Sunday, 10 July 2016

Beer Review: Velo

It's a Sunday and it's time for an ale, because why not. Still embroiled in marking - I recall that this time last year I had successfully completed my main jobs and some extras, not yet this year - and so the time had come to try something that I've had sticking around since the beer festival back in June in Aldi. Yes, time for the venerable and powerful Black Sheep Brewery to enter the fray. Ever since I was up in Masham every week for the best part of a year and never got the chance to visit the actual brewery (or even have an ale, curse my driving) I have had something of a soft-spot for these guys. Riggwelter (here) used to be my favourite ale. So I am rather excited about this, their offering commemorating the cycling heritage of Yorkshire: Velo - not least because a good friend and ex-colleague used to be quite into the cycling.

I had intended to drink this in the garden and so I did for a while but I was also in sole charge of a small child and he wanted to be indoors with the games - battleship and the like - on the carpet. Who am I to argue? Answer, no one. So, would you like to know more?

The first point of note was a massive burst of carbonation upon opening that was enormous - almost as though it had gone a bit far. In truth, I had not chilled the brew beforehand, trusting in the nature of my pantry to keep it from getting overheated but it became apparent that this was not the case. A massive bank of white CO2 issued forth and the smell was quite strong. Huge head on the pour went a tad out of hand and looked, well, it looked as though I should have chilled it. Also, the aroma was more stale than malty and hoppy - the bottle did claim to have used coriander and so it may be that I was simply getting a proper whiff of that in the air, and the air was rather muggy rather than fresh and summery, and so that may have been it. Difficult to tell. Good colour on the pour and it did catch the light a little, which is always good, but that aroma was a bit heavy and musty, meaning that I was beginning to question if I had got a bad bottle or if the ale was off. Indeed, pretty close to the BBE date on the neck, and this is a plae so I was cutting things fine, but it shouldn't have been off, per se.

Dry and pungent on the tongue, probably down to the coriander again, but it was a distinctly different experience. Dusty malt was the first to hit followed by something that tasted, well, a little bit 'off' for want of a better word. I struggled with this one, to be sure, as this is one of my favourite breweries and the 4.2% ABV means that this is firmly in my usual Sunday summer ale fayre and very much part of the golden ale crowd that I've been sampling. No, this was lacking something, despite the carbonation in the glass the brew felt flat and uninteresting, a bit too musty. Perhaps it was indeed the coriander and orange, though I'll be honest and say that I was unable to taste the orange either in the citrus or the hops. Indeed, it was unable to fight the flavours from my lunch, a soup, which left me a little bit unimpressed.

This ought to have been much better than it was and it is distinctly possible that my lack of chilling allowed this to go off more than it should have done, to be schott if you will, and despite the fantastic colouration: being crisp and golden and just able to capture the sunlight, this just doesn't get around to delivering. There's no real hops hit, the malt is too musty and dry to really roil in the mouth and the full mouthfeel is somewhat wasted with a big ball of ale-equivalent stodge. It definitely has it's place, of that there is no doubt, but I was disappointed to have have this in a stolen moment on a Sunday.

Perhaps enjoy this more on the road, standing waiting for the Tour de France to come shooting through in the Yorkshire Dales, think the section around the golden triangle near Otley - around the centre actually, just down from Bondgate and outside the market square. There you can see the Chevin, smell the fish and chips being fried nearby and feel at one with the spectators that crowd around you in an atmosphere that is hard to beat. In that situation, with the large hotel to one side and the contrasting shade and sunlight, the coriander will maybe feel more at home, the dry malt more at one with the situation and you can sink into the ale nicely, allowing the excitement to detract from the more hollow notes. It's an outdoor ale, that's for certain.

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