Having come to the end of my 'Beer Free' November at long last... and... well, by 'Beer Free' November, I mean started this ridiculous notion around the 2nd week in and hated every minute. Not only did I hate every minute - and let's face it, a couple of weeks off the booze really shouldn't be that difficult, there have been tons of occasions when I have done so without even noticing. But that's the point isn't it... when you start thinking about it and you know you are deliberately abstaining from something, then it gets inside your thoughts. You become Homer Simpson like. Seemingly innocuous conversations with your friends/family can see them morph into giant talking beers proclaiming 'Drink Me, Drink Me!!!' So yeah, it was a much tougher 2-3 weeks than I expected it to be. But then, I'm sure that my body will have been thankful for the respite before the festive abuse begins.
So, now that we are out of the November woods, I'm as well sticking my hand up and admitting that I had a beer last week. Yup, just one, but I had one none the less. I have an excuse though - and it wasn't just because I was struggling at staying aff it. I can be a big kid when it comes to many aspects of life. My inbuilt gamer is always on the hunt for awards, achievements/XP, trophies or stickers. I find it utterly preposterous that at some point during your childhood, there is a cut off and you no longer get things like the sticker from the dentist to say how brave you were. Man, I hate the dentist with a passion so I'd defo like my achievement sticker to be reinstated please. I'm getting way off topic here. So, in keeping with this love of achievements, I found in Untappd a perfect marriage of my hobbies. An app designed to check in, rate, and review my beer journey - that is also coupled with badges that map out the milestones and totals you have racked up. Most of the badges rank up as you go eg. Highlander Level 9 - 45 Scottish beers, Middle of the Road Level 12 - 61 beers between 5-10% abv, Heavy Weight Level 8 - 42 beers in the style of porter/stout. You get the drift. Occasionally they produce badges that are unique and coincide with a specific day or event.
Which brings me nicely (and by nicely I mean via a paragraph of utter waffle) to why I broke my no beer pledge. Thanksgiving. That odd American national holiday steeped in a tradition of giving thanks (funnily enough) for the blessing of the harvest etc - as well as looking back to the first thanksgiving in 1621 between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims. We all know how that turned out though. I always find the name Thanksgiving something of an Irony, since modern day sees it swiftly followed by Black Friday which, on a polarised notion, sees everyone being unthankful and clambering over one another like a crazed zombie hoard, trying to get their hands on some cut price TV or other product they don't need, but feel so compelled to buy because it's a bargain. Madness. However, Untappd, in recognition of Thanksgiving, produced a Special Beer-Giving 2017 Badge just for this particular event. So, not being one to miss out on a rare achievement I decided to get a beer cracked.
I had one such beer fitting for this very purpose. A nice limited edition Marmalade IPA by none other than Scotland's own Innis & Gunn. Spotted this a number of weeks back in Sainsbury's, sitting all nice and pretty in its own wee box. I do love a presentation box - one to add to the collection. The box blurb describes this I&G offering as a 'Refreshing IPA infused with Scottish Marmalade'. What's not to love about that? I am very partial to a bit of thick-cut marmalade, bits n all, slopped over some fresh toast. Nom Nom. So right away it seems a perfect combination of bitter beer with the sweet sticky citrus marmalade hit.
This pours a gorgeous, clear and bright amber colour. A very fine delicate head on top, that slowly dissipated in the first few minutes to almost nothing. The IPA itself has all the great hallmarks of a punchy, hoppy I&G beer. It's a rich beer with a great bitter quality to it. It has a multi-hop structure; Mandarina, East Kent Goldings and Mosaic. The marmalade element is provided by Mackays, Dundee, however this is where I think it falls down. The beer itself is excellent, as all I&G beers I've had have been. However, I feel that the marmalade element is missing, or at least so far back in the flavour, that it is as good as lost. My aforementioned 'sweet sticky citrus marmalade hit' never really comes for me. I've seen others give huge props to the sweet marmalade taste but I never really got much of that to be honest. There is a citrus hint, almost as an aftertaste but really, that's about it. I'm not knocking it though, as I really enjoyed the beer. I'd probably pick up some more as well should it stay in circulation and not be too Limited Edition. I'd have liked the marmalade to shine though a little more, but the IPA does more than enough talking to keep everyone happy.
On a small footnote; off the back of Andy's forage into the murky and confusing world of Alcohol Free / Low Alcohol Beers with his review of the much underwhelming Nanny State by Brewdog, there are other options with I&G offering up their brilliantly named Innes & None. I don't expect there to be much of an improvement though. And I don't see the point. If you are in a position where you can't have a beer, just have a juice instead. It's like my everlasting disdain for Caffeine-free Coffee. What's the point? If you can't have caffeine, then go drink something else. Meat-Free sausages? No. Go find something else. Don't just remove the critical component and call it the same thing.