Sunday, 28 June 2015

#274: Voyage of Discovery III

Today's entry for this weekend-long celebration of new hoppy beers comes from the self-confessed hop addicts of Brewdog. Taking a cue from Stone's Enjoy By series, they've come up with Born to Die.
This first version of Born to Die is intended to live its life before the forth of July. I had it a couple of weeks ago, when it emerged at the beginning of June.

€11 of your money gets you 660ml of clear gold beer that gives plenty of pithy, peely grapefruit and ever-so-slightly sweet and sugary fruits. There's much more of a pine thing to taste; Pacific Northwest is where this beer wants to be, and it does a decent job of taking you there. As well as that Christmas-tree pine needle there's more orange and grapefruit to be enjoyed.

It's good. Is it €11 good? I don't think so. Two bottles of Jackhammer won't set you back as much, and if you get them fresh, I imagine they'll do as good a job of being a punchy, bright, dry west coast IPA.

Make of that what you will.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

#273: Voyage of Discovery II

Hops are so cool right now guys. We've just seen Voyager U.S. show us how good, fresh U.S. hops can roll, and here, hot on those beautiful heels, comes Sierra Nevada, also on a voyage of lupuline discovery, continuing their reckless, desperate pursuit of hoppiness with Hop Hunter.

In truth, I had this a few weeks before the Voyager, but the magic of blogovision means the illusion of continuity is mine to break.

To make Hop Hunter, the Chico bandits have used steam-distilled hop oil from their own damn farm. But what does steam-distilled hop oil give to a beer?

Shitloads, if the nose is anything to go by. Lemon and lime and grapefruit, all repeated, all day long, all sharp and stingy and bracing. Perhaps seeing the word 'oil' on the label has thrown me, but it certainly feels slick and unctuous on the palate, with loads of that citrus bitterness expressed just as well here as anywhere else. It's drier and lighter than the Torpedo, making it a sort of Torpedo for the daytime. 
Either way, it's delicious and pretty fresh, and it has me convinced that distilling hop oil is a good way to go about getting wet hop characteristics into your beer all year round.

Friday, 26 June 2015

#272: Voyage of Discovery I

I was a big fan of Galway Bay's Voyager NZ a couple of years ago, even if I was unimpressed and price-shocked on my first visit to the Black Sheep. Since then, I've amended my view of that particular bar, great as it is, and finally GBB have released Voyager in a bottle.

Of course, as is to be expected from a voyager, they've gone and swapped NZ for the US of A, and upped the alcohol to 7.5%.

Voyager U.S. is light orange, almost yellow, and slightly hazy. The instant olfactory effect is that of citrus zest and pine (obvs) with some perfumey tropical fruit in there too. Ditto says the palate; it's punchy and brings passionfruit, lime and grapefruit into the fold, managing to be juicy, sharply bitter and roundly sweet all at once. 

Simply put, it is a bitter fruit bomb of a U.S. IPA, and that's all you need to know. Go for it.

Friday, 19 June 2015

#271: Radikal Change

Radikale is Cork's newest brewery, currently contracted by award-winning homebrewer Alain in a couple of brick-and-mortar setups in the county. Having launched last month and already moved on to the second beer of the line, there's some catching up to do.

Thankfully, the catching up is all taken care of in the notebook; I was at the launch of Hopster, a single hop American pale ale, at the Bierhaus, where I sampled a bottle, a keg and a cask version of the beer. All were good, but the bottle paled in comparison to the other two. First, the keg. It arrives clear and orange with a small head and produces an aroma that is slightly subdued but that has flashes of juicy citrus fruits. It's properly bittersweet to taste; a chewy and chunky body gives you orange and mandarin skins and pith with a round sweetness following through to offer serious balance. The mouth is left with a tingling bitterness after, letting you know you've had plenty of the beer's single hop variety, Chinook.
It may not be a world beater, but as an American pale ale and a first ever commercial brew, it's pretty damn good. 

And it's even better from the cask. At first it seems there's more sweetness to this one, but it eventually finds its hoppy feet. The creamy texture does wonderful things for the astringent and zesty hop profile that elevate the beer to greater things. The fact that it was dry-hopped with Simcoe may have helped things.

For his second beer Alain has rather unusually opted for a Belgian dubbel. Rubenesque is the name, named for the Flemish Rubens, and it weighs in at 7%, served by the half litre, no less.

