Thursday, 23 February 2017


I was up in Leeds when I first heard about Siren Craft Brew and was able to try their rather odd sounding Fire Alarm - at least, I think that was what it was called. They seemed insistent on the day that it was Five Alarm which, the more I think about it, didn't make much sense. You can find my brush with them by clicking here. Anyway, on the basis of that I got myself some of their ale from my local bottle shop when I saw it. Alas, not the Broken Dream that I have been hankering after but, nonetheless, a decent looking pale: Undercurrent. Oatmeal pale ale. Time to have an ale with my meal!

I'm not good at drinking with food, apparently, as I sit to write the review I've had but one sip and eaten all of my food. I suck at this game. Would you like to know more?

This opens with an instant aroma of citra and citrus about it, pouring into the glass as though it's an IPA with massive hoppiness rather than a pale ale. There's a fair bit of activity, resulting in a fairly large head even with my careful pour but that soon calms to the kind of thin worty head that I seem to prefer on my brews. There's a great deal going on with that aroma as well, a party of spice and citrus and tropical fruit with the faintest tang of grapefruit and lime. It says something that the bottle accurately points out the swirl of influences there and that it complements my meal of spicy vegetable bake (southern fried) so well. I suspect that this would be the sort of ale that one would welcome when having a particularly spicy Indian meal or even the sort of Middle Eastern inspired cuisine you can sometimes get hold of.

The taste is good: it opens with a hop air burst above an encroaching tide of what I assume is the oatmeal with the caramel malts. This rapidly splits up to fill the mouth, part cooling the warmth of my mouthful and memory of my meal and part replacing it with its own unique brand of spice. Yeast spears through on the bubbles, adding to the feeling that there's been something of an explosion. Then it all tumbles back together like a troupe of excessive gymnasts that have been well trained and well prepared. One by one, those explosive openings fall into line, creating a soft suckling sort of sensation as the whole brew moves toward the back of the mouth. Hops remain in the roof of the mouth, chasing over and over like the sound of Boss Drum, and the malts swirl and mingle in the centre, making it hard to differentiate between the different influences. Even so, that malt doesn't quit with extra flavour and surprises. I did scoff a little at the promise of nuttiness on the bottle but it is nonetheless present in the final phase and the aftertaste then fades to a dry and persistent bitterness that reminds me of the hopped lagers I have had in the past.

Finishing the bottle.

But that isn't the end. After the brew leaves the mouth there are flashes of that spice and yeast in the mouth that remain, hiding in a softness that I usually associate more with stouts and milds, as if the whole thing wants to remain where it is thank you very much. One interesting note is that despite it being a little on the strong side, at 4.5% ABV, this doesn't make much of an appearance in the taste. It is very much left to the huge hops and the malt to make the impression. And, as one gets through the bottle, the hops start to burst up out of the oatmeal and malt at the bottom of the taste longer and further into the mouthful. Now there's a citra freshness, then an amarillo fruitiness and then again something a bit sharper or fuller or fruitier or... It is an ale that can stand repetition, that does not fit into a single box and will not reward attempts to keep it labelled.

Great copper colouration to it too, that lasts and is unusual for the pales I am used to having in a way that I think is positive. I also think that it is the sort of ale that does well at this time of year, not strictly winter and not strictly spring either. A good middle-of-the-road brew in terms of matching and place within the hierarchy rather than in terms of quality.

Enjoyed best with a meal, preferably lunch, when there's a normally busy day. It's 1.5 UK units so don't go anywhere where you have to drive nor in a job where you have to operate heavy machinery but, had over a long enough break with food, it will serve you well into the afternoon. It would be well-placed in the summer, when the afternoons are a little more free from stress or responsibility, and could be paired well with sunshine and outdoors eating. As it is, it goes well with marking and lesson planning and so it gets a huge thumbs up for a pale.

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