07 June 2013

On the right tracks

Session logo Compulsion! That's the topic for this month's Session, hosted by Glen of Beer Is Your Friend. Hoarding is one of the aspects up for discussion and, while I'm certainly guilty of that, I've elected to discuss another beery compulsion of mine: sequences.

I can't resist matching pairs, numerical series, colour-coded sets: anything that sets up a relationship between one beer and another, and another, sparks my ticking circuits in a big way. The more closely related the beers are the more I'm inclined to buy them all and try them in a single sitting.

A recent case in point arose a couple of weeks ago when I was heading up north and brought some beers to keep me company on the train. I don't know what the story is with the Sanda pair from Fyne Ales: two matching IPAs in 33cl bottles rather than the usual half litre, yet a mere 5.5% ABV each. Maybe they knew I was going to chug them together. Whatever. Two hours and two sibling beers: time to get stuck in.

Just out of Connolly, I opened the Sanda Blonde first. Well, it's blonde all right, resembling nothing so much as a pale lager: clear gold with a generous frothy head. I didn't get much of an aroma from my plastic receptacle, just a vague and slightly worrying acid sharpness. The beer really opened out on tasting, however: a massive jolt of Nelson Sauvin, reminding me of why I used to love this hop. It's dominated by a dry, flinty sauvignon character with just a trickle of soft-fruit juiciness at the finish. The bitterness burns in a way that suggests a much higher strength. Best of all: no trace of any cat wee. It's quite a while since I enjoyed a strongly-Nelsoned beer as much as this one.

My new-found love of Nelson Sauvin was timely since we weren't yet at Dundalk when it was time to open the Sanda Black. Totally black, this one, and once again there's lots of foam. This smells rather stouty, with roasted notes and a bit of caramel. Perhaps my palate was still recovering from the previous assault, but this isn't nearly as full-on as the Blonde. Yes, there's still a similar flinty sharpness but buried, no, muted, by the darker malts. Their own contribution is subtle: a barely discernible sweet dark chocolate finishing on a meaty ferric tang. It's only after this that the hops come out to play and while they're unmistakably present, they're just not as loud as in the Blonde. Still, it's a damn decent fist of a black IPA and I'd happily drink much more than a small bottle of it.

Despite the matching branding and matching hops, these are quite different beers. I like the conceit of black IPA tasting exactly the same as a pale one, but very few commercial breweries aim to achieve this and Fyne evidently isn't one of them. Nevertheless, their ability to take hops and do fun things with them just can't be argued with.

That wasn't someone smoking weed on the platform at Portadown, by the way; that was my burps.