The plan was to have an ale in the garden in anticipation of doing some actual gardening afterward. I would take the children to the park, they would have a good time, then we would return, I'd unpack the mower and they would play in the garden for a bit whilst I did the lawn. So it made sense to have an ale that was, by its very definition, something to have with the gardening. However, such are the plans of mice and men that I totally failed to make these ideas a reality. We went to the park after I'd had a Gardener's Tipple from Hog's Back Brewery and it was there that my smallest decided to run into a wooden beam with his head and split it open. His head, not the beam.
After that it was a trip to our local minor injuries unit, where they checked him out and declared that he needed to go to the bigger hospital down the road on account of having a cut down to his skull. There we duly went, to find that all was fine (but I was glad they checked him out) and then glued him back up. We returned later that evening and I lost about two hours doing odd-jobs so that I had to nip out for tea at 9pm, too late for any gardening. Still, I did have the ale and I did review the ale, so that review now follows.
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This had been chilled, but not for long, by dint of the fact that I had been planning to have another ale first, and then re-review it. However, I hadn't, and so put this on to chill an hour before pouring, not sure it was really long enough but it was long enough to prevent catastrophe on pouring in the very hot garden where the head would have gone a bit mad otherwise. There was a big satisfying snick on opening and the big frothy head just kept increasing like something from the more Belgian ranges long after the pour. It sat atop a lovely chestnutty brown brew that showed plenty more fizz in the warm sunshine and I shall confess that I was very much looking forward to trying it. There was deep malt and faint hops on the nose - hard to discern anything fruity but it was definitely to that end of the bitterness that usually comes from fuggles and goldings. There was definite spice playing in amongst the bowers here and a musty bitterness that did serve to lend weight to the bottle's boast that it would quench the thirst created by working in the garden. Where it caught the sunlight there was a copper colour to it and so I can safely say that this is an ale that really suits being outdoors rather than being consumed at the dinner table or in the living room.
Once on the tongue the gardening continued, visions of sitting outside a shed gazing out from under the brow of a wide-brimmed gardening hat and holding the glass in gloved hands with the smell of cut grass nearby, all coming from a roll of malt at the opening with a bitter splash of the goldings so that it mirrors the sort of journey one goes through when actually working. From there, the malt and the hops dance for a moment before giving way to a blast of fuggles as the brew makes its way through the middle of the taste. Little in the way of shape to it, but it does rather fill the mouth and the feel is rough enough to make this a working sort of ale, the sort to have and let it do its work rather than to savour or linger upon. Then the malt returned to slip down to the back of the throat where it gains a kind of warm bitterness. It is from here that the ale draws its strength and taste, appearing at the 4% ABV for the first time, and this builds on subsequent tastes of the ale.
By this point the head was drawing back and the whole brew began to mellow and become smoother as there were more tastes of it. Part of this was down to the aftertaste just mentioned and part of it is down to the effect of having it in the garden when the sun is shining. The more you have it the more the distinct stages start to mingle and get lost in one another, making this the sort of ale that can be appreciated and then just drunk to, well, deal with any thirst from working in the garden. The bottle boasts that it went down well with a horticultural society at the end of a day and I am beginning to see why. I know that I have totally cheated in that I have had this ale without doing any work but the events that followed the review do suggest that this is the sort of ale that one can safely mix with labour. There is also a little surprise in that a nuttiness creeps in to the taste and plays a moderating role.
Enjoy this best in the garden, then, outside the shed. Lean back, pull that string thing from the hat under your chin and don't bother taking the gloves off. Take this from the fridge and pour carefully, wait a moment, and then enjoy it with the smell of pulled weeds, the buzz of bees and hover-flies around the wild flowers growing by the hedgerow and the feel of the sun on your face. Birds will make summer sounds in the trees and the shade of the silver birch will stop you getting burned. Have it with a ploughman's salad and then get back to work for the afternoon with a pleasant glow about you. One to have for those summer garden days.