Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Smokey Bacon and Banana

In the deep dark reaches of time there was a legend of a brew so mental and odd-tasting that one would have to try it just to see if it lived up to the billing. Spoken about in only whispers, passed by word of mouth, a brew that would taste of bacon because that was what the internet craved above all else, that and excluding people that don't eat pork, but mainly bacon. And then, one day, I happened to be travelling through the furthest reaches of the local bottle shop down the road from where I live and stumbled upon it, the bottle that would potentially rock my world, Smokey Bacon and Banana by Mad Hatter who were clearly living up (down?) to the their name when they conceived of this rather odd selection of tastes. Obviously I had to grease the proprietor's palm with me plastic for to own such a bauble and then to taste it when the opportunity presented itself.

Which opportunity did when my father was round to see us and I could coerce him into trying it with me because it was so totally strange. Thus, clad only in our clothes and lit only by the glowing orb burning down from the blue dome (it's the sun) we did open the bottle and partake of the strange contents therein. Would you like to know more?

To be fair, this did have something of a savoury edge to it on opening and pouring. I'm not sure that I would go so far as to suggest bacon but there was a saltiness to it that spoke of meat if not the actual bacon that was billed. I had been assured that the banana was a minimum thing, I am no fan of such things (it is another one of my own odd foibles) and such fruit (herb? vegetable?) does rather make me ill, so it was good to note that none had been added and nor was there any hint of bacon in the brew either. In fact, the bottle proudly carried the legend "suitable for vegans" and so that was enough to put my mind at rest. A little carbonation at first and the hint of a head that stuck around with a standard amber visage thrust forth into the world made it look rather unassuming and the bouquet wasn't so mad or bonkers that it had me running for cover or regretting buying it or anything. This was just... different. Salty, like I say, with a hint of smoke to be sure but nothing too far from the normal palate of smells when dealing with ale.

On the tongue this opening like a decent bitter, all low-key malt and a hint of hops, and then a smattering of highly charged bubbles. Then there was the subtle feeling of something else in there that became more and more insistent, knocking on the floorboards like some awful heartbeat of the man murdered and buried beneath but more like the sort of spicy smoke that one gets in a decent packet of crisps to be honest. Sure, I could kinda taste where they might get the idea that it was bacon, there was an element of that, but mainly it was the smoke that got me. It was not a bad taste. A slightly sweet and cloying texture oozed above, and I assume that this is what people like about banana, and that just made the whole thing rather confusing, before it stopped swirling, burped a bit of rather nice yeast, and then skulked to the back of the throat. Maybe it had its tail between its legs because it had failed to cause total mayhem on the tastebuds but it did not hang about for long before giving way to the kind of bitter aftertaste that one expects from a good amber.

Moreish? Maybe. Certainly it keeps you coming back for more and that confusion of tastes is not so off-putting that it makes you stop and wonder. Nor is it arresting to make you question why no one has done it before. It operates somewhere in the middle, a sort of mild befuddlement wrapped in a fairly strong 5.4% ABV enigma itself hidden by the shadows of legend and time and space. This was out of the ordinary, and it was the sort of flavour that ought to have completely ruined the beer or else set the world alight with passion for something so totally different and unintuitive but... no, it did neither of these things. It was a good ale, a standard amber as I keep coming back to, with a slightly salty edge that was no bad thing and a hint of cloying sweetness that ran over the top and down the throat. Very clearly no banana in the brew and no bacon had been anywhere near it.

Honestly, I don't quite know what to make of the affair. Certainly, I'm glad that I was able to find it and try it. I am pleased that the banana is not banana enough to make me hurl (plenty of things that claim banana are) and that the bacon was not bacon enough to rule out swathes of people who may like to try something as mad as this. I am also convinced that this is sufficiently different from normal fayre that it counts as 'something a bit different' and maybe even as a brew to tick off. However, it is not the sort of ale that I suggest one should be beating down doors to seek out, like some crazed lunatic beer drinker going house-to-house to try all the flavours and lose oneself in a beer-induced haze of bliss and madness. Nor is it the sort of ale I would expect to find being talked about in gatherings of beer snobs and geeks as they quaff the finest craft through strainers of beards. It is a quirky sort of ale with a different aspect to it. Well-brewed and well-crafted with that hint of something bizarre.

In short, a safe sort of mad ale.

This would perhaps best be enjoyed with some meal of your choosing that is flavoured with salt and pepper, had indoors without the distractions of the garden or the country park. Rain or shine, holiday or during worktime, this is a brew that will allow for a great many things to take place. It is strong enough to stand alone and without back up, weak enough to allow a return to work after a lunch break. Mad enough to cause some bubbling of conversation but safe enough to allow for other topics. It is, in short, the sort of conversation piece for a lunchtime and likely to be a legend in its own one of those.

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