Thursday, 16 February 2017

Effra Ale

This was picked up at my local bottle shop too, this will become something of a theme methinks, and had to be bought because I saw it and instantly thought of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. Because, you see, it's Effra Ale and one of the Rivers of London, being the title of the first book, is the Effra, which is why the ale is called Effra Ale too by the bye. Basically, it's an in-joke that only I get and so I bought the ale. Sometimes I'm not very funny. It's by Brixton Brewery which is in Brixton, a place I only know because of the Brixton Riots. Which also shows my lack of knowledge. Anyway, all that aside, I thought it time to have and review it.

I was pairing it with my middle-class salmon dish for tea because I am so achingly middle-class and I thought I was going to try and be clever with my food matching. Would you like to know more?

Straight talkin' on the opening with a minimal sound of escaping carbonation and then straight to the pour with a pleasing amount of activity leading to a rather mighty, if short-lived, head that rapidly calmed to a more wort-like skein of the sort that I like. The initial impression is dominated by the malt in a sort of brown-field industrial kind of way, with some subtle hints of the New World hops (and the bottle backed me up on this) weaving their way between the alleyways and thoroughfares like the cosmopolitan make-up of London itself. It was a tad too dry and malty for the salmon, even with the addition of the paprika sauce I added, but it was definitely a good brew and so it didn't suffer too much from my poor attempt to match with food.

Like London traffic this opens with a heavy feeling inspired by the malt with those freshening hops taking a back seat floating somewhere above the massed ranks of the cars on the streets. It washes neatly into the middle of the mouth and fills it in a way that brings out the fire of the yeast on the bed of soft but dry malt, making me think of chalky deposits far below and with the faint sensation of roasting that I associate with ash and smoke. It reminded me a little of the aftermath of a fire, like the layer of destruction left by the Iceni warband that burned Londinium in that famous uprising. A good rounded feel follows, allowing the malt and the hops to take their differing paths without either one coming out on top. Freshening winds from the hops, suggesting amarillo and chinook to me, blow across the sides and down to the back of the throat whilst that malt and hop mix-up takes the drying blast along the bottom to the end.

Once at the throat the whole thing meets up again, softly and genially smiling, then washes down into the aftertaste of dry and bittering hops. This does not last, the initial burst like hitting the warmth of sunlight on a square after emerging from the shade in the height of summer, before it is replaced by a much more fulsome malt feeling that coats the sides of the mouth and serves to make the whole thing something of a warmer ale. This was after letting the brew sit for a bit, so I could finish my meal, and it had been naturally chilled by the fact that my beer storage area was coming in somewhere around 5 degrees centigrade. At 4.5% ABV this isn't going to punish being drunk in a bevy either, it is stronger than your average ale, but it isn't up there with the massive hitters that I am partial too either. In short, this is a fine amber that would be just as at home being supped in a bar as it would being indulged on a Friday at the end of the working week or being sessioned on a Saturday or holiday. I could quite easily pair this with a summer barbeque, spring picnic, winter meal or autumn walk. What I'm saying is that it is a good all-rounder.

Well worth my inside joke impulse purchase and a worthy adversary for all the stouts I appear to be having of late. I can see me picking this up again and having a couple on standby for when I have company - maybe a brace of them to go with evening conversation whilst watching a film or else just shooting the breeze with visitors. As a 'bog standard' amber this is much more qualitative than some of the ambers I have had and easily up in the same league (though not quite matching) the power of the 1643 Leveller Bitter (click here) from last summer. Mind you, that it even comes close is worthy of note. I was sad when it was finished.

This is best enjoyed when you just fancy a well-brewed, uncomplicated ale. It is the sort of thing that ought to replace things like Caffrey's and Kronenburg 1664 as the drink that is ubiquitous in ale houses as it simply does the job they do better and more softly. Consider the sports of the day, argue about the political news, talk utter rubbish about the work day and moan about workload, colleagues, managers or whatever. This ale will let you get on with the occasion and offer an interesting aside to agree that, yes, this is fine ale, before fading back to carefully stage manage the occasion without getting in the way. Not much more that could be asked for from a decent amber ale.