Railbender Ale: Why I don't brew the stuff
It’s getting late into the holiday season and I’ve had up to here with all the holiday beers. I’m sick of all the ultra-sweet ales with the coriander and cloves and every other ridiculous spice everyone suddenly seems to want to stuff into these seasonal beers. Enough already. Just a good, hearty ale is all that’s ever needed this time of year. Why does everything suddenly need to taste ‘festive’?
It was with these thoughts that I stumbled into my favorite little beer shop. I was thinking a good strong ale. Something simple. Some malt would be acceptable as long as it’s balanced out with plenty of bitter hops. The flavors don’t have to be overwhelming and I could do without the pie spices this time. I’d rather not have to drink another beer that tried to remind me of pumpkin pie and pine trees decorated with Christmas cookies.
Lo, there was a beer on the shelf that promised all that I was asking. It was begging for me to pick it -- ’twas also on sale.
Hark, it’s also rubbish.
Railbender Ale by the Erie Brewing Company is every one of those things I thought I was looking for. It’s strong enough at 6.8% alcohol to get away with being called a Scottish ale, but it’s really just a hefty English. It looks all right, pouring a nice copper color with a respectable enough, but diminishing head. The aroma is faint, but was lacking all those irritating spices I was looking to avoid. Everything was fine so far.
As they say, ’be careful what you wish for -- you might just get it.’ Railbender was everything I was wishing for when I reached for the six pack. It seemed to be exactly what I wanted in a beer just then. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work.
There is a bit of malt up front giving it some initial sweetness, but it’s not overpowering. There are some kinds of fruits hiding underneath, but they’re too jumbled to clearly discern. All the flavors are soft, almost to the point of a typical macro. Nothing really stands out on its own. They’ve definitely made the attempt to give this ale a bitter bite at the end with some hops. It finishes with a sticky sweetness, but is still, somehow, dry.
This is why I drink the stuff now, and don’t bother with trying to make it. Railbender has all the elements I’d want squeezed into the beer I would try to make. If I was in the kitchen throwing things into the pot, my pot would have come out something like this. But, I wouldn’t have let company try this dish. What seemed like a good idea has all come out horribly wrong. What taste there is, is muddled and confused.
As you will be, if you try to session this beer.
Oh, it’s good enough -- nowhere near God-awful. It’s certainly strong enough. There are stronger, though, if that’s all you’re looking for. Stronger ones that taste a little better. It is drinkable, and would probably stand up next to a plate of meat and potatoes in a pinch. On sale, the price is even fair enough. But I won’t be reaching for this one again. There are too many decent beers out there to waste time with the ones that miss the mark. It tastes like an amateurish stab at a beer with everything. Look for something more precise.