Monday, 18 October 2010

Very Special India Pale Ale (Greene King)

Despite hailing proudly from Suffolk, I'm not the biggest fan of the standard Greene King IPA. Balanced enough and fairly smooth, for me it lacks that special something to make it a returning pump target, it's a Bunker Grade 6.

I was keen however to try this small, opulently bottled number. Only the brand makes it outwardly similar to the standard product, this is a little glinting jewel on the shelf.

In the bottle the beer is a deep bronze and is 7.5%ABV, similar to the genuine strength of the original IPAs that voyaged their hazardous way to Calcutta and Bombay. The hops used are Challenger, First Gold and Target to provide bitterness, and Styrian Goldings to lend it a citrus fruit hint.

It pours with little fuss, and has a paper-thin fleeting head, soon eradicated by the potent alcoholic tumult below. The nose is floral with a faint fruit echo akin to Calvados or pear brandy.

First taste is malty-sweet with some dusted spice, with pear quite prominent in the mouth. The alcohol is pronounced, but is a broad chassis on which the bodywork of a beautifully balanced IPA sits.

It continues with notes of toffee and fruit, but the length of it is increasingly bitter and rather complicated. One might expect a burst of hops at the finish in an IPA style, but this is more a blend of tastes, one of which certainly is bitter hops. The malt is succulent throughout, even in the aftertaste. Pear rattles around to the end and the overall effect is refreshment, surprising for such a strong ale.

This is an accomplished, complex and potent beer, to be drunk with care whilst musing on the nation's accomplished, complex and potent history.

7/10 - A fine example of an historical IPA reproduction. It's probably more consumer-friendly than the beers held in dark cargo holds that rolled their rain-lashed way to the the fringes of the empire.

- The Broadside

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