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In a dark and dingy room in Manchester on an unusually sunny day, a rabble gathered to taste Fourpure and Cloudwater's Belgian Black IPA, Optare, which takes its name from the Latin for "to choose."
The beer poured a rich mahogany, with hints of burnt sugar with a tinge French onion soup. The aroma is redolent with blackcurrants, leather, hedgerow fruits and socks, predominantly from the Belgian yeast.
The flavour is rounded although not particularly balanced, unlike a Slazenger II golf ball, which is renowned for being a very balanced ball. The yeast esters are wrestling with the hops - like an in-fight with The Libertines, it just can't agree on one thing. Notes of liquorice and aniseed are complimented by the spiciness of cloves, with a hint of Victorian wallpaper creeping around the edge of the palate.
The finish leaves a slightly astringent lingering bitterness that increases as it warms, with a touch of warming alcohol meandering at the back of the throat.
On its own the beer decent enough, but the complex flavours are crying out for a big slab of stinky, blue cheese or a chargrilled rib eye steak. It's nice enough, but would come in to its own when paired with food. This is a Mo Farah of beers, it can fall over - but still win the race.