Sunday, 13 November 2016

Down Kettering

We were tempted down Kettering way to attend a christening. It was just far enough to have us stopping over the night before at a Premier Inn, because we know how to push the boat out as a family, and that had a cafe attached. Say no more, says I, and we're down there having tea with me trying out the ales. Now, warning be made, it was a Brewer's Fayre and the selection was far from being decent, I mean, they had Tribute on but had run out. No chance of a delivery that night. In the end I settled for a half with my meal and then went back again later for a second half and a bottle of pale whilst I read my book for the evening - Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch in case you were wondering - and then retired to bed.

The christening was a lovely occasion but I am a poor judge of social situations and so I shall leave it at that, after all, this here's a beer blog and what you're really here for is some noodling on the ales and some thoughts on the selection. What I will say is this: if your lager is cheaper to the tune of almost a pound for a pint versus a half of real ale, there's something wrong. Mind you, I've wondered before if real ale is the gentrification of drinking and thus deliberately slanted 'gainst the working classes, this pricing structure would seem to suggest that at least some big companies think so.

Still, the staff were quite lovely and helpful to this rather odd beer bore and let me get on with my reading with some ale in the evening so I really can't complain. Would you like to know more?

First up of the evening was East Coast IPA from Greene King at 4% ABV and on draught.
I'll be brutally honest, I've seen this since I used to live elsewhere and semi-coveted having it for the best part of three years, so to see it on draught was to have it in a glass. I initially assumed that a half would be around the £1.75 mark and ordered it with my meal without checking. It was when I came back later in the evening and ordered a second that I learned it was £2.50! A bit steep. Still, all the better to try and review it I suppose. It came with a bit of a head and was a tad creamier than I would expect an IPA to be. There were hops on the taste, big and meaty, with a slow slide down to the middle of the tongue and thence into a dry aftertaste that did its best to be different and clever but mostly just sort of hung around. There was a decent carbonation at play and the brewing process was far from producing a boring ale but I was a tad disappointed with it. Ah! You cry, finger wagging: but you had another! Yes, I did. I saw that they had Tribute and when informed that this was no longer on elected to have a second half because I wanted to stick to draught. Now, fair's fair, this was still an IPA and it was better than any of the lagers they had on and I don't regret having a second, but I do feel that it was bit lacking in character for a real ale. I think it was the sort of real ale that they have on for people who have made a thing out of not having real ale to have as they are somewhere 'posh'. Which is fine, but not the best advert for a real ale. It made for a decent accompaniment to my very spicy chicken buffet and, later, to my reading a book.

The next one was a bottle of Sharp's Atlantic Pale which I had been itching to get and have a go at for a while too. At 4.5% ABV and £2.95 the bottle this was good value.
It poured well and had been kept at a decent temperature well - not too hot and not ice cold either. Someone had clearly known what they were doing. The staff were amazed it was such a low price and whilst I will quibble that I shan't too much given where I was buying it! There was a decent head that called to mind days on the beach and a rather nice floral aroma shot through with decent amounts of citrus hops. This was a decent bottled ale and one that would have gone fine of an evening at home too. With me reading and in mellow mood I can't say I was complaining. Once on the tongue it did a good job of being a decent pale with a decent set of hops to chase away the IPA of earlier. The strength was enough to have me relaxing but not so strong that I regretted it come the morrow. It was a good, easy, taste too, hops on the opening, with hops carried over the malt in the middle and then a long and slow run to the back of the throat and a dry aftertaste shot through with moistness on the sides of the mouth. All in all, the sort of pale that would go very well with most meals, hence it being served in this place, and did well on its own. I, for one, really rated it. But, then, it was Sharp's and what did I expect? A return to proper ale and a reminder that not all draught ales are better than their bottled counterparts, this was a pale that I enjoyed and would definitely have again and I'm not usually a pale ale fan. I would have preferred a stout or dark ale, truth be told, but this one was light and airy enough to make me judge it on its merits rather than on the fact that it wasn't what I would have preferred and that alone ought to say something.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the winner of the evening was the Atlantic Pale as it allowed me to read quickly and without loss of focus as well as function the following day in church and on into the meal afterwards. It was a decent tipple, the price wasn't so bad given the context and I wish I'd had two of them rather than the East Coast IPA. Not that the IPA was that bad, it just wasn't what I've come to expect of draught ales.

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