|Orval Rex: truly a king among beers
Wobbled my lip down into Seaford and had to park up and wander aimlessly for a while to clear my head.
About two weeks ago, I battled high winds, freezing rain and fading light to take pictures of a weird structure at the top of Seaford Head. It's a VHF Omnidirectional Range radio, essentially a huge hexagon lying on its back sending out radio signals so airline pilots can calculate their aircraft's angle of tilt.
As you approach it from Seaford Head car park, it looks like a low-rent UFO out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's fairly incongruous too, nestling in a huge clump of gorse bushes stuck between a hilltop golf course and a field full of unfortunate sheep.
I've been to Seaford countless times since my parents moved there, but I had no idea this thing existed. Someone asked me whether I knew what the 'Sci Fi stuff' was at the top of the hill and I had to find out. And not just to satisfy my idle curiosity either. I set out on this blasted, wind-blown photography assignment so I could find out for them and send pictures. Was delighted to do so; in fact it was quite lovely to feel there was someone worth making that kind of effort for.
When I spotted Seaford Head through my windscreen and the sea behind it sparkling in the sunlight, I couldn't help reflect on how much difference two weeks had made. It saddened me to think I wouldn't be embarking on any more missions again for them. That too many spoken-of possibilities and plans had become just talk. That I wouldn't get to know more about her.
I had to go and look and the sea roll in for a while, a comfortingly therapeutic pursuit that always helps me put things into perspective.
Walking back, I saw Seaford Head again, dominating the skyline like some kind of brutal geographic reminder. But instead of saddening me, it reassured. I'm reminded how much I like doing things for other people who I care about and I'm sure I'll get the chance to do it again.
In fact, I've got the opportunity right now. Not a particularly arduous task, I know, but who else can you rely on to drink this beer for you?
Beer: Orval Trappist Ale
Strength: A mind-dulling 6.9%
Colour: Opaque orange, like 70s moulded plastic or skateboard wheels.
Smell: Some kind of spicy, aromatic resin I don't know the name of. I wonder if this is what myrrh is?
Tasting notes: While I may have fallen out of love with some Belgian beers, this one still has a place in my heart. Sprightly, sour, hoppy, refreshing and perfectly balanced, Orval Trappist Ale is a truly excellent beer and it's making me smile. Bold as brass at the beginning, Orval shows you its malt ancestry fleetingly as would an undercover aristocrat betraying their upbringing. But quick as a flash, it draws its hoppy cloak in front of its face like the Hooded Claw and shows you only sneering, searing bitterness that fizzles slowly away like the dying embers of a once-fierce fire. The see-saw of emotions your tongue is subjected to is quite spectacular. Bitter, sweet, and bitter again, but with comforting, cossetting, rounded sugary citrus snowflakes flurried lavishly around to dull the sting. Quite simply an outstanding beer.
Gut reaction: I've mistakenly poured too much of the yeast in the glass, so it's liable to provoke disturbances, but I don't care. I'll take the blows, as it were.
Session factor: You really ought not to, but I'd happily drink this all night. And then the next day as well.
Arbitrary score: Untold millions.