Name – 5 Barrel Pale Ale
Brewer – Odell
Classification – Yup, you guessed it, this is a pale ale!
Strength – 5.2% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Lustrous beeswax amber. Utter glory.
On the nose – Massive orange, massive dark rum-infused malt, massive smiles.
On the tongue – Boundless complexity and dynamism. Tangerine, black treacle, ginger, wildgrasses, exotic herbs and spices, and a further list of flavours as long as your arm. (Assuming your arm is around seventy miles in length.)
On the subject – Colorado based Odell's have been central players in the US 'craft beer' movement from the onset having started out long before any such concept was conceived way back in the mid 1990's. The beers they produce are among the best examples of what 'craft' really is. If you haven't yet been introduced to this distinctive new world of beer creation, I can think of few better places to start.
On the market – Tragic UK availability. I'm not kidding, it's seriously upsetting. It's hard enough finding great contemporary British beers here in Britain, but finding a great American version is about as easy as discovering Atlantis, or Valhalla, or a trustworthy car dealership. I got this sample from The Real Ale Store, and only similar specialist outlets can sell this brew to you at the present time. To those of you who currently reside in the US, I hereby transmit relentless waves of jealous rage.
On the whole – 9.5/10
On the whole – 9.5/10
Some reviews are harder to write than others.
Even for the most passionate beer aficionados (shameless geeks) it can be tricky to appear enthusiastic about a beer you found more or less coma-inducing, when perhaps the only redeeming feature of the brew was how delicious it looked in the moments before you tasted it and learned otherwise.
Fortunately, such beers are rare, making the challenge of having to write about them equally uncommon.
Terrible beers are easy to write about because they tend to make you angry, and anger has a canny knack of assisting with writing, as any sports journalists assigned to Nottingham Forest over recent years will testify.
Excellent beers, similarly, tend to stir the soul sufficiently to ensure the compilation of any subsequent appraisal is a fairly straightforward task.
However, in addition to dull beers, awful beers and generally marvellous beers, there's a certain other kind of brew which comes along only very infrequently, which can drag your mind and spirit into unpredictable territory, and transform the task of sitting down and writing into a particularly daunting task.
I'm talking about the beers you love.
Yes... those beers.
I'm talking about beers which generate primal reactions of such intensity that they can render otherwise competent brains utterly redundant.
I'm talking about beers which leave tongues tied, minds empty, typing-hands clammy, and which can lead to sentences like this one being rephrased up to twenty times before being completely deleted, only to be retyped all over again.
I'm talking about the instant favourite beers. Those which steal your heart in a single moment and never give it back to you.
Specifically, in today's case, I'm talking about a beer named '5 Barrel Pale Ale.'
The experience of drinking this beer is so profoundly enjoyable that – even if I possessed the necessary talent to do so – I would not be fully able to share it with you here today without risking arrest on various charges of gross indecency.
I'm not even kidding.
The only reason I didn't weep with joy throughout this tasting was because my tear-ducts physically removed themselves midway through and ran off to buy a bottle of their own. These are the unbridled extremes of pleasure that we're dealing with here.
So, given the (presumed) legal limitations imposed upon me, and given that I'm actually finding it increasingly hard to see anything due to my eyeballs being without moisture (my tear-ducts have been gone a while now), I'm going to make a brief attempt to outline the key elements of this modern-day miracle.
Ridiculously vivid tropical/citrus/intergalactic fruits – chiefly mango, apricot, blood orange, grapefruit – have been perfectly aligned with soft wildgrasses, exotic spices and fresh herbs, and then let loose upon a malt base infused with the deep restrained sweetness of honey roasted nuts, French toast and molasses, which complements all those hop-derived higher notes every bit as well as wide open sea does to wide open sky. It really is on that level of 'made-to-measure' perfection that these elements are coexisting. The flavours in this beer fundamentally belong together – is the overriding impression throughout. And for this many flavours to have been so intricately and successfully assembled, reveals beyond any doubt that there are people with unusual levels of ingenuity, vision and plain old skill currently at work in the Odell's brewhouse.
The body has that quintessentially 'US craft' feel to it - with simultaneous firmness and lightness defying the laws of science and vying deliciously for your attention, the aromas are staggering in their unrelenting complexity, and the stuff even manages to look amazing.
This beer is quite simply vast.
It's a genuine craft beer beacon, illuminating the full extent of the possibilities here in this super-exciting age of contemporary beer creation.
Frustratingly though, I'll never be able to properly convey the true nature of it's impact to you because, try as I might, I just can't find the words.
That's what love can do to you.