Remember magic eye puzzles? They were seemingly chaotic pictures which housed the outline of some coherent shape if you stared long enough at them.
I remember being quite good at them. I would remove my glasses so that everything was initially a blur and, as things came into focus, I could pick out the shape quite quickly.
Of course, there are a host of optical illusions which are designed to encourage our eyes to play tricks on us. It’s a good illustration of how much we assume about something simply by looking at it – there are enough books which have been damned by their covers to prove that.
This can also be the case with beer. Experience has taught us to look at light-coloured beers as light in taste and dark beers as heavy.
A couple of bottles from Ards Brewing Company later and I was convinced my eyes were pulling the wool over… well, my eyes.
First up was a pale ale in the 330ml bottle. Ah, this will slide down easily you might think.
Well no, but, to be fair it’s well signposted – an 8.5 per cent barrel-aged Citra pale.
To be more specific, the beer is aged for 12 months in Bushmills whiskey barrels. The warming caress of a wooden barrel is more likely to house a stout or porter for a long stay, so a barrel-aged pale ale is something that will raise an eyebrow or two.
In the glass, this pours a bright amber colour with a generous white head.
There are woody aromas, which you’d expect from the barrel-ageing, with a little bit of citrus poking through.
The aging succeeds in smoothing out what would otherwise be a bitter pale ale. That leads to an initially more malt-forward flavour before those citrus fruits begin to surface on the palate.
Moving over to the dark side, and Black Goose is a dark ale which clocks in at 3.8 per cent.
It pours an almost jet black colour with a light and thin tan head, suggesting we are in for a heavy stout.
However, this has quite a light mouthfeel too it. The darker ale flavours are there – a hint of chocolate, a bite of coffee and a little bit of vanilla with a subtle smokiness running through it all.
Heavy, though, it isn’t and it’s not often that a dark ale is more sessionable than a light-coloured one but then you shouldn’t believe everything you see.