So it's time I returned to my roots, I guess. And by my roots I mean going back to an old favourite pastime, reviewing speciality ales on a Sunday. Of course, most of those ales were from the Innis & Gunn stable and so it makes sense that when I have a bottle of speciality ale from them that I review it as a Sunday ale. Also I am boring and thus always like to keep some semblance of a pattern - it's almost like I plan things in advance.
Tonight, then, it is my pleasure to review Fired Oak Scotch Ale that I picked up rather cheaply locally - and I haven't seen it anywhere else. This could be a good or a bad thing, but past reviews from the brewery suggest a better hit rate than a miss rate and so I am reasonably confident that I am in for something that will at least warrant my time spent typing up the review.
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The first thing of note is that this is the first 7% ABV ale I have yet reviewed and so it's strength is somewhat unusual. That's not to say that it is among the stronger ales, it is but that's not the point, rather it is to point out that it is already something of a unique animal in my reviews thus far. Right from the pour this has a surfeit of carbonation, merrily fizzing away on the table next to me whilst I type, but this has not resulted in a massive head. Copper colouring, deep and clear, suggest that this is not going to dominate and that it will be more like a lager fizz than the sort of froth that I have become quite used to drinking at my local (see past reviews ad nauseam). A persistent ring of fizz at the top of the glass bears witness to the carbonation nicely as I lean in.
The initial aroma is distinctive and yet difficult for me to place - I think that speaks more of my own inabilities on this matter rather than to anything ambiguous about the ale however. There's a definite softness to it, tinged with something approaching vanilla, as promised and is a calling card of the brewery. I can't claim anything smoky but I can claim that there's an element of almost soapiness there. This sounds bad, it isn't. It's like walking into Lush and being assailed by the sort of smells that suggest there are edibles in the vicinity but without the disappointment of knowing that such tasting will result in illness and/or death - this is an ale and it can be drunk. The box makes claims of butterscotch and coffee - I don't get those. However, there is something of the toffee about it - the cloying part that speaks of caramel rather than the sweet part that would put me off a bit. In short: I think I quite like it.
And so to the tasting, which is always a fun part of any ale and this promises to be no exception. Straight into the faint hops that herald a base of the vanilla-like oak that pervades the offerings from this brewer. I have to say that this is much more muted than their original and some of their sweeter variations. Not any less distinctive but much less sweet. I like the malt that runs alongside, the fizz is still a little strong and I find myself missing the yeast spears that usually allow the fizz to become a delivery system of the highest order. Not uncomplicated, but nothing like the adventure of some of the other ales I have had the pleasure of tasting. It actually puts me in mind of a more nuanced version of the Distiller's Cask range from Theakston's (here). Indeed, I think I actually like this one better - it shares the same texture and feel to it, the smooth blend and the running down the gunnels to a dry and sweet finish, but it has an overall drier feel than sweet and I like that. I feel bad that I'm having this alone and without a meal, I suspect it would do very well with food and company.
Enjoy then on a Sunday, with a roast (be that nut or beef) and the family around a large table (or even out in the garden depending on the time of year), in a big glass (preferably with a stem) and amidst the sort of boisterous conversation that takes place at either end of the meal. During eating you can leave this to stand after an initial sip, so that you can get on with the important business of filling your face. After that, though, you would do well to have a second on standby should you wish to prolong the post-prandial posturing. This is good, uncomplicated, and rewarding ale.