Travel. It's just as well I love it. Not just the Being Somewhere Different, but the act of Getting Up And Going does it for me. Which is just as well, given the amount of time I've spent on the road recently. I'm in Germany when you're reading this, but I'm writing it holed up in my parents' house in rural Northern Ireland, with the snow falling and nothing much to do except drink beers and try desperately to make my phone take a half-decent picture of them.
Offering me comfort right now is a bottle of Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome which I picked up in a local supermarket. It pours a lovely red-gold shade with quite a bit of fizzy froth from the 55cl bottle. Toffee and golden syrup are hinted at on the nose, but while it's strong and malt-driven, it's no sticky park-bench paper-bag job. There are sophisticated glimpses of licquorice and honey in here as well, and the 6% ABV produces just the right amount of warming sensation, without overdoing it. It's one of the best seasonal-type beers I've had this, er, season.
I'm following it with the same brewery's India Ale, an IPA very much in the rough English vernacular. It's surprisingly forward about the malt, with lots of hard toffee chewiness. The hops aren't in the least bit subtle -- adding a jolt of bitterness, finishing very slightly metallic and only offering a little hint of gunpowder piquancy by way of contribution to flavour complexity. The two elements maintain an uneasy truce, and the finished product is nicely drinkable as a result. It wouldn't be a favourite of mine though, and as it warms it's giving me echoes of the rather unpleasant Fuller's IPA. I can't see myself swapping a nice juicy, zingy American IPA for this rather dour Yorkshireman.
And that's it for 2009. Join me on Friday for more auto-posted delights and the first Session of the new decade.