Sunday, 19 June 2016

Beer Review: Unicorn

Today it is Father's Day and so I really ought to review one of the ales that I was given by my daughter as a present. We'd been in to Aldi a few weeks ago and she'd observed me perusing the selections. Knowing that I like ale she then proceeded to tell me all the beer that she would choose for me, including this rather nice example, because this one had a unicorn on the front of it. She also wanted to get me Wizard (see here) and Double Dragon. Funding dictated only two ales and Aldi sold out of Wizard. So, of course, now I get to try and review Unicorn in celebration of the day that honours fathers. The Double Dragon will have to wait.

Of course, I contend that every day is father's day so it does seem rather strange to be setting aside a whole day to celebrate the patriarchy in such an obvious fashion. However, with an ale from Robinson's to hand (and they do seem rather good at the Twitters) I can't really complain too much. I check my privilege, find that it is doing very well, thank you, and meander off down the route towards tea and and ale in my very comfortable middle-class and largely unthreatened life.

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The pour was remarkably forgiving, leaving a proper head that stuck around for a bit in the dimmer afternoon following the bright early morning sunshine. A deep and rich burnished gold colour was the result, almost chestnutty in hue in the light, and a definite fruity aroma was sniffed. Full, fruity and bursting with juice was my assessment, putting me in mind of melon or grapefruit, though the bitterness isn't apparent and thus I'm plumbing more toward the melon and mango end of the scale. Willow suggested that there was indeed a full fruitiness to the smell but she had already taken a sip and felt that the bitterness on the tongue spoke more of grapefruit overall. Whatever the reality of this, the goldings did the job nicely and offered a good aroma to start with little of the mustiness of the malts.

At 4.3% ABV this was firmly in the centre of my ale tasting over the years and that was a good sign. the alcohol is noticeable but not overpowering in the initial hit - straight into a bitter but fruity edge, that's the grapefruit, before spilling out down the sides and to the rear of the mouth to spread the quenching sensation one associates with lemonade and it's ilk. There's a touch of lemon and lime around the edges, a bubbling through of a rich and complex malt along with some slight spice from the yeast. Willow was keen to note the hops, and even identified the goldings, which made her very happy. It is true that the hops are the star of the show here, the headline act even on the bottle, and though they are well-supported by the malt and the carbonation it won't be their songs that you sing along to after you leave. No, the goldings capture the stage and won't quit, they start their set strongly, allowing the backing vocals to catch hold a little, before dominating the middle and the end of the taste.

A curious aftertaste emerges with a certain dry edge but mostly just a satisfied bitter end that reminds you that you've had a drink. Like a familiar song sung as an encore with slightly differing basslines and a different riff in the middle section just to keep it new and different. There's almost a zestiness to the proceedings, as though the band are trying hard to keep the tour interesting for them and are letting their creativity run a little whilst staying true to what made them famous in the first place. To that end, this ale does a really decent job of being sufficiently different to hold my attention but also remaining in touch with the basics of good ale enough that it does what a good ale should and neither dominates nor disappoints. It is a shame that the weather is not better and that the heat of the week has faded somewhat as it would have been good as an open-air deal.

A festival ale, then, to be supped gratefully in burning sun as you squelch your way through the mud-inflicted fields to the headline acts on the main stage. Sure, you can have this when listening to the supporting or minor acts and you will enjoy it, but there will be the fear that the ale will take away from the experience of the band by being a bit more engaging - at least with a headline act the ale will complement rather than overpower the music that you are listening to. Eat, don't eat, this ale works well both ways. In short: a lovely sessionable number made for the warm outdoors.

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