Dad held with his promise of a couple of beer tasting nights over Christmas. His boot contained equal parts luggage, presents and beer for the trip to the batch and on Christmas night, the Pale Ales came out.
In addition to the essential liquid ingredient of the tasting night, Dad (the geek) had also printed off a ‘How to Host a Tasting at Home’ guide and tasting notes for several of the beers he had selected. As suggested, we had our four samples, a glass for each of us for each bottle, water, dry crackers and (for me) pen and paper. That, however, is about as scientific as we got for our first tasting night. We opened the first bottle, starting tasting and Dad decided he wanted to be able to switch back and forth between beers, which was good in theory, but it meant we had four open bottles of beer getting warmer and flatter. I also have this rough idea that beer seems to taste different at different parts of the glass and halfway through I switched back to drinking them one-by-one.
Despite (or perhaps because of) our rather haphazard methods, we both feel we learnt a lot about pale ales and organising a tasting night. But enough about us – let’s talk about the beers.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (USA)
Dad: right amount of hops, nice long after taste
Me: Lacking in fragrance, but a lovely hoppy taste.
Little Creatures Pale Ale (Australia)
Dad: an old favourite, likes the longer after taste than the Sierra Nevada
Me: instantly liked it better than the Sierra Nevada, fresher and possibly slightly sweeter.
Founders Fair Maiden NZ Pale Ale (Nelson)
Dad: a musty smell, much more bitter
Me: earthy smell, unpleasant after taste
Mountain Goat Hightail Ale (Australia)
Dad: no bite, with a smell a bit like an ashtray – smoky, but stale.
Me: didn’t taste like a pale ale, because – as it turns out – its not. Mountain Goat describe it as ‘English inspired amber ale’.”Why did we include this in a pale ale evening?”
Dad: “The bottle looked cool, so I ordered it.”
Me: Riiight. I liked it though, drinkable with interesting flavours.
The main thing we learnt from our tasting night was not which Pale Ale we liked best, but furthered our knowledge of what a pale ale is. Through Dad’s slightly dodgy selection process (seriously, the label looked cool?), we had the benefit of reinforcing what we thought of as a ‘true’ pale ale – meaning the Sierra Nevada and Little Creatures. The Fair Maiden and Hightale were different ‘types’ of pale ale – the Fairmaiden is a New Zealand-take on an American Pale and the Hightale is an amber ale.
After all our tastings, Dad remembered he had a bottle of Epic Pale Ale in the fridge and pulled that. Epic Pale Ale is an old favourite – fresh and clean, with a lovely after taste. I liked the other pale ales, but Epic is still my favourite – and I can now say I’ve tested that to a small degree.