I cut my journalistic teeth writing for a local red-top, and I never really lost the fixation on getting exclusives that drives the tabloid press.
That's why I'm drinking alone on a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday, because the formidable Allendale brewery has launched a new beer at its tap takeover at the Shiremoor House Farm pub. I love getting a 'first', me. And I'm confident I'm getting the scoop on Curlew's Rescue, a beer brewed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UK's mountain rescue service.
That's my excuse, anyway.
Fresh from the pump Curlew's Rescue is a luscious, lustrous red-gold, with a disciplined and narrow head of the palest of cream. The nose is floral and fruity, with a secondary rush of grass andd biscuit on a prolonged inhale. The smell briefly struggles with, and then overpowers, the smell of exhaust from the car park and the flitting scents of cigarette, meat and perfume that hover beneath the pub's awning. You really notice these things when you take your time with a beer ouside your physical comfort zone.
I went outside to shoot the beer in natural light. Three mouthfuls in and I'm regretting the decision because, although the scents got through, I really can't taste very much.
It's time to do this once more with feeling. Back into the friendly darkness of this farmhousey Fitzgerald's for another full pint of Rescue.
With the second pint in front of me I notice how pleasantly misty the beer is just after the pour, something I missed earlier as I struggled to get my bluetooth keyboard to work (I'm writing this on my phone and can't tell if I look cool or like a right dick). It soon settles to clarity that, under the muted lights of the pub, shows off a more bloody-red hue.
It's not just the colour that's been altered by the environment. The strength and subtlety of the taste, unfettered by the outdoor scents that hobbled it, really comes through. There is biscuit and bitterness, fruit and a little veg. An orange peel smack vibrates on the tongue and an aftertaste not of smoke but of toastiness resonates following the gulp. It's a comforting beer, very apt bearing in mind its mountain rescue theme. It makes me hungry.
Half way through this pint, like the last, the beer becomes sticky on the teeth, clinging to the back of the throat and warming the skull. It feels a litte stronger than its sessionable ABV, a sweet illusion. Again, it's a comforting beer.
The taste sharpens as the glass empties itself into the thirsty writer. Hints of what could be Kiwi fruit taste bloom and die on the senses. Meanwhile the increasing amount of air in the glass is pleasantly dirtied up by burned biscuit. After further drinks, and with less than a finger of beer left in the glass, the smell becomes fully roasted and razor sharp. Tilting back the head to skull the remainder leaves a taste of malt, cereal and hoppy brightness that tarries awhile before dissipating.
Last year when I covered a Maxim Brewery ale on this blog, straight from the pumps as breakfast, I commented on just how the meaty, sweaty atmosphere of a Wetherspoon's can banjo a beer's taste and scent. Clearly (and unsurprisingly) drinking next to a car park can do likewise. There's scope for some beer science writing there, I think. But now I have a load more Allendale beers to try, so that's a job for Monday Ruari.
Sunday Ruari is on the hoy. Cheers!