a handful of branches of WH Smith, and I've garnered a lot of clicks in the last two and a bit years, and it's a whole lot of fun, this beer writing lark.
I've made great friends out of this racket, from my days with Rum and Reviews up until this hot minute, and I've been really touched by some folks' reactions to some of my heavier articles.
Like a lot of people reading this article, I spend a bit of money on beer. Maybe more than a bit.
I wouldn't be having all of this beery fun if it wasn't for me taking punts on cheap beer; line-end stock at places like B&M or Home Bargains, or mystery bottles with cryptic labels grabbed in Polish and Lithuanian shops in my home city of Newcastle. If I'd not had access to interesting, different beer at a low price I'd still probably be drinking Guinness and Fosters almost exclusively. This wouldn't have made me any less of a person but I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun as I've had in the last few years.
This range of beers has shown itself to be accessible, tasty, well produced and satisfying. To varying degrees the beers serve as fine introductions to their respective styles but are also good beers. These are beers that sell for £1.09 a bottle, a "small change on the walk back from work" price-tag that welcomes the curious purchaser, and it's time to satisfy the final one-fifth of this purchaser's curiosity.
The thick skin of a kiwi fruit gloms onto the senses as the lungs draw in the first slug of air from the open bottle neck, dissolved and devoured by the grapefruit scent that follows it. The rich and pregnant scent of an orchard in the stillness of night. A perilously pale pour, watery and anaemic, fills the glass to clean, clear pale amber with a proper head. A proper centimetre-plus of goddamn snow that you just want to mash your face into like Tony Montana and just inhale for all you're worth.
The first couple of mouthfuls pass without much flavour getting to the brain. There is a grapefruity smack but this IPA falls short of the levels of hoppiness set by its producers, Sadler's, with their own ranges of often-excellent beer. The scent from the glass is sticky and a little dank, little slivers of resin jabbing at the nose.
The taste begins to fill out and revivify as the end becomes nigh, an increasingly powerful citric pucker on the tongue, and in the dying moments it finally becomes bright and playful. Holding it in the mouth eventually mutes the malty flavours until there is just a narrow line of grapefruit taste on the tastebuds, slowly being absorbed. The final mouthful is juicy and refreshing, a bite into a gushy apple/grapefruit hybrid before all is silence.
The aftertaste is dark sugar saccharinity, graffitied on the palate. A pleasant heat from the 5% abv thrums inside the skull, at this late hour.
A simple beer, simpler than expected, and a little thin, but with the empty bottle beside me I feel myself quickly missing this beer, wanting it to come back again and this time to come out swinging. Maybe it's all the heavy nights I've had on Sadler's more hop-forward beers like Peaky Blinder and Hop Bomb.
I'm sure this beer and I will meet again, sometime soon and maybe in better climes. Maybe a night when hailstones aren't banging my living room window in, battering in code on the glass "this is really poor weather for IPA, you should have held fire on that porter".
At £1.09 a bottle it's worth me taking another punt, I'm sure. And it's that attitude that got me here in the first place.