Name – VPA (Vale Pale Ale)
Brewer – Vale
Classification – Golden ale (Call it a 'pale ale' instead if you feel you must!)
Strength – 4.2% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Warm, rich gold. Strikingly low carbonation.
On the nose – All hop guns blazing. Intense citrus. Zesty, tangy and sharp.
On the tongue – An utterly remorseless hop-fuelled tongue-bashing. In a good way.
On the subject – After a growth enforced move a few years back, Vale Brewery is now based in a part of England said to have inspired Tolkien when writing The Lord Of The Rings, which is pretty apt, as this outfit have done nothing but become more epic since their humble beginnings in 1995. Now fairly large by micro-brewery standards, their ales retain a strong 'hand-crafted' sense.
On the market – As with so many great beers, I have to say that availability ought to be greater. However, as with so many great problems, I can happily say that the internet is an easy solution. So just click here.
On the whole – 8/10
On the whole – 8/10
This beer has only one thing in mind.
It means to thrill your tongue to death.
I can almost picture the scene on that fateful morning on which those masterminds over at Vale Brewery gathered together in their secret underground laboratory to painstakingly concoct a beer so intensely hopped that it would endanger the lives of taste buds across the globe.
Little did they know then what delight their dastardly scheme would eventually trigger.
Very much in keeping with the current clamour for hop dominant ales, this is a citrus packed, ultra sharp marvel of a beer. Those who cheer on this ever more extreme drive toward total hop supremacy (and thereby also cheer on the demise of malt's contribution to the flavour of an ale) will need look no further than 'VPA' for a guaranteed fix of the kind of high they crave.
I have to admit that beers like this one are actually beginning to convince even stubborn old mules like me that hopping the hell out of a brew truly is the way forward – and that's something I thought I'd never find myself writing. After all, I'm only 38 and that's hardly 'old' at all.
One thing that is not subject to personal preference is that this is a very well assembled drink. Those aforementioned masterminds at Vale clearly do know how to put a beer together. The gorgeous principle top notes – grapefruit, gooseberry and Bramley apple – are each vibrant and dynamic when focussed on individually, but when experienced as a whole there really is no other word for it than delicious.
But best of all is the most deftly pitched savoury undercurrent – which essentially hides itself for extended periods until you reach the point when those high end themes become almost too much – at which point it emerges from nowhere to transform the relentless citrus blast into something closer to a fruit pie, by introducing gentle swathes of buttery pastry and biscuit.
It's a pretty magical effect.
Whether they really do have a secret laboratory, and whether that secret laboratory really is underground, I think there's little doubt that there really are masterminds at work over at Vale, and I'm glad I selected this beer to be my first taste of their range.
I'm pretty confident that it won't be my last.