Sunday, 23 October 2016

Spooks Ale

It's coming up Hallowe'en soon and, loathe as I am to fuel the American juggernaut of a pointless holiday, there are a number of ales theming themselves on the occasion so I would do well to do my usual and try a couple. And, once again, do so in plenty of time for the actual night so that people have time to either act on what I write or ignore it completely. Either way, I feel it time for a different kind of brew. That's why I'm having Spooks Ale from Shepherd Neame. Well, that and the fact that I found it at random at a local supermarket on offer and I can never resist beer on offer.

It's a rubbish photograph and a big head, probably from the fact that I walked back from the supermarket and launched straight into ale with tea without really letting it settle. Would you like to know more?

I've already explained about the massive head on pouring, I don't blame the ale or the bottle or the supermarket, that's all me and my oddly uneven gait that is. Anyway, it seemed like a ruby would go well with the salmon dish prepared by Willow for our evening meal and the aroma certainly did what it was supposed to do with the parsley and cream sauce so that was nice. How? Good toasted malt on the nose with a back end of yeast to let you know that it's well brewed. There's a smidgen of the strength, being 4.7% ABV, on the air but mainly this is all toasted malt all the way. Good deep ruby, like I like, in colour and a reasonably placid demeanour despite the rather raucous head that formed. Not a bad bottle all told and even though I had to wait a while before pouring in the remainder I don't feel that I missed out on anything, took a moment to settle, but I was eating and so I can't claim I was bored waiting.

Malt is your first stop on the tongue, soft and mellow, but it's not there long before there's a brief hit of bittering hops and the toasted flavour takes over to fill the mouth completely and drag you down like some vengeful ghost to the pit of the aftertaste. Once there it broods darkly, rattling slightly, and then sort of... fades away. There's a remnant of the toasty malt in the mouth, mingling with my meal quite nicely, but the after seems almost entirely absent from the back of the throat. Warming sensation down the stomach, the sort that would make you pleased you had it were you out watching bonfires or fireworks around the start of November, not sure it would work as well if you were trick or treating, and nothing really there. Dry around the edges of the mouth with some moistness caused by the fact that the smell keeps your mouth watering - I mean that positively.

Here it is, behaving more.

This is an odd one. It lacks the smokey nature and texture of ales that I would ordinarily associate with Bonfire Night but the whole thing, despite being soft and smooth, seems to me to be better suited to an evening stood in the gathering gloom staring at dancing flames beneath the stars. The bottle does say that this is one that plays on the malts rather than the hops, and repeated tasting of this confirms that the hops, though playing a role, are far from the lead character in the production. In that sense, there is an element of Old Tongham Tasty here (you can find that review on this link) that sort of tugs at your senses and, true enough, leaves you feeling a little haunted by the memory more than by the experience. I think I like it, it's a nice ale, and I think the ruby nature of it pushes the marketing toward the Hallowe'en area of tie-in, but I would prefer to see this sort of thing hanging around pubs around the time of Guy Fawkes Night to keep me warm and braced 'gainst autumnal winds.

Juicy, full and with the barest hint of fruit jam atop that toasted malt that dominates all other sensations. Glad I picked this up and, at £1.25 a bottle, will probably feature again in my house.

Enjoyed best standing about watching the leaves you raked from the garden go up in flames. Take the glass out but leave the empty bottle behind and shoot the breeze with a fellow drinker. It's juicy enough to take the sting out of the soot getting in your eyes and soft enough to help prevent the need for coats and scarves. Crackling flames will add a nice touch to the apparently spooky hue and, as the night draws in, you will be glad of the warm feeling engendered in the stomach.

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