There's an e-mail address from an ancient UK ISP on the label of Arundel's Old Knucker, one of those domain names that will forever be associated with dial-up modems and plain-text websites. It shows that when Arundel do an old ale, they do it properly archaic. Old ale is one of my consistent favourites among UK beer styles but it's almost impossible to get hold of here (Clotworthy Dobbin is probably the nearest approximation we have, though it's dubbed a "ruby porter" by its creators and has more of a hop character). So when I was in Brighton last month I grabbed what old ales they had on the shelves of Waitrose and made off, grinning manaically.
Old Knucker (no I don't know what the name means and I'm not going to look it up) doesn't disappoint either. It has that gorgeous limpid ruby colour topped with a loose off-white head derived from very gentle conditioning. The heady aroma promises chocolate covered raisins, but there's even more inside. The first pull (it's definitely a beer for taking pulls of) confirms that beautifully light cask-like sparkle revealing succulent damsons, milk chocolate and sweet pipe smoke. A rich and comforting beer that I really wish I had more of.
I was expecting something very similar from Hepworth Classic Old Ale, and sure, it poured the same lovely dark red hue. But the taste experience was quite different. Only traces of the fruit and chocolate are present, mostly in the aroma. The taste is startlingly dry and roasty, reminding me a little of the lovely red ale that Carlow make for Aldi. Additionally there's a sulphurous bite making it extra crisp and complex, and very drinkable. This is perhaps not an old ale as I would normally recognise it, but it's still very very tasty.
Hooray for old ale, and more of this kind of thing please.