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I've had a cold for a while so the faculty of olfaction has been denied of late but it was good to get a clear malt and hops from this one after the pour. Good carbonation left it on the fizzy side but a definite lack of head, apart from the froth of pouring that put me in mind of a liquid sugar drink mixed with syrup and colouring. This was not that, however. Amber colour, as advertised, with a depth and body to it that was at odds with the almost thin fizzing offered. Malt wins on the nose, with a caramel smoothness to it lacerated at the edges by the barest hints of citrus and tart provided by the hops that are well beyond my senses to place better than that. I suspect I am out of practice. Nevertheless, the caramel is fleeting and there's a definite hint of something roiling beneath, something like mallow or syrup, actually, a sweetness that is strange but endearing.
First taste begins with that carbonation, a thin malt wrapped around the bubbles with a freshness that is surprising given the syrupy nature of the nose. It slips and falls, thin in the centre of the mouth but wet and doughty nevertheless. Consider it not a little unlike the sort of worker down by the docks of tall and slight frame who has muscles and sinews of iron - he can do the heavy lifting but he will never appear as a body-builder, more the sort of scrawny strength borne of being in the streets and having to work every day close to hunger and malnutrition but never falling off the healthy path. So it is with the malt and the taste. Cloying toward the back of the mouth, regaining the promise of the thickness, with the hints of bitter hops around the edges. It's the sort of taste that would lend credence to the discredited theory of the different areas of the tongue that taste different flavours.
Ad it slips down the throat it warms, but dries also. The aftertaste reminding me of a blonde ale rather than a bitter or the standard ambers. None of the smokey nature of other ales of this colour, such as Up and Under (here) or Late Red (here) nor anything from the Shepherd Neame stable. Now, this puts me in mind of the 1302 (here) in terms of the aftertaste and the aftershock. There's a thirst-quenching quality, none of the spice I would associate with fuggles, and then a dryness that speaks of a vale in the summer rather than the dry heat of a desert. Intriguing and thus worth a second go. You could easily down this sort of ale without too much of a second thought. You could have a brace of these, at 3.6% ABV, and barely feel their passing. For a light ale this has a delicate balance, if you wish to seek it, but also a chance to ignore the fuss and just down the bugger.
Enjoyed best after a long or short day. Had stood up at the bar on draught or with friends around a table - either way, it is for loud and brash company, the kind that is keen to set the world to rights and have the sort of debates and arguments that are meaningless but imbued with enough weight to give everyone a vested interest in having them. Fish, maybe salmon grilled or oven-cooked tuna, would go well with this. Barbeques would work but on the far end and would spoil the delicacy of the dry and the wet and the thick. Enjoy for the bottle decoration, reminiscent of the 1980s attempting to recall the 1970s celebrating the no nonsense approach imagined of the nineteenth century.