Thursday, May 7, 2009

Something different: a Pale Ale-off

For no good reason at all I thought I'd try a few novel beers, and as pale ales were in plentiful, even bountiful, supply, I've started with those. I'm not writing this for anyone so much as myself, as an aide memoire so that the next time I'm in a big barn bottleshop, I know both what to hunt for and what to hide from.

Alpha Pale Ale

From Matilda Bay in Fremantle. Pours a bright-bronze colour, and has a high-frequency bitterness that's really lovely. Despite the butch name, it's like a TV morning show host - crisp and a bit fruity for my taste. It has a typical ale tropical fruit smell and a nice sparkle, almost like a high quality home brew. Western Australia is a long way to go to get home brew, although I gave up making it long ago.

O'Brien Pale Ale

Boldly says "gluten free" on the label, as if that's something to be proud of. A quick trip to the website says they're from Ballarat, so I should at least be state-proud. A paler gold than the Alpha, but with a head full of ugly big bubbles that disappeared quickly. Not particularly hoppy, it has a modest and largely character-free bitterness and a smell that stays in your nose well after the beer has gone. Definitely a "hide". You can't make a decent pizza without gluten; maybe beer's the same.

Wicked Elf Pale Ale

Honestly, if I didn't know that good things often come both in small packages and with stupid names, I would have given this one a miss. It also has all of the buzzwords on the label too; "hand crafted", "small batch", so I should hate it. A dark copper colour and a gentle fizz, it has a solid bitterness and a slight caramel richness to balance the hops. Biggest taste so far, and the first "hunt". But if they keep it behind the counter, I'll have to point.

Beechworth Pale Ale

Another Victorian one, palish and cloudy. A fine head and an upfront bitterness, but a really weird and not particularly pleasant aftertaste. Won't be finishing this one. There's an asylum in Beechworth. Draw your own conclusions.

Outback Pale Ale

Like most things claiming the "outback" title, this one's from Sydney. It's a straw gold colour, with a lovely full malt roundness although a little on the sweet side. Not enough bitterness to balance the rich sweetness, but not bad.

Continuing the a trend that started with Ms Penguin Poove's Old and Runcible Shampoo Bitter, the beer with the most stupid name has come out on top. I'd cheerfully drink the Elf again, as long as I didn't have to ask for it by name.

I can also imagine drinking an Alpha with Chesty Bond in a Darlinghurst bar, but maybe I'm thinking a bit too much.

The Outback was a bit dull but certainly wasn't offensive, while the O'Brien and the Beechworth won't be missed from my corner of the universe.

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