My Fellow Inebriates,
After consuming a product like HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE, a gustatory reset is in order. While our tastebuds haven’t been entirely traumatized, they are certainly casting about for respite. Thankfully my dad didn’t stock our house full of HELL’S GATE; he had the sense to limit himself to a six-pack and look around for something else just in case.
What he found was OLD SPECKLED HEN, an English nitro-can pale ale endorsed (at least on British TV) by a beer-drinking fox.
I didn’t know foxes enjoyed beer, but I suppose if slugs can enjoy it then it’s not completely absurd. Just this morning Miss V found a nasty-looking slug sliming its way across the sidewalk. She studied it for a while and poked it with a stick, then asked how we could lure slugs into our yard. My mother offered to pour some HELL’S GATE into a dish—if only V would wait until late afternoon so she (my mum) could justifiably finish the remainder. At LBHQ our tastebuds have to be pretty damn offended for us to waste beer.
It’s a good thing we have the HELL’S GATE because we certainly won’t be pouring any OLD SPECKLED HEN for the slugs. Lovely clear amber with a well-behaved light beige head, this ale exudes malty complexity: fragrant honey, toffee, and unplaceable herbs. Despite these sweet notes it’s smooth and well-balanced with a satisfyingly bitter finish.
The only mistake in going from HELL’S GATE to OLD SPECKLED HEN is the expectation of fizz the former sets up. HELL’S GATE demands a Pop Rocks–type distraction to acquit itself, but OLD SPECKLED HEN is nitro-carbonated, which makes for fewer fireworks on the palate and a much more transparent presentation of the goods. What you taste is what you get, and with an ale as sophisticated as this one, extreme carbonation would get in the way. Of course Canadian beer is mostly uber-carbonated, so we tend to expect and even long for some snappiness. It might take you two or even several nitro cans to divorce yourself from fizzy expectations and appreciate OLD SPECKLED HEN’s moderately carbonated charm (i.e., Dad, you should have bought more).
Of course you probably know all this, my fellow inebriates. You know there’s a time and place for punk-ass items like HELL’S GATE, whereas OLD SPECKLED HEN belongs in book-lined drawing rooms, leathery English pubs, and the headquarters of blogging bears.
Thus there won’t be any beer challenge weigh-in from slugs, because they’re getting nothing but HELL’S GATE. Poor gastropods—who knows what V has planned for them. No sense in getting their hopes up with OLD SPECKLED HEN. They’d just think it was some sort of pre-execution last supper.
One word to the wise: nitro-can beer makes you fart powerfully, so ventilate your setting properly, unless, as beerbecue recently suggested, like James Joyce, you’d rather not.