Monday, 18 July 2011

Day 106, Beer 106 - Okell's "Doctor Okell's IPA"

Today's Beer

Name – Doctor Okells's IPA

Brewer – Okell's

Classification – India Pale Ale

Strength – 4.5% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Lovely. Just about as 'amber' as amber can get. A noticeable absence of bubbles.

On the nose – Deep malts and vivid fruits.

On the tongue – Fruity (both in a rich way and in a zesty way) and nicely balanced with warm nutty malt. Mysteriously, a little bit lacklustre in feel. Read on...

On the subject – Over the years, by virtue of their colourful Isle-Of-Man heritage and their hugely admired but elusive ales, Okell's have cultivated something close to 'legend' status. Their beers have developed highly unique characters since the brewery was founded back in 1850, and there's an infectious sense of fun about everything they do. This beer is named after the company's illustrious founder.

On the market – Notoriously hard to come by outside of the Isle Of Man. So very notorious, in fact, that I invite anyone knowledgeable enough to leave availability suggestions in the 'comment' section. Frankly, I'm at a loss.

On the whole7.5/10

Full Review

I was a bit flummoxed by this.

By virtue of an all too brief trip to the Isle Of Man many moons ago, I already knew this beer. Therefore, I thought I knew a little about what to expect. Much of my expectations were met, and some of them were even surpassed. But one element was not at all as I remembered.

Let me start by highlighting what's so good about this beer.

As a relatively low strength IPA (certainly low against the backdrop of the current fashion for very potent versions) this is a rendition that you could easily enjoy a few jars of in one sitting. This is something to be grateful for, because it's a lovely tasting beer, and one which is equally disinclined to follow the fashion for ultra-hopping an IPA, preferring instead to focus on balance and nuance.

The malts, which can so often by sidelined or effectively shunned in the modern IPA (and indeed in a great many other types of contemporary ale, too) are given some decent time in the spotlight here, and I know many drinkers (who feel their tastes are being largely ignored these days) will surely welcome this.

The so-called 'hopheads' are not without something to droll over here too though, with a scintillating orange-zest principle theme searing through the entire drink, and some sharp floral notes interweaving around several other supporting citrus flavours.

But it's all mercifully tempered, reigned-in, under control. The urge to raise the hop bar ever higher and leap over it simply does not preoccupy this drink. And the rapidly expanding list of IPA interpretations is made all the stronger for it.

However, there is still that surprising quality to this beer which - after I went and opened a second bottled to double check - seems now to have been made a set feature of this product.

Basically, it's all a lot less 'lively' than I recall.

The absence of carbonation was extremely noticeable, both on the eye and in the mouth.

In the far distant land of Dieting, one of the many mantras these days is to go 'low-carb', but until now I wasn't aware that this concept had migrated to the much closer territory of Bottled Beer. But substitute 'carbohydrates' for 'carbonation' and there's little doubt that what we have here is a genuinely 'low-carb' bottled ale.

Certainly, many bottled beers suffer greatly from being too gassy, and that's always something a brewery should seek to avoid. A beer that feels like 'fizzy pop' is always going to struggle to impress.

But I reckon Okell's have perhaps been a little overly-cautious here, and taken things a step too far in the opposite direction.

And this issue is all the more concerning when the ale itself is so very excellent. But there are very few beers on Earth delicious enough to compensate for a sense of feeling 'flat'.

The situation became clear early on, when I had to raise the bottle high up toward the ceiling in order to produce any kind of lasting head for the photographs. It became clearer still when I opened that second bottled and found similar results.

Of course, it's perfectly possible that this is an isolated issue with this particular batch of bottles. And that would actually be fine by me. Slight variations in character are often a sure sign of properly 'hand crafted' produce. I'd be interested to grab some more bottles later in the year to explore this theory.

But until then, all I can say is that this is a very lovely IPA, with tremendous appeal to those who look for balance in preference to total hop dominance, and one which would be even more perfect with just a little bit more 'va va voom.'

And I really do mean just a little bit.

This beer is literally a few bubbles short of perfection.

(As a footnote to this – there is a third bottle of this IPA currently in my possession, which I will surely not be able to resist for too much longer. If I find any differences in the 'gas' department, I will update this post.) 

(Stop Press  - Update - Okell's have since responded to this post, and have provided me with some very crucial information regarding this gassy mystery. Check out to my subsequent article here - where I reveal the truth.)

No comments: