An enclosed kingdom in Tibet, cut off from the outside world, maybe based on a valley in modern-day Pakistan and culturally equivalent to some Chinese echoes about such places, with denizens that live far beyond what the rest of the world would consider normal. The name of a made-up place that has come to represent the concept of a paradise on Earth and, now, applied to a large bottle of IPA from Arbor that I have had waiting for a good long time. It was one of the first bottles I picked up from my local bottle shop and has been patiently waiting for the summer. It struck me as a summer ale, you see.
Now is that time, now it is summer and I have the time to tackle it and I am looking forward to Shangri-La by the computer to watch some TV because I can. You can tell by the picture that it has been in warm places, almost eight months waiting, and that I could have chilled it. I did not chill it. Would you like to know more?
It poured as one would expect from a bottle that has sat in the pantry for most of the year, through two heatwaves and some direct light, as well as being occasionally banished under the stairs to recover but mainly not stored well, which is entirely my fault. A testament to the quality of the brew is the fact that it did not keep on exploding and the fact that the opening aroma was inviting and fruity of a high order. A big head, plenty of yeast in this one, and the kind of murk that speaks of something that has continued to condition in the bottle and has done so well. I have become less of a fan of the totally clear ale of late and this fits in with my newfound love of brews that look, well, brewed. The fruit is full and soft, surrounding you like diving into a huge ballpool and feeling like wrapping onself in a favourite beanbag as a child. This is a fun aroma, engaging and full of beery innocence so that one is drawn in to listen more closely, a passion shared earnestly.
That ice cream head is not natural, this is entirely my fault, but it calmed and dissipated well and quickly, remarkably so given the abuse I have subjected it to! A session ale, it claims, at a solid and easily managed 4.2% ABV. This was dominated by the full aroma and once on the tongue there was a moment of sharp citrus where it could have gone either way. It teeters a moment, balanced on the edge of oblivion, then falls deliberately and firmly into the safe zone of full fruity hops and a bed of warming malt supported by the faintest spice of the yeast to keep this alive. It is clearly bottle conditioned as the taste is rich and the alcohol present, warming, rather than a distraction, it helps to build the overall flavour and feeling. Soft mouthfeel swarms about the tongue, running into the sides of the mouth and down back to the end. It runs over a moment, spears the roof of the mouth with sparkling bubbles, and then slips easily down to the aftertaste.
Like a walk down Dovedale this is full of old promise, the little houses punctuating the timeless (sort of) landscape of the eroded hills and increasing valleys carved by running water, and all in the soft of soft veneer that lends itself to a postcard home. A lot like walking in the greener parts of Wales, the ale is soft on the eyes and spongy underfoot so that fell running will not ruin your shoes and feet. I cannot speak from experience, I am indebted to colleagues who do actual real world sport for this particular analogy, but this ale strikes me as being particularly attuned to this comparison. I can imagine it is the sort of thick thirst quenching ale that would work well after a long run when one needs the energy quickly but also the release from tense muscles that alcohol can provide when dealt with effectively and well.
The fruit comes back after being hijacked by the soft and warm malt in the back of the throat, sticking around after the brew has gone and the aftertaste rises back up through the mouth. As a follow-up to a pizza this did well, submerging the after-effects of the salt and cheese with a tide of post-prandial bliss. Dry on the back of the throat, causing a pleasing watering of the mouth further up and an example of a good standard IPA brewed well and with plenty of passion. This is not a flashy or clever brew, nor is it the sort of thing that beer geeks cluster round as if some rare jewel, this is a challenger to those staples of old, the sort of ale that may appeal more to people who actually drink beer rather than people like me that like trying all the mad stuff. A bog standard tipple with plenty to recommend it like the plucky soldier from the shires who ends up with a Victoria Cross for bravery, no one knew the soldier had it in them but, afterward, no one can claim to have been surprised.
This is best enjoyed after a long walk, when you have eaten and are settling down for a evening of decent televisual treats in company. Have with a friend, the 660ml bottle is made for sharing, and ensure you have a brace because you will want to follow this up. Heated discussions on the meanings of background events in the show may follow but with this on hand and being supped none should end up being nasty or problematic. A most enjoyable session ale that you will not regret having and go to bed with fond memories of still rolling in your mind.