Hoppy New Beer!
In the absence of a proper New Year post this year (and last) may I extend to all of you who read this good wishes for the year ahead and the hope that you will find opportunities to stand for what you believe in, grasp the experiences on offer and be blessed in the year ahead. Also, ales, I hope that you all have access to some decent ales and get to try many of them. Speaking of which, I'm cooking my own tea of awful battered chicken bits and chips (because I am so healthy) and having some Bob Sleigh by Bishop Nick. It's a limited edition ale from my Christmas present because the twelve days of Christmas aren't over yet and nor am I finished with the ales. That's just how it goes.
Foggy day with a quick trip to the park with our friends and their little one, punctuated by the acquisition of an engineering toy aimed at girls first and foremost that has prompted our daughter to declaim that she wants to be an engineer when she grows up. I'd say job's a good'un. Anyway, you don't come here for updates on my family or New Year wishes, so let's get on to the ale itself. Would you like to know more?
Instantly this opens like a golden ale earlier in the year, subconsciously (or maybe not) evoking memories of warm afternoons and sunshine on an otherwise foggy and eerie day. It pours with the kind of fizz an activity that I would expect from something in that vein too, making me pine after the golden horde that I sampled this year. Mind you, these are not bad connotations and it had me thinking that this was a little different to some of the ales I've been having this season, maybe worthy enough to see in the New Year, we'll see. It has a good copper colour to it, making me place it in the amber category, and it has a good load of bubbles too. A swift and active head pops up and then dissipates in the small explosions of liquid against the face as I lifted it to take in a strangely 'normal' aroma. It smelled like a standard golden ale with good hops and a decent little malt hiding beneath. Enough citrus to keep the bitter sensation that I like but enough malt to stop that going too far or taking over. This is not what I have come to expect from Christmas ales.
The reddish tinge in the brew catching the light made me wonder if there were some form of cheery spice to it and the bottle did make much of the addition of spices for Christmas. Sure enough it is possible to detect some of that nutmeg and cinnamon in the sides of the mouth but the start of the taste is dominated by that uncomplicated hops wave, making me think of fuggles but I may be wrong, backed up by the lances of slightly yeasty spice that I associate with the fuggles hops spearing their way past my shield wall. A good fizzy head of steam is maintained, the armoured knights crash through before I have time to form square and we're into the centre where the flashing blades and plate tackle the garish colour of the flags and banners. It's got a good malt bed here, fleshing out those bittering hops, and there are those spices in the wings to operate a sort of pincer movement and then it is gone. No more a thunder of hooves and the shock of impact before the charge passes on to the back of the throat almost as though the whole thing was a formality.
Good end too. The bitterness is softened and tempered by the malts and the spices so that nothing ends up being too strong or overly dominant. Instead it's more of a modern surgical strike using a bunker buster bomb laser guided by the SAS team hiding in the trees next door. Stunningly accurate, the sort of thing that weapon's executives drool over to prove technical prowess, and then an explosion that is satisfying and meaty enough to take down the defences. As the first ale of the New Year this does a good job of heralding the change in digits but it doesn't really challenge the greats that have gone so far since Christmas and probably doesn't make much of a stab towards some of the ales that I tasted in 2016. That's not to say that this is somehow a bad ale, it is not and it is actually rather nice, just that it is in some august company as far as I am concerned.
Best enjoyed as a sessionable ale, with its 5.1% ABV, and in a brace with friends and conversation. If you have a Christmas barbeque then this is the ale to combine with that, in the southern hemisphere with warm sunshine and a cool breeze. Up here in the frozen Midlands it is best coupled with a roaring log fire and some decent chips (which I had) so that it can play the role of golden ale despite the Christmas character it imparts. I would have this again and I think the ale does a good job of being what an ale should be: interesting and capable of sliding into the background amidst other flavours and sensations. Probably avoid the chocolate or have it after the ale though!