste some ale that is deliberately golden rather than summery. I refer, in this instance, to a brew bought me by my father: Benjamin Disraeli Hughenden Ale which is quite a mouthful, by and bye. This offering is brought to us by Chiltern Brewery and was acquired at the ancestral home of the Prime Minister himself.

And so I must now turn to the business of drinking this ale and then reviewing it for the good of the viewing public. It's a hard job but someone has to do it! Would you like to follow me further into the realms of the beer review?

Plenty of activity on opening and a swift and vigorous head on the pour that sparkled and fizzed a great deal without leaving more than a thin skein of froth as a calling card. Despite the golden moniker, the colour seems more inkeeping with an amber ale to me, but then I am no expert and the room is pretty dark at the moment. It is, however, nice and clear with a good clear smell to the hops that retain some sharpness and there's the faintest hint of something citrus in the background. Good bed of malt there, but largely absent, letting the hops do the work of smelling fresh and ready for consumption. The bottle claims that this is a summer ale and I suppose that one must expect something of a fragrant summer air from it to make that boast - I can't vouch for the accuracy of the summer, but I can vouch for it being fresh and clear. Given the bunch of flowers in the room (including lilies) I must say that the aroma does a fine job of resisting outside pressures!

On the tongue the initial impression is of fresh and clear hops, but for an instant only, before a soft and full malt comes to the fore shot through with hints of yeast and citrus to keep it interesting. Anna opines that this is just citrus-y and that there is possibly a hint of grapefruit in the very loosest sense of 'possibly'. I can see it, there's definitely a bitterness that creeps in around the sides of that malt in the centre of the mouth as it tumbles back toward the back of the throat. Almost like the sort of grapefruit one finds at hotel breakfast buffets in posh places, curling around the leaves of the malt like flames. Then it is roasted and gone, the leaves curl and wither back to ash, replaced by the flame of the bitterness as it reaches the end of the taste. Slowly, slowly, that burns back, to leave an oddly dry sensation as an aftertaste. Thick with the fruit part of that bitterness but a reminder of the tart too, so that one has to have a second go to fully nail down the flavours.

This is well-balanced ale, and a good match for the evening, both in terms of lightness and in terms of taste. At 4.8% ABV it is nothing that will knock you for six but it is considerably stronger than your average drinking ale in the mid 3s. This is a sessionable brew, yes, but you likely want to pair it with food and company rather than with a second. Mind you, as a single brew of an evening it very much carries its own and makes the whole experience worthwhile in a way I would not have thought about simply from looking at it. Indeed, my first tasting of this with my father back in the summer of last year had it paired with a meal and a day out. Not a bad idea.

You know, I think I like this. I must see if I can gather in a few more.

Enjoy this best in the summer, as billed, and with a barbeque - maybe with some field mushrooms roasting over the embers and some broccoli cut into thin slices curling in the heat of the forgotten flames above a fire pit burning wood and smoking slightly. Stand beneath a tree, preferably a birch or willow, and let the dappled sunlight warm you without risking sunburn or the harsh glare. Wear a straw boater, or a panama, with sunglasses - a shirt loose around the neck with the buttons undone, shorts are fine, with some loafers rather than flip flops. Have company, have finger-food, make it a lunch on a day off or a weekend. Prawns are an absolute must-have if you can find them. Fresh is better too. Talk about your day. Be middle-class. And enjoy this ale.

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