Sunday, 11 December 2016

Heart & Soul

Time to buck the Advent trend again by going light and IPA like for a challenge. Tonight is dark and cold and wet and wild and so it is natural that I go for a can of something summery and brief and gadfly like, because that's just how I roll, y'all. Or... something. Tonight it is the time to have a review some Heart & Soul canned IPA from Vocation Brewery out Hebden Bridge way.

And yes, those are the same flowers from the night of beer blending (this link), haven't they lasted well!? No, really, they have been ace. Would you like to know more?

Despite this being the second canned ale to be reviewed it was actually the first I picked up, on offer of course, and was from a local supermarket - the Beavertown can was from further afield. At 4.4% ABV and in a well-designed dark can I figured that it would be a good chance to see what everyone was raving about when trying ales in a can rather than a bottle. I was skeptical but then had that rather amazing porter, Smog Rocket (see this link), and decided that maybe I was being unfair. I've even bought in some Fourpure in a can too. Anyway, I digress.

This opened more as I expected a can to work, it fizzed and snicked like a can does with soft drink inside and then there was a fizzy sort of froth about the ring pull (is it still called that even though there's no ring and less pulling?). On pouring it even sounded like the sort of thing a can should do with plenty of that distinctive fizzy sound, a splash of bubbles hitting my hand and a swirl of bubbles and froth on the pale yellow fluid, shot through with sparkles in the glare of my 1140lm bulbs. The can  promised fruity tones of the tropics and the smell did not disappoint - I could pick out the mango and the passionfruit with hints of grapefruit straight away - the kind of clear and fresh bed that reminds me of citra too, but that was probably just a hint of the New World hops used. Besides, I've had a bit of a cold so I'm not entirely certain I can trust my sense of smell at the moment. Whatever, it smelled nice, and made me think of the Um Bongo song again. Gosh durnit!

Big frothy head stayed a while, left a mark on the glass, and then retreated to nothing. First taste is a monster of a hop hit, all of the fruit all at once on the tongue, rapidly expanding like the blastwave from a car bomb to fill the mouth. Alarms start blaring from the sides of the mouth as soon as the noise dies down, spurred by the huge hops and the slightly playful malt bubbling like a bath bomb. It's all bombs all over the dang place, it's like an area bombing raid in the Second World War but without the firestorms and the destruction of lives and property. Shock and awe, perhaps, rather than Heart and Soul. There's a bed of malt there, sure, but it doesn't stay still long and the bubbly pour masks the fact that the yeast does very little. For a 4.4% ale it actually tastes pretty strong and I'm not sure I could session it, if I'm honest. Certainly this is a proper IPA of the vein that I think of when I imagine IPAs.

It doesn't hang around, how could it after that fireball of hops? It sort of folds in on itself and then slips backward before sucking it all back into a great black hole at the top of your throat. The riotous fruit that was moments before billowing forth to consume everything in a great conflagration just sucks in on itself, goes 'poit' and then disappears into a fresh aftertaste that begs more. Each taste of this one just builds on that initial aftertaste too, so that it grows more powerful. The can says that the taste is "very fruity" and, if I'm honest, I'm not sure how else I would sum this up - we have honesty in advertising! For such a pale and weak looking brew I am honestly impressed that it has so much taste in it and such a lot of variety too. I'm used to enjoying a single sort of impression with this sort of ale and leave the complex interactions to maddeningly strong bonkers IPAs and stouts, but this really does do a good job.

And again with the can, I have to say it tastes very fresh and is an improvement over some of the bottles I have. Being in can, I suppose, means that the light can't affect it very much and the metal walls allow it to withstand some of the temperature changes in my pantry that have defeated one or two of the ales I keep in there. Add to that the way the bubbles work and we have a rather nice delivery method that may yet fully convert me. I'm not the sort of person who likes a lot of change and, often enough, will oppose change on the grounds that it is change. My initial thoughts on cans were not terribly complimentary and I have never really liked those tall 500ml ones with the blasted widget in them - I have rather enjoyed bottles. But this... well, that's two for two from the cans and that does rather suggest something of a trend.

It's a fine IPA and certainly one worth picking up and trying if you see it. I think it may be a tad over-priced in the supermarket and may work out cheaper from an online stockist but, frankly, around a pound and a half seems about right for something like this and so I feel like I paid the going rate when I got it south of that. Hits well above its weight and, though I suspect it works better as an outdoor ale, it does a decent enough job this dark night to make me recommend it.

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