Tonight is another ale review and this time of a lovely brew that I have been saving in my pantry since the summer because it was part of the haul that first brought me Elvis Juice (click here) all that time ago, giving you some indication of how long it's been hanging around. I refer to St. Peter's Ruby Red Ale and I shall be having it in my much under-used Nutbrook Brewery glass because why the heck not.
Long day, nothing good or bad, but a long day. I'm looking forward to a pint and drowning some of those things that have been left undone, at least until they are rescued come morning and are slightly soggy but have more gumption to be done. Would you like to know more?
This opened sedately, statesman-like, with nary a sound and no fuss. A small head formed and then was poured away, the sides of the bottle causing this to bob and sway into the glass, initially little carbonation and a sweet nutty aroma exuded about the glass. More aggressive pouring brought forth a brownish head with some smoothness but then rapidly rent asunder by larger bubbles and the sort of head one might find from a hand-pump in a pub on the Norfolk Broads about the turn of the millennium. A chestnut roasted colour to it in the gloam of the evening by the dining room table, less ruby and more smoked wood. There is a spice to it, playfully hiding in amongst the rich and deep malt through the dappled light of the woodland it evokes, hide-and-seek with eyes that follow in the twinkling of the small amount of bubbles in the brew and heavy on the feeling of incoming summer like a First World War barrage heard on the breeze but not yet landed.
Tart on the tongue, heavy on the malt, with a thin mouthfeel at first as though this ought to be a stout - the kind of taste that reminds me of cabernet sauvignon at first but then a peak of spice at the top of the mouth before it all tumbles over into a thicker but less stout-like feeling in the centre. Here there is a hint of toast, almost burnt, and a feeling of roast nut in a vegetarian nut cutlet, oven-baked at the end and soft and tender. There is more carbonation at the roof of the mouth, fizzing there like a sherbet feeling, before pulling away with the smell and taste combining pleasantly and balancing out a biscuit-like malt with some harsh yeast and the warming nature of the hops. Quite unexpected in many ways and workmanlike in terms of quality, nothing here to challenge the big boys, but also not putting a foot wrong. A good gymnast who, whilst never winning gold, will also continue their career long after the gold winners are retired and broken. A footballer who turns up to every game, never gets injured and sometimes scores - dependable in the most positive sense.
It seems to get better as you get further into it, that initial disconnect between the feeling and the taste on the opening, and so the thin quality first noted seems to die beneath repeated assaults from the toasted chestnutty hop and the roasted dry malt along with the spice of the yeast. It is largely unaffected by the 4.3% ABV, which is strong enough to be noticed but not so strtong as to dominate at any point. There is a searing hit of the alcohol just as it tumbles to the after-taste but it is not there long, blink and you miss it, before it is replaced by the slightly dry and slightly hop-roast sensation at the back end of the mouthful. It does dry out the rest of the mouth though, not leaving much to bring forth the moisture or else to end up being a generally soft ale. Much dryer and much less wistful.
This would be best enjoyed on a mild evening with a hint of ice on the wind that occasionally whips through, the calm before the storm, and drunk without alacrity, to be joined perhaps by a salad adorned with the barest hint of vinaigrette. Squalls all day, the promise of high winds and rain in the morning, safe in the knowledge that it is not a workday. Good company a day or two away and that feeling of invincibility that settles after finishing off some large work task. Imbibe, reflect, sleep sated and satisfied.