In England they call it a ‘Cornish Pasty’, the Irish call it a ‘hand Pie’ and the Scots, ever the poetic linguists, call it a ‘Beefy bake’. Either way, the Israeli lady selling it to me just round the corner called it a “type of pie thing with meat inside and maybe some potato, I am not sure”.
I was excited. I had never come across one in the 5 years living in Israel, and it seemed to me an ideal opportunity to have a taste of home. Well actually that might be a bit misleading, because however familiar I am with this wonderful culinary creation, I couldn’t recall ever having eaten it. What I have done however, on countless occasions at the pub, is smelled it and gazed at it longingly. And because I have always been on the kosher diet, cursed anyone else who ever had a bite out of it.
So why the shift of focus from Israeli Beers to UK pub food? Because, when the John Smiths, the Seán Connors and the Hamish Mcduddle’s get stuck into this pie down the pub as they have been doing for centuries, it is always coupled with a pint of good ale. Ahh! That’s right, I was going to need the perfect pint to wash it down with and I was going to need to get it right. No, there would be no margin for error. In my mind at least, this was going to be quite the momentous occasion. I wanted something not too deep and not very hoppy as not to steal the flavour limelight. I wanted a slightly malty, light beer which I could be confident will happily flush it all down.
Holding the fridge door open for far too long, oblivious to the agitated beeping sounds it was making, I contemplated my options and it came down to just 2 candidates, both Red ales. It was the one I hadn’t yet tasted which eventually made the grade. Readers, I present to you the IRISH RED ALE by EMEK HA’ELA.
In terms of guessing, I was already off to a rubbish start. This beer is far darker than I expected. In my defense it actually pours more brown than the red haze expected from only a few toasted malts. On the contrary, the brew-master has created a full bodied texture, I suspect from using more than just a few. Notice the tall, lovely foam crisp white head. This effort also sports a very high level of carbonation (this means its got a real fizz to it).
I actually used stemmed glass here in anticipation of a lack of hops, meaning greater effort to bring out the aromas needed with a wide base and channeled funnel. Again I seemed to have bowled wide of the wicket! I did smell hops and it really wasn’t at all hard to place them. I also got a good wiff of the amount of roasted grains. And did it all have a familiar Belgian overtone? Hmmm…
First Sip, very sweet. Second Sip, just as sweet with a caramel tone. I opened up the hatches and let it right in and that’s where I got a slight bitterness aimlessly tying to chase the sweetness down my throat and make a statement. It didn’t fully succeed thankfully, this was not supposed to be a bitter beer.
I am not sure I would call it acidic, but there is a fresh sharpness about this ale which cut right through the base flavours of the meat and the neutral tones of the pastry. From this respect, the taste I was looking for was spot on. The high carbonation plays an important roll too in bringing the sensations together.
I am sure you must be drooling at this point so I will kindly stop the proceedings here for a moment to point out the clinging ‘Brussels lace’ on the walls of the glass. A recently read that this is a sign of a well made beer…and a clean glass.
Very fizzy and aggressive. Not much in way of an after taste – but then again, none was really expected.
Pouring this ale, I admit that I thought I had made a mishap. From appearances alone, it didn’t look like what I was after. The taste that followed certainly then over-achieved in a big way. This beer is a lovely tasting ale which you will find perfect for accompanying meals with.
There is a lesson to be learned here I think “Never judge a beer by beefy bake?” – Thank’s Emek Ha’ela, I’ll coin that
Emek Haela is brewed at the Srigim Brewery by the same talented brew master behind the Ronen “Ugly Indian” IPA (I have reviewed this, please check it out).
5.5% Alc per 330ml