Saturday, 11 June 2016

Paella Food Ale

I hold my breath like a marksman as the bottle neck clicks against the glass. I don't have the steadiest hands- maybe it's all the caffeine, maybe it's related to spending my days typing, maybe I'm just incredibly uncool. Whatever the reason, I can't mess this up.

A little sediment slipping from the bottle to the glass isn't always the end of the world, but Paella Food Ale is different to most beers.

Sediment like WHOA

Brewed in collaboration between N√≥mada Brewing Co. of Spain, and Freigeist Bierkultur of Germany, this beer comes with more than a centimetre of softly shifting solid matter at the base of the bottle.  The label tells us "contains paella" and the ingredients back this up, telling us that saffron, rice and olive oil are in there. None of this heaving field of sediment can get in the glass. None.

With tidal slowness the glass fills up with lemony gold. My eyes dart between bottle and glass as the bottle empties and the sediment slides up the bottle's shoulder and thank all the beer gods, I thwart its escape attempt.

That was a close one.

Through the half-centimetre of smooth foam drifts up the scent of crisp lemon, keen and clear. A little spice plays in the background, not the earthy spice-stank of a farmhousey saison, nor the spice-rack car-wreck of a spiced winter ale, but a simple dash of saffron, faded considerably from the spice rush that was the scent from the bottle neck.

There's something else there, a smell that yanks an ethereally vague memory from somewhere in this reporter's skull, a memory that comes out malformed and gossamer-thin and disappears before it could be interrogated. A thing hard to explain. It smells like sometime, not something.

The first mouthful is simply and efficiently lemon, with the salty taste appearing after the second gulp. A sour tang appears and snaps at the tip of the tongue after another mouthful, and the saffron seems to take residence on the teeth; the moments between drinks filled with the fizzle of drowned spice. 

By the time there is just over two fingers of beer left in the glass the mouth begins to feel sticky as the olive oil, seemingly not all left at the bottom of the bottle, begins to make itself known. 

With the head tilted back and the final mouthful taken in, lemon and spice and salt slide down the throat, lubricated by the increasingly noticeable olive oil. The aftertaste is a drawn out bite into lemon-skin.

And after a moment, in the stillness of a quiet room, something slides into place and I remember the sometime memory. Tequila slammers. Years of them. Rooms tilting, my head spinning, the dark wood of the long-gone Cooperage pub in Newcastle on a night when we threw coin after coin at a £1 slammer deal. The salt and lemon in the taste and scent had conspired to bring it all back, all the debauchery and bravado and the gritting my teeth through the fact that tequila slammers just don't taste good at all. 

Paella Food Ale brought it all back except the negative aspects. There was no acrid burn of cheap, shitty tequila. No Herculean struggle to stop myself immediately recycling the cheap, shitty tequila I had just necked. There was just lemon, salt and pleasant alcohol; a softly comforting 4.4% abv, not the GoToHell% abv found in a sombrero-topped bottle of generic To-Kill-Ya. 

A beer that looked like it might be a massive effort to enjoy (and it certainly was quite an effort to pour safely) turned out to be a shockingly easy beer to revel in. 

Definitely the best paella this reporter has ever drank.

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