Get It On With Samuel Smith’s India Ale

Jim Lundstrom

Staring at the wall of beer, I am befuddled. The usual siren call is silent. Nothing beckons…
Until my eyes fall on the row of English-style bomber bottles, the odd 1 pint and 2.7 fluid ounce (or 550 milliliter) bottles from the great Yorkshire brewery Samuel Smith. In particular, it is the India Ale that calls to me. Its label reminds me of the Dr. Bonner line of weird Christian hippie soaps, a bottle of which I always keep in the house just to remind me that weird Christian hippies still walk the land.
But, yeah, that is just what I didn’t know that I was looking for – a good pale ale from the old country. Why the Yorkies avoid calling it India Pale Ale is anybody’s guess. However, India Ale is not a bad name (if I were a brewer, I’d call mine Indian Ale, PC be damned!). This India Ale pours with a beautiful rocky white head.
Then I taste and am transported back to my formative beer drinking years, tasting fresh and fruity pale ales in the pubs of East Anglia circa mid-1970s, with not a serious concern in the world. I dig out my copy of Fleetwood Mac’s English Rose in order to play the haunting “Albatross, which was on every pub jukebox – along with country gentleman Jim Reeves – when I lived in England.
But what I really needed to hear was Bare Trees, side 2 in particular the final track, a Mrs. Scarott reciting her dotty poem, “Thoughts On a Grey Day,” a goofy recitative that has been with me these many years.

“God bless our perfect,
perfect grey day.
With trees so bare, so bare
But so beautiful, so beautiful.”

It sends a shiver.

With a full glass of beautifully balanced pale ale still in the English-style bomber bottle, I think I’ll cue up T-Rex’s Electric Warrior. Bang a gong!

I have to thank Ross Siegel of Baileys Harbor for gifting me with a bottle of Three Philosophers Quadrupel Ale from the Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, NY. Ross was there for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he remembered that I had mentioned being a fan of Ommegang beers and generously picked up a beer for me.
Three Philosophers is a blend of Ommegang ale and Liefman’s Kriek, a Belgian lambic brewed with sour cherries. Three Philosophers is also a painting by my favorite High Renaissance artist, Giorgione (yes, it’s the name…say it with me, Gi – or – gi – on – e!).
Ommegang’s marketing take on this blend of 98 percent ale and two percent kriek:  “Three Philosophers was made for contemplation.”
I agree, and will only add that I think that is true of all great beers.