Are You Tasting the Pith? - 19th December 04
A brief round up of the dark draught beers that I've been drinking at the fabulous Arcadia (in fabulous Headingley, fabulous Leeds) lately.
I'm loving the trend towards light-alcohol (sub-4%) dark beers that Arcadia are stocking at the moment, but before that, let's pause over a pint of E&S India Pale Ale. In fact, let's linger a while, because at 6.5%, it's going to do you some serious damage if you try to hurry it. The wonderful, pithy hop aroma that wafts off this pint has hints of orange marmalade in it, so it's no surprise that the palate is a little bittersweet and sticky to match - only slightly sticky, but with a hint of thickness that reminds you of the strength, unlike (say) Brooklyn India Pale Ale, which is stronger, but has a so much hop bitterness in it that you barely notice it's whopping 7%+ abv. But I digress. E&S IPA is excellent, seek some out as fast as you can.
Pheonix Brewery's Monkeytown Mild (3.9% abv) has a wonderful chocolatey softness to it, although perhaps it needs a tad more alcohol to carry these flavours in a truly convincing manner. Alternating between this and E&S's dark offering (the name of which now escapes me), I find them quite similar, leading me to think that (a) Monkeytown has more hops than a mild should have or (b) the E&S beer has a much lower hop rate than this excellent brewery normally uses. Either way, both these beers have a particularly restorative, satisfying quality to them, making a pint just the right amount, although it could be that I just wasn't interested in drinking more of them, and had to leave the pub out of boredom
(NOTE TO CONCERNED PARTIES: it is quite unlikely that I was bored by these beers. This is dry humour, which is hard to convey with any accuracy via the internet, other than by adding an addendum like this afterwards.)
York Brewery's Black Bess Stout (4.2% abv) was a bit more the ticket, having a lot more body to contend with, plenty of soft mouthiness and a nice chocolate-malt body to savour, even in its "unsparkled" state. I've taken to asking for ale to be pulled sans sparkler lately, and am fairly convinced that this makes for a nicer pint, although as horrified Yorkshire barmen point out to me "it won't have a head". Well, maybe not, but that's the way I cut my drinking teeth, on warm pints of Wadworths 6X served stright from the cask by an ageing snaggle-toothed barman with a draggy leg, and if I enjoyed it then, then I'm damn well going to give it another go now.
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