Name – Baby-Faced Assassin
Brewer – Rooster's
Classification – India Pale Ale
Strength – 6.1% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Eerie fruit cocktail. The hazy dawn after a tropical apocalypse.
On the nose – Citrus of jaw dropping clarity, vividness, freshness, immediacy and intensity.
On the tongue – Not applicable. (This fluid interacts in an altogether new way with the human mouth. Read on...)
On the subject – Many of you will know that Knaresborough-based Rooster's Brewing Company has been evolving of late, and the new owners appear to have a determination not just to improve on the considerable success of their predecessors, but also to transport the concept of beer into an entirely new dimension. This sounds like the stuff of delusion and fantasy... until you crack the lid on one of these bottles... whereupon an entire alternate universe begins emerging from within.
On the market – Just 70 'prototypes' have been produced so far, and most of those were claimed well before going on sale. I've heard that 16 are available at Beer Ritz. (Or at least they were yesterday. Don't be too surprised if they laugh loudly for an hour or so when your try to buy a bottle today...)
On the whole – 9.5/10
On the whole – 9.5/10
I'm not going to give this beer a perfect score.
In fact, this will come as no surprise to you at all, as you will have already seen the score I've awarded to it and noted that it is not '10/10.'
However, in spite of your prior knowledge, I felt I just wanted to add a little extra emphasis to the point. I want it to be perfectly clear that this beer is not going to be the first beer to get the biggest possible rating.
Oh no, no, no.
It is absolutely not going to be that beer.
I mean, what beer ever could be 'that beer', speaking rationally?
To score 10/10 would imply that the beer in question was perfect, and nothing - not a single thing whether in the natural world or the contrived world - can be accurately described as 'perfect'. It seems not even God was audacious enough to give perfection a try.
'Perfect' doesn't even exist in any real sense. It's merely a concept, entirely of human design. A fantastic and impossible ideal for us all to waste our time searching, striving and dying for.
Perfection is more of a motivation tool. A metaphorical dangled carrot. It's not an actual state of being.
So to suggest that a mere alcoholic beverage could suddenly pop into existence and defy all logic and possibility would be plain silly, and I'm not prepared to look silly for any drink, not even an outstanding one.
But making the decision not to award this beer a perfect score has presented me with a significant problem, because as a direct consequence I'm now faced with the near impossible task of having to find fault with it.
I'm going to have to identify an element of this beer that is manifestly not perfect, and as much as it pains me to admit it, there is a very real danger that my search for such an imperfection is going to preoccupy all the remaining years of my life.
Talk about a 'raw deal'.
But, for now at least, let me set aside what is not wrong about this drink and focus instead on what is oh so abundantly right about it.
I'm referring to it as 'it' because as much as I love the name 'beer', it just feels clumsy and awkward when applied to this fluid. It's not that 'beer' feels inadequate, it just that it doesn't feel altogether 'up-to-speed' or 'on message' in terms of being a relevant identification. It's almost as though this drink has brought the evolution of beer to a point where it is in need of a new description for itself. A new name. This just isn't beer anymore, not in the sense that all other beers have been up until now. Of course, a great many beers have helped to lead us to this point, and I personally (like many others) give credit to our American friends for triggering this transformative phase in beer's life, but I think this could be the drink that finally draws the line in the sand and steps right over it.
Baby-Faced Assassin is the latest and best evidence that we are in entirely new territory now. It has made it finally feel official.
Upon opening, this beer (which, for the sake of clarity, I'll go back to calling a 'beer') offers forth rich vapours of vivid tropical citrus fruits with a sense of clarity and freshness which significantly outperforms every other beer on the market. It's almost as though an entirely new process has been used to generate this effect. The fact that these aromas also happen to be extraordinarily delicious is almost a side-issue - so overwhelming is the impact and immediacy of the experience. It's one of those smells you can't quite believe is happening.
The great news is that all of these aromas translate directly into the taste, and there's a gargantuan heap of bonus flavours backing up the fruits, thanks in no small measure to some supremely refined and delicate malts.
Bitter, sour, sweet, dry, crisp, rich, savoury, spicy, herbal, light, dark, up, down, left and right, backwards and forwards - it's such an endlessly complex flavour package overall. I'm quite sure you could gather ten people and have them list over a hundred flavours between them, or perhaps even a hundred each. For me, it's those fruits (with blood orange and grapefruit being the most dominant) and the softly spicy, softly herbal bitterness of various 'woody' 'grassy' and 'seed-like' themes which make the strongest impressions.
The body is very 'now' in feel, in as much as it gives you the impression that its in the very early stages of a journey toward becoming a solid. It's not heavy, but it there's a density, rather like you find in a freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. (Which is a very apt analogy on many levels in this case.)
To say you have to try this one for yourself seems not only trite, but also unfair – as only this run of 70 bottles has ever been produced so far. The only silver lining there is that this beer is so ceaselessly exquisite that it will surely see itself in full production before very long.
My only concern about that is that some of the more finely-tuned aspects might be lost in mass production. A needless worry perhaps, but the sense of 'hands-on' craftsmanship here is more than palpable, and it would be a disastrous loss. You can literally taste the thought, the talent and the time that has been invested in this beer. It smacks of the same meticulous attention to detail that is found in a Fabergé Egg, or a Swiss pocket watch.
Elegant, dignified, outrageously classy and enormously enjoyable.
This really is beer of an entirely different kind.
It's a 750ml monument, built to mark a point in time wherein beer itself took an extremely positive forward step into an entirely different era.
This is Next Generation Beer.
It's still not getting that perfect score, but it's going to take many long years of painstaking fault-hunting before I can ever hope to explain why.