Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Weekend Ales

Wait, what is this? I'm posting about ale not on a Sunday or Thursday, which is odd enough, but also the post is entitled weekend ales and I'm not drinking. What is going on? Well, actually, it's simple, I had some visitors up a few weekends back and we had some seriously nice ale that I am itching to review but I already had two ales that I wanted to review and so it fell by the wayside. Then I was busy for ages and now I get round to writing up my experiences of some quite nice ales that I had on a weekend. Problem solved.

Contained herein are reviews of three rather lovely stouts, because I really like stouts and I need to share how much with people who may be able to get hold of these stouts. They were all on tap rather than in bottles so I can't vouch for their availability but they're all worth seeking out. Would you like to know more?

First up was something I've been trying to get hold of for a while now as it is brewed less than half a mile from where I live, which is great, and it gets sold in my favourite local, so it needed to be tried. It is Pit Pony Stout from Urban Chicken Brewery at a cool 4.9% ABV. It's not often I get draught ale in pints but after I missed the last batch (it being sold out in two hours) Willow said I had to run out and get it. I did. And I'm glad that I did too. It was smooth and velvet-y with a depth of malt that made it cool and calming on the tongue with a quenching on the aftertaste. Good caramel coloured head on the pour with a nose that is dry and deep without being roasted. There's an element of chocolate in the air and that asserts itself in the middle of the taste and then sticks around at the back of the throat long after the main body has passed. My drinking partner on the evening agreed that this was a fine stout and I credit it with the ability to convince him that I could take him back to the Burnt Pig later in the weekend. There's an element of sweetness to this, calling to mind but not imitating the Millionaire (click this) but nowhere near the same dessert element. This is a stout to have after, rather than with, a meal but not one to take the place of pudding. The darkness of the brew and the depth of the malt are a good match for the evening and the dry nature made a good contrast with the rain that followed later in the weekend.

Then we went out for lunch the following day at a Wetherspoons in Ilson and they had this rather nice stout, Caramel Stout from Grafton at 4.8% ABV. It looked very much the part after the pour with a thick white creamy-looking head atop an almost caramel coloured body. There was a note of ruby contained as it glinted in the light and it stood and settled nicely when I got back to the table. Sweet and strong on the nose with that strange salted quality that seems to be everywhere in caramel these days and was a strong smelling ale. On the tongue it was most luxurious, sweet and thick like I like it and with a good fluffiness that fills the mouth and rolls around the tongue like having a full body hug in ale form. The strength is evident but not in a harsh or crass alcoholic way, more in the sort of confident reassurance you expect from the gaffer at a building site or the manager that knows what they are doing and will fight for their staff. Good aftertaste that had a sweetness to it that would easily have allowed it to replace a dessert and another good dessert ale. Despite the weakness compared to Billionaire (click this) I would argue that it is more of that mould than not. It came free with my meal of gammon and eggs and whilst it wasn't the best companion for that meal I can't complain that it was totally out of place either. I ended up pausing during eating and then finishing with the ale itself and on its own and that was a much better experience. In short, whilst I think I messed up the food matching, this is a rather nice bit of dessert stout and I would happily have it again. My drinking partner had the Hullaballoo and enjoyed it but expressed a liking for the stout too, which is always a bonus.

See, gammon and egg. It wasn't bad. Come to think
of it, the salt may have worked well with the caramel.

The final ale of the weekend was back at the Burnt Pig, still my favourite haunt (sorry Wetherspoons) in the town. They had a decent selection, as always, and had already managed to get through the Pit Pony because of course they had! I plumbed instead for the Sooty Stout from Nottingham Brewery at 4.8% ABV. This had a much drier and less sweet aroma than the other two and straight off the bat called to mind the sort of feeling that I imagine one finds in proper pubs with proper working types. My drinking partner opined that it waas reminiscent of his younger days visiting proper pubs with proper ale and I suspect that this is very much a compliment. It got me thinking about how the drinking of ale has changed so that I approach it very differently to how it was traditionally drunk, being drawn to the new and the different rather than seeking a usual to have come what may. Still, this was a no nonsense stout that did a good job of being thick and viscous on the tongue with a dry and pleasing feel in the mouth. Taste wasn't bitter, more smooth, but also not sweet. It brought to mind the Saint Petersburg (click this) from earlier in the year in the sense that it was a simple stout done well. No thinning in the middle and no let up from the dry and almost gritty aspect on the aftertaste. The best description I can come up with is that this matches the name very well and that is no bad thing. I can imagine it equally at home in the garden at the end of a sunny day and at pretty much any point in front of a roaring fire in the middle of winter. As a spring drink it did well despite the slight warmth outside and as a stout I can see me having it again. Were I searching for a 'usual' I would be forced to consider it.

It was a lovely weekend and I relished the chance to have more stouts, because I do rather enjoy them. If I were to pick a winner for the weekend then it would be the Caramel Stout as it was just what I was looking for at just the time I was looking for it. However, looking longer term, I suspect that the Sooty Stout will be the one that I am most likely to have again simply because it was so without frill and got down to the job. Why not Pit Pony? Well, I enjoyed that immensely and I will have it when I see it again, but the batches are (necessarily) small and I can't imagine I shall see much of it for a good while yet.

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