This is quite the post. I'm breaking my self-imposed moratorium on reviewing my own creations, that is, I am actually going to review my own ale. Sorry. However, I can feel partly justified in that it was this time last year that I bottled it and so it's been left alone, I mean, it's been conditioned for that long and now deserves some airtime. I refer to the second of the brews that I concocted last year, the one that was mostly a beer kit with some alterations. New World hops, one set of malt extract and my own, ah, take on brewing sugars in an attempt to stop the thing going flat. It's the less than sharp Trench Warfare that had, originally, going to be called Bayonet but the hops were too mellow.
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First thing to note is that this has not been chilled, it has been sat next to the fridge for the best part of a year. Loads of sediment (and I have had it with it in the glass before now) but I poured so that it remained largely clear. Good carnonation, if I say so myself, but strangely little head despite using the pint glass that is designed to produce and maintain one. Part of this, I'm sure, is the age of the crew and part of this is how I poured it, also there's probably something to do with the mistakes that I made when I was attempting to make the brew too, but mainly it leaves a rather crisp looking copper hue in the dim light of the alcove in our living room. I didn't bother taking a picture of the plastic bottle I used, there's no label. It smells, well, rather like light citrus. Not bitter or sour or sharp, but the sort of clear smell I associate with citra and chinook hops (which I believe were part of the mix). It's all rather mellow now, mingled together and without too much to thrust itself forward.
It's not like a brew that doesn't know where it is going, rather, like an American IPA that relies quite a lot on the floral nature of the hops to delight hop-heads. I can't claim it will delight people, it's my brew, but it does rather pass muster for me and I think that the renaming may well have been for the best, it's that kind of aroma. Once on the tongue the struggle becomes more real as the different hops mingle and fight for dominance across the no-man's-land of the tongue and the sides of the mouth. Quite rounded in terms of shape, and it does fill the mouth. I have been reading the third book of the summer (I know) in the form of the rather good Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch, and I rather think that the ale suits it. Good strong malt in the middle that does a good job of laying thr groundwork like the soft chalk downs of the Somme Valley, a big dollop of hops like the fields and the poppies in that part of the world and an overall taste like a farmhouse salad with rustic French vinaigrette for the decoration. And it is rather good. The alcoholic content plays a role in all of this but not totally overpowering.
And that is the most dangerous part of this brew. It is bloody strong and tastes like it isn't. It still tastes like a strong ale, I'd place it in the 6.5% ABV area (ish), but it doesn't taste anywhere near as strong as it must be given that the morning brought a massive headache that lingered for the day. Keep in mind that I've been at a beer festival this summer where I drank rather a lot and was dizzy all the way home on the bus and I haven't had a hangover. This one is powerful, but deceptive, and the sort that, were it a bottle I'd bought, I might have been tempted to have a second before I realised what it would do.
I can't really judge this one fairly, but I can say that I am rather pleased. Not only was it a decent ale to accompany my reading, and it was a late night, it is also a decent ale generally. That is, I have succeeded in brewing something that's half decent. Okay, so far I've brewed some nice ale and this is nowhere near as good as the first batch I made but it is an IPA and it does the job of behaving like an IPA should. Granted a powerful IPA, but an IPA. I still have some bottles (much depleted now, a year later) and I am actually looking forward to having some more - it's certainly better now than it was around Christmas time.