Thursday, 4 August 2016

Beer Review: 5am Saint

Right at the beginning, not long after Willow suggested that I needed something to do at the end of a work week, my first ales at the end of a week were Brewdog ones because they were on offer at Morrison's and they looked interesting. I remember that I got a Trashy Blonde, a Punk IPA, a 5am Saint and a fruit beer that may or may not have been raspberry. Hard to remember now. I also recall that, back then, I was not a fan of the ruby ale and was dismissive of it for a very long time afterwards so that even when I started the reviews on this place I tended to avoid the ruby ales on the strength of that early experience.

Since then much has changed. This place has become an actual beer blog for a start, showing me as a fully-fledged beer bore (who does now do that thing where you tell others about which beers you like and why) and I have also moved to another part of the country. My job has changed three times (sort of) and I have attended my first beer festival, several trips for the purposes of drinking ale and I have had a good few ales. All of which preamble brings me to my point, being that I saw 5am Saint in the shop and thought that it was maybe time that I tried it properly and saw what happened.

The following review, therefore, bears witness to this momentous event and brings me full circle to the very first ales I tried. Okay, no, my very first ale was, in fact, a pint of Black Sheep back at University which I semi-rated but thought spirits more cost effective, but certainly the first ales in my more recent conversion to them as something that I drink. Would you like to know more?

It says something about how I have changed that I was looking forward to this one, I know the brewery a little better than I did back in the day and I also actually pour things out of the bottle rather than necking them. I also actually seem to care about the aroma and the colour and a host of other things that I used to think would make me seem awfully pretentious. Now, a caveat here, when other people speak of these things they are not being pretentious because I assume they know what they are talking about. I, on the other hand, am just a bloke with a developing beer belly with delusions of readability. My first point, however, is more prosaic: they've ditched the ridiculous description! This seems a bit scandalous to me, it was one of the most amusing parts of that first bottle and the reason I started drinking ales like this in the first place rather than switching to the dreaded lager or something, so that saddens me a bit. Now it's all about equity for punks, which is great by the way, it's just not as bonkers as the original label.

The nose is fresh and crisp, with hints and reminders of citrus on the edges, and puts me in mind of a milder version of citra-based ales, but it is pleasant and airy and light as I was hoping for in the more humid conditions of late. It wasn't totally sunny or warm, but it was warm enough to suggest that I wanted something that could slip down, the aroma very much promises this even though there's a 5% ABV to think about. Despite me using a green tinged glass, with a stem no less, you can clearly see the rich ruby colouring of the brew. It's not as red as some of the red ales that I have enjoyed but it is a decent ruby and there's no mistaking it. There was an attempted head, tempered by me having chilled it it for the best part of a week by accident (I forgot to take it on holiday and it was still in the fridge when I got back) but it does try to make a bit of a frothy top valiantly. Even if it ultimately fails.

"Citrus," opined Willow on getting a whiff before adding: "Wow!" on tasting. I think that's a pretty good summary of the experience. The aroma is nothing to write home about, despite my writing about it, but the taste is something else. Crisp and clear hops create a vast cloud that hits hard without exploding and then rolls around the middle of the mouth, washing in and out of the tide of malt that seems a little like wet dog, not in a bad way, and this sticks around. There's no gaps here, no thinness, though this is not a thick or treacle-y ale. Whilst remaining light those hops and malt do a good job of filling the area and then together they seem to fade backwards after you've swallowed, leaving quite a subtle dry aftertaste that doesn't dehydrate or lend itself to comparisons to arid landscapes. No, this is the sort of dry that follows a crisp white on an evening out at a country house.

Willow also suggested that there was a touch of marmalade about this - I'm not sure I can agree but there is a hint of orange amongst the hops without the sweetness I associate with breakfast spreads of such a sort. I suspect more of a jaffa style orange or those tinned segments of mandarin people used to use for puddings back in the day when there was squirty cream of suchlike. I rather suspect that this is the sort of analogy that only really makes sense to me, so I shall abandon it and move on. It's a pleasant ale to have after all these years and there's a nice mingling of fresh and bitter hops throughout the experience that never becomes same-y enough to fade from view. All of that said, I still prefer my darker ales and other reds. I would definitely buy this again, I think it was worth the marked up price when I found it, but it's not going to challenge for my top spots.

Enjoy this best on draught at a Brewdog pub, with friends at the beginning of a night out where there is the promise of curry and good times. This will set you up nicely for having other IPAs and deep stouts just in time to crack your tastebuds over the head with the full weight of a proper curry preceded by lashings of lime pickle on your poppadom. Ensure you are not pre-drinking for this one, you don't want to miss that mixture of fruit and citrus, floral and clear scents, but be ready to move onto something more interesting and engaging afterwards. Not a sessioning ale, in my opinion, as it is too interesting but nor enough to carry an evening to itself.

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