The fourth in a series! Well, okay, just the fourth ale from the Aldi beer festival thing. This is the one that initially drew me to the display, being brewed by Hog's Back Brewery who I still have something of a soft spot for having popped in on the off-chance nearly a year ago. It's another summery one, out of place in the warm but wet day we've just had, but nevertheless welcome. I was hoping to pair this Surrey Nirvana with a picnic lunch but no such luck and it will have to suffice later into the evening and indoors as there is a bit of a wind blowing and all the garden furniture is wet. Never mind.
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Opening this instantly releases the aroma and there is a quite heavy hit of fresh and lively hops, swimming in citrus but of the variety more usually associated with grapefruits and mangoes rather than lemons and limes, this is the sort of fruity full citrus smell rather than the sharp and bitter type. There is a head with some carbonation but it lingers less longer than you might expect and fades to no more than a smattering of bubbles that, thankfully, resemble more the main roads than the track we took back from our day's meanderings via the satnav (and a wonderful argument it was for ignoring satnavs). This is heady and belie the relative weakness of the agreeable 4% ABV strength - something this hopped usually weighs in around 6-8% ABV in my experience, putting me in mind of some of the offerings by Northern Monk (here) rather than the softer summer ales that I have been having of late. Willow's opinion of this was that I was buying more qualitative ales of late, I suspect she just associates a good hoppy smell with quality ale - which is no bad thing!
On to the taste and we both agreed that this had a citrus element to it. Certainly there's a big hop hit on the opening, crashing into the tongue like a car with a bad safety rating and little in the way of crumple zone - this is a hop wave that could be critically damaging in a head-on collision but in a manner that would leave no injuries or death. Bad analogy. Basically, this opening is all about the hops, making good use of the centennial and cascade hopping to really open fire with a New World feeling of freshness and a summer-style quenching attack. This rolls over a smooth and light malt around and about the tongue, a much fuller mouthfeel to the Wizard (here) from last week and more in line with the kind of range and depth provided by the A-Hop-Alypse Now (here) or an offering of an essay from my erstwhile Russian history students over the last year (who should, by now, have finished their exams, so that's good). All this whirlwind roils neatly downward, chasing a slightly damp aftertaste with plenty of fuggles spice, which is most welcome to find in ales again after such a long absence from my tastes. Premium tyres propel the beast into a second sip and another, for this is a quaffable, rather than down-able, ale that would stand multiple servings. I wouldn't session it but I would feel quite happy with a brace or more. I shall have to see if an investment of a few would go down well having company as the weather improves.
As I get further and further down the glass I have to confess that this is an ale that keeps on giving. It has a depth of flavour that really does allow you to find a new subtlety to each drink and it has the kind of weight that allows me to keep going back for more. Being the colossal lightweight that I am the low strength is something of a boon and my only sadness is that I bought a second bottle for someone else rather than for myself. Still, the Aldi Beer Festival may last long enough yet for me to grab a few more before they inevitably sell out and move on.
Enjoy this best pretty much any time but moreso in warmer weather and as the skies turn lighter, even if that is through stratus cloud and drizzle, with some wind at your back and plain sailing ahead. Buckle up, forget crumple zones, and prepare to be propelled through the kind of summer hops that will leave you almost breathless and ready for more. I can't praise this highly enough. It may actually be challenging Montezuma's Chocolate Lager (here) for my favourite brew thus far from this brewer!