This fourth round of Magical Mystery Pour was chosen for us by David Bishop, AKA @broadfordbrewer, AKA Beer Doodles (@beerdoodles), and kicks off with a new beer from Magic Rock.
In case you’ve missed the previous instalments Magical Mystery Pour is where we ask someone else to select a few beers which we then buy with our own money. The idea is to broaden our horizons and get ourselves out of a rut we may or may not have been in. (We admit nothing.)
Most of the beers David chose for us are from Yorkshire and he suggested we order them from Leeds-based retailer Beer Ritz, which we did. Inhaler (4.5%) was £2.66 per 330ml can and David says:
It’s new to the Magic Rock range and one that fits the bill for a post-bike-ride beer. Refreshing, juicy, session beer.… packaged for portability, or something.
The can, like almost all craft beer cans, is very pretty and tactile. Magic Rock beers initially followed the BrewDog colour-coding system – green for pale ale, blue for IPA, red for amber, pink for prawn cocktail and so on. This one is a luxurious black and red which made us expect cherries and chocolate until we read the label: JUICY PALE ALE.
It opened with a firm ‘phitz’ and kicked up plenty of foam on its way into the glass. With the final tot we thought we saw a slick of yeast slip over the lip and the finished product looked, to our eyes, fairly hazy.
The main event was the aroma. It was huge, pluming, boundless, filling an invisible sphere for half a metre around the glass. It was that sharp, fresh sappy smell that you get when you rub hops between your hands. Honestly, it felt a shame to start drinking.
And, in a sense, it was. The taste didn’t – perhaps never could – live up to the aroma, lacking much in the way of malt sweetness or fruitiness, leaving chalky dryness to carry most of the weight followed by a palate-battering amount of bitterness. The bitterness was very welcome, though, so really it’s only the middle of the beer that didn’t quite work for us – the bit when it was actually in our mouths. We managed to pour the second can clearer and expected the taste to be a little less mineral-dry but, no, it was just the same.
As it warmed up we noticed a little more peachiness and (unfortunately for us) a bit of onion hoppiness which brought to mind Beavertown beers and the odd bit of Cloudwater we’ve been able to get our hands on. But we’re probably over-sensitive to this, and it really is a matter of personal taste.
For all the fault-picking above, we kind of liked it, and it prompted a thought: beers like this maybe don’t benefit from fancy packaging and small measures. They draw your attention and encourage you to concentrate when, in fact, this would be more enjoyably drunk from a plain, straight glass, paired with an intense conversation, in a pub. Really, we reckon, it’s a pale northern bitter with some nice aftershave on.
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A couple of the beers David suggested are ones we’ve had before but we’re always happy to revisit – things do change, after all. Rooster’s Fort Smith (£2.63, 300ml, 5% ABV), also in a cute can, seemed quite uptight after the free-ranging Inhaler. It looks like lager in the glass, but brassy with it, and had a well-mannered aroma of orange fruit and garden weeds.
A faint stale, papery note almost derailed the flavour but a candied peel sweetness and just the right amount of cattiness kept things on track. A second can, with the same best before date, didn’t seem to have the stale note at all – a packaging issue, or maybe one can got more sunlight on the journey down to Penzance? Who knows.
Overall, it seemed reassuringly and pleasingly retro, a classy beer balanced somewhere between US pale ale and the clean, dry zip of a good lager. (Which, it turns out, is pretty much what we said last time.)