16 April 2015

Hells angles

So slow is my transference of drinking experiences to this blog that it's possible to follow the evolution of individual beers, whole styles even, in single posts. Camden Town's Indian Summer was an exciting prototype on its second annual outing when I found it on tap in The Black Sheep in the middle of last year.

It arrived looking like a kristall weiss, clear gold in a tall Germanic pint glass, topped by a generous head. The aroma was unequivocally that of an IPA, all grapefruit, lime and mandarin. But it tasted like lager: crisp, fresh and with little aftertaste. While it certainly had plenty of hop oils lurking in there, the tropical fruit flavours took primacy over the bitterness just the way I like. The end result was a complex but very refreshing and drinkable beer, expertly hiding its hefty 6.4% ABV.

I looked forward to seeing more of it but it seems Camden Town weren't prepared to leave well enough alone and you can follow the transformation in more detail on Mr Curtis's blog here. Next thing I'm walking out of DrinkStore with a 33cl can of something called India Hells Lager.

Obviously it's almost impossible to compare Indian Summer meaningfully with its successor, a beer that seems to have become the brewery's flagship, or at least the product that gets talked about most. The golden colour and pillow of foam are repeated, though I got more sweet tropical fruit in the aroma: some pineapple in with your grapefruit. I think, however, that the lager element is lost in the flavour. There's a massive fresh cut-grass bitterness, almost peppery, and then the grapefruit, lime and all the rest of that. But this time the alcohol is very apparent, even though it's a smidge lower at 6.2% ABV: the texture is heavy, thick even, very much like a warm-fermented IPA. This isn't a bad thing, and really the residual sugar provides a stage for the big hops to act out their roles expansively. But I miss the clean, crisp quaffability of the original and found the intense lime pith of IHL just a bit too much like hard work to drink.

The lager gods have answered the prayers of hopheads and while I don't want to be one of those irrelevant old fossils bleating on about balance, I do prefer my superhopped bleeding-edge lagers to be a bit more, well, lagery.

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