Sometimes it feels like being on the edge of a really interesting conversation without being able to join in. I'm an avid follower of the UK's beercentric Twitterbuzz and so have a fairly good idea of what the cool kids think is worth drinking at any given time. It's useful to know what to look out for when I visit Britain, and occasionally we get beers over here from the breweries that are being mentioned in dispatches. A tip of the hat goes to DrinkStore here for doing an excellent job in sourcing the good stuff, and I'm chuffed that some of the much-lauded Thornbridge beer has finally made an appearance.
One beer I've heard mentioned a lot in recent weeks has been Jarl from Argyll's Fyne Ales. But there's none of that to be had at this distance from the conversation so instead I'm giving their Avalanche a spin.
Don't be fooled by the rather wan colouring, nor the meagre 4.5% ABV: the aromas make it clear that your tastebuds are in for a workout long before the liquid hits the glass. "Bitter" doesn't do it justice. It's all kinds of bitter. Mostly it's intensely citric, like biting grapefruit skin, and there's also a rather gastric acid burn going on as well, and a more pleasant lemony tang. And yet, oddly, it's not unbalanced. It's all been set on a soft wheat base that doesn't interfere with the full-on hop experience, but smooths out the flavours making the whole thing easier to handle.
Proof, if proof be needed, that you don't need to reach into the upper echelons of alcoholic strength to get big hop impact.