Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Drinking a Dark Light

When I started appreciating wine, reading books, taking the sommelier program and drinking lots and lots of wine, friends and family joked that I would become a wine snob.

That was simply untrue. I was never a wine snob. I seldom turned my nose up at wine. There were certain wine varieties that were not my favourites—some Chardonnays, some Baco Noirs—but I would seldom turn down a glass of wine. And if I opened a wine and it wasn't very good quality, I could always add fruit juice and make sangria, so all was not lost.

No, I've never been a wine snob.

On the other hand, I'm an unapologetic beer snob. I won't drink any product by Molson or Labatt. I think Alexander Keith should be sued into obscurity for daring to call their pale swill an IPA. And thought I may try a light-bodied ale, I seldom try it a second time.

Not so with this surprising light-bodied dark ale from the GTA.

Hockley Dark Traditional English Ale
Orangeville, ON
LCBO: $3.65, 473 ml can; 5% alc/vol

This dark ale is the Hockley brewer's take on two distinct styles of English brews: a Midland mild ale, which has a dark, caramel colour and distinct malt flavours, but are typically low in alcohol content, and a brown ale, which is typically lightly hopped and are light flavoured. As dark in colour these ales are, they both offer a light palate.

Hockley Dark shows a dark caramel colour—almost like buckwheat honey. The head is a creamy beige with miniscule bubbles. The head doesn't stay thick for long but covers the beer for most of its journey down towards the bottom of the glass. It looks like a light porter.

On the nose, the hops were quite faint, barely discernible. But I did pick up notes of caramel.

The caramel carried onto the palate, with coffee and a touch of chocolate. The ale finished clean, light, and short. I would have liked to have had a little more body, but I think this beer would be satisfying on a hot summer's day. Good thing that hot summer days are right around the corner.

What drew me to this beer was the name. I love dark ales (and for those of you who have read my other beer reviews, this will be no surprise to you). Under the word Dark on the label, the beer describes itself as "mild, light body, full flavour." If not for the fact that this beer was a dark ale, I would have taken its description as a deterrent. I don't care for mild, light beers.

That's my snob side talking.

But this is a beer not to be missed. It has something for everyone. For those who don't like light beers, it is full-bodied. For those who don't like dark beer, it's quite light. Either way, it's easy to drink.

So give it a try. Cheers!

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