Sunday, 31 July 2016

Beer Review: A Second Brace of Brews

Still on holiday and still having a relax, of course the evening was dominated by beer and reading Rivers of London, which isn't half bad. Tonight's efforts brought forth a second gift from a good friend and colleague of mine, given as he is leaving our hallowed halls to take up the mantle of leadership elsewhere. He shall be missed but hopefully not too much, I am planning a beery trip sometime over or after the summer down his neck of the woods.

In the meantime, it has been a lovely day and plenty going on here. The lodge is quiet, the children are mostly asleep and the limbs are limber from riding cycles. Thus it is that I propose to have a couple and then off to bed for a trip home in the morning, it's a long drive, but we don't need too early a start. We still have flies buzzing about, not too many but enough to be annoying. Anyway, yes, I have a Joseph Holt Maplemoon and Robinson's Unicorn Black on hand and I'm not afraid to use them.

Would you like to know more?

First up, as I started on the second night of reading, was Maplemoon, standing proud at 4.8% ABV with an amber hue and late from Joseph Holt because why wouldn't it be?

Poured well with nary a whisper of carbonation or big head, largely due to being chilled all day in preparation. It began with a flat malt aroma that carried a hint of the maple sweetness that was promised by the title. Much was masked by the fact that it had been in the fridge all day indeed, but the amber colour had remained well and, after a moment, one could detect plenty of fruit on the nose. The pour was quite thick and syrup-like, again due to the wait, and so Willow was able to report a vague citrus on the air. Indeed, that fruit was likely orange or light lemon and lime, and those hops were more obvious once there had been time to raise the temperature a bit. By now there was a decent amount of fizz and a head had gathered from who knew where.

Taste was good, not bad after a day cycling and realising just how unfit one is: there was a time when I could easily take a couple of circuits of the Center Parcs village just to work up a sweat, today I barely managed a single one with a carriage and my Boy in the back before I was close to collapse, luckily he wasn't up for more than a single go, and thence back to the lodge for some much-needed rest and a game of chess. The 4.8% ABV came through here, easing my muscles a little and reminding me that there were perks to being this unfit. The opening is of spiced malt, with that hit of alcohol playing a role in maintaining the power of it all, then spills into a bitter hop experience that carries with it a hint of sweet maple before falling back into a dry aftertaste that lacks the arid nature of a desert and is more like the blast of hot air at the end of a thunderstorm. It leaves a bitter finish that is at once quenching and demanding of a second ale.

Overall, this has hops like a rabbit and slips down gently like a jelly shot.

The second offering for libation was Robinson's Unicorn Black because it was about time I had a stout this summer and at 4.1% ABV this seemed like a sensible follow up.

Straight away there's a roasted aroma on opening and pouring, like one expects from a good stout, thought this was tempered by, you guessed it, being chilled all day. Willow told me there were coffee notes but this was after it had stood for a moment, and sure enough when she returned the glass there was that hint on the edge of understanding. Actually quite nice and it has been a long time since I've had a coffee so that is no bad thing. Peaty blackness like the depths of the remote caves but with a playful addition of carbonation that sparkled in the darkness to remind the observer that little is as it seems in these dark days.

Thinner than you would expect on the tongue; opening with a rich roasted fruitiness, the malt taking centre stage whilst the fruity fluff went down the sides and into the edges of the mouthfeel. Lacks the smoothness of other stouts and feels quite rough, as though there's a coffee-edged sandpaper wrapped around the heavy but direct malt, lacking the spread of others. Then it cascades like a waterflume at full speed, careening down around twists and turns toward the very end, by now being more mango than citrus with something that I'm relatively certain is a hint of peach, but don't quote me. Willow mustered the thought that it was 'fruity' but couldn't be drawn beyond that. Sticks like glue to the back of the throat, not that I've ever experienced that one, more like that soft centre of a locket after you've sucked it for a bit - the honey part, not the menthol part - and then gloops down for a good while afterwards with a sort of syrup-y texture. This is fine given that it was following Maplemoon and the book had taken a turn for the weird.

In the end, this wasn't at all out of place given that it was a stout in summer. Josh Gadd would have been proud.

Tonight's winner was actually the stout. Unicorn Black carries it on the strength of being a little bit different and reminding me why I like stouts and heavier feeling ales so much. The sort of thing that accompanies the conifer woodland of Center Parcs well and matches the deadening effect of the needles as they blanket the floor even in a summer evening, stopping sound carrying and leaving one with a contented sense of well-being. Lovely.

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