Despite my Odyssey into brewing and the recent move of the barrel from the kitchen to the pantry and thus into the final stage before bottling (and the drinking of a sample to work out what it's like) I still haven't reached the point of self-sufficiency in beer supply. That means, of course, that I am still sampling the delights of our local supermarket when it comes to bottled real ales.
It appears that, since we moved, we have entered the area that is mainly served by Marston's Brewery. They have most pubs under their banner and a good deal of the bottled ale is also from their stable. It would, of course, therefore be pretty churlish not to sample their offerings. Truth be told, I had this the first time whilst I was renting but tonight I have actually managed to sit down with an Oyster Stout to review it properly.
It promises much on the bottle, being the silver medal winner for bottled ale in the 2011 CAMRA awards and so says much about the fruity aroma and the taste that has a hint of chocolate with a creamy mocha head. It does not really lie on any of these points. On opening there is a snick but most of the carbonation remains in the bottle. Pouring, however carefully, produces a very large head that is indeed a brown colour and very creamy. It's also very deep, but it does dissipate reasonably quickly. The aroma has the citrus one would expect of the hoppy nature of this beer and I would suggest that it's less oranges and more lime or something exotic. Dark colours abound - molasses and treacle spring to mind - and the whole thing has a certain presence that is lacking in an IPA or similar. It feels like it ought to be causing some sort of frost to develop or be heavy enough to bend light, though it actually does neither.
Taste is good. Not too carbonated with a hint of sugar on the tongue before the hops and malt rob it away, then there's a taste that one associates with the seaside before the chocolate notes, for there are some, run over the tongue and take over. Hops are in evidence but they are too light in the face of some pretty strong, if quick, malt and that something extra provided by the brewery to set this apart. They claim that it would be good to have seafood and I can actually see why with they said this. Still, I can't get over the fizz, knowing through my brewing how this added I get the impression that they've added just a little too much to what ought to be a much flatter, and thus heavier, beer. At 4.5% ABV it's not exactly a slouch but nor is it such a large hitter than you won't enjoy the evening. However, it doesn't drink like something of that strength, it feels lighter, and it looks like it ought to be much stronger.
Ilkley Black it is not but nevertheless it is a worthy ale to have on an evening, after all this is my second time drinking it, and it has it's place. We had a pork stir fry for evening meal and this is a nice follow up with enough body to it to fend off the lingering pleasant taste of the homemade stir fry sauce and crunchy vegetables.
Drink this with a meal, as recommended on the bottle, and I would suggest that something like moules frites would be the way to go, a la Normandy style. If you can't make it to Normandy or mussels aren't really your bag then consider getting in some cockles in vinegar in a small tub or prawns with a good sauce (I recommend getting some salad cream [like sour mayonnaise] and adding paprika and some tobasco, mixing until pink and then slathering over the bed of freshly cooked prawns) and enjoying as part of that experience. Surprisingly summery for the look and the weight of it, so find a nice beach, let your legs hang free and bare and soak up that tanning feeling.
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