Rubenesque certainly looks like a dubbel, pouring a clear mahogany brown with a small had that, alas, fizzles away. The nose is all raisins covered in toffee chocolate and a slight blackberry jam thing. Very appealing, of course. And so too is the palate; chocolate and raisins in an overall satisfying round sort of way, with surprising cleanliness and restraint. It's simple and goes perfectly with some candlelit reading in the garden on a summer's evening. But perhaps the most impressive thing about this beer is the way it avoids the cloying sticky sweetness that characterises the only previous Irish dubbels I've had from White Gypsy and Eight Degrees, both of which had more than a little bit of 'wit' or 'hefe' -like esters in them.

A bloody good show from Radikale then.

Friday, 5 June 2015

#270: Session 100 - Sour Note

Our (Beoir's) fearless leader Reuben Gray at The Tale of the Ale hosts the 100th edition of the Session, and in doing so asks us to consider the revival of old beer styles. The most sensible thing to do here would be to stay local, but instead I've opted to plunge myself into an area I have no prior knowledge or experience of.
We'll no doubt read plenty about sourness in this month's session; anything wild and sour is bound to be archaic and near-dead until some intrepid brewer resurrects it as part of the glorious craft beer revolution. Or something like that. But rather than go for some US craft sours, an enigmatic gose or new-world hopped saison, I've gone to good old Germany.

More specifically, I've gone to Vormann, a brewery in Hagen, not far from Dortmund, who are peddling something they're calling a Münsterlander altbier. Now, a quick Google of the style brings you to the ever reliable Shut Up About Barclay Perkins and an investigation of the style also known as Adambier. This Vormann version is the brewers' 'interpretation' of the style, reads the label, so the authenticity of this old beer may not be rock solid.

Münchhausen pours a hazy and near-flat brown, and the nose is immediately reminiscent of a kind-of watery, fairly clean dunkel. There's some red apple and mild roastiness for the determined sniffer, but not much else. The sourness suggested on the label is more minifest than manifest and occurs just at the end; a back of the throat tang more than a tongue curling assault. Elsewhere it's almost as quiet as the aroma, with a pleasant but limp dark malt body doing its best to keep you awake. 

It is very drinkable, but unlike other beers of renowned drinkability, I can't really call it satisfying. Worse still, I don't even think I can call it enjoyable, such is its pedestrian nature. Those strange folk who want a light, easy-drinking beer but are opposed to anything that is too hoppy, too malty, too sour, too sweet, too dry or just too beery will surely rejoice at its existence.

Alas, that is not me.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

#269: The Pan and Pot

No, not a poorly named English village pub, but a poorly constructed play on the word Pannepot.

De Struise's flagship strong dark (quadrupel?) is brewed with spices unspecified on the brewery's website and the range goes through a number of different barrel-ageing variations under different labels.

This is the base level beer, as far as I can tell, not aged in oak and dated 2014. Dark brown it pours, with red highlights against the light, the tan coloured head scared off by the 10% ABV before long. The aroma is faintly spicy alright; clove is the main player, perhaps some general Christmassy nutmeg and cinnamon stuff. Really though, the general effect is a big dark chewy malt sweetness. The only other sideshow here is a hint of acidity, not strong enough to be called sour at any rate. As expected, the palate is a sweet and savoury blend of chewy toffee and fresh earthy tobacco, with a raisiny sugar-sweetness and, despite probably not being aged in oak, it does have a sort of vinous depth and complexity that suggests a bit of age.

Rich and quad-like, but very easy to drink. I could certainly get used to this. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

#268: A New Old Friend

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot is one of my favourite beers ever, one that never fails to deliver an indulgent, complex, invigorating drinking experience, not to mention it's suitability to ageing, thanks to the fact that it is at once a hop and malt bomb. 

So when The Sober Destrier says she'll buy me a bottle of it only on condition that I drink it that very day in the sun, and not squirrel it away for seasons untold, I clearly can't say no, even if it is a spanking new 2015 bottling. And I'll be damned if I won't be writing about it, regardless of how often it has and will continue to appear on this blog.

Bigfoot 2015, like the others, is a particularly burly monster when fresh. Deep toffee and chocolate sweetness delivered with syrupy aplomb is the greeting, with heady alcoholic effects elbowing their way into the sensory experience too. Grapefruit dominates the citrus fruit hoppiness in the aroma, but not without a smothering dollop of sweet deep malts. The palate gets things a tad gentler than this; a wash of orange pith and sugary marmalade open proceedings, again followed by some thick toffee and booze soaked light fruits, skins and all. The booze thankfully disappears from the latter stages though; there's no coarse, grinding burn to interrupt the flavour, but it's still pretty full-on. Green crunchy stuff, leafy, fresh C-hops and even some ripe, red berries can be found throughout too.

Overall, this beer when fresh is definitively bittersweet, and although it supplied a wonderful beery moment, it simply isn't the Bigfoot I love. 
At least, not yet. The Bigfoot I love is the one inside this very bottle, at least one year from now.