Friday, 31 October 2014

#245: Fear the Hag

A spooky coincidence it was that just as i was beginning to wonder about the White Hag of Sligo, some of their beers appeared both in Bradley's and in the Bierhaus.

The first of the bottled pair I picked up was Bran & Sceolan, the IPA of the range. At 7.2%, White Hag have thankfully resisted the urge to label this a double IPA. After pouring copper, this beer gives you an aroma of phwoar. It's sharp, juicy, dank and loaded with pine, grapefruit, mango, peach and a mouth watering soft and ripe sweetness. There's more of this sweetness to taste, with malty caramel supporting stone fruit, strawberry and orange marmalade. That's not to say that the beer is shy of the bitter side; the finish delivers the most concentrated attack of the hop profile, with grapefruit and lemon zest left lingering long after the beer is gone. 
A truly fantastic IPA.

I haven't had a good Oktoberfestbier or Märzen since Ochtoberfest from Eight Degrees, and seeing the style brewed by another Irish brewery who also find themselves free from the obligation to brew a slightly stronger Helles was a promising prospect. Like the IPA, Samhain pours copper with a yellowy white head. Unlike the IPA, Samhain screams TOFFEE MALT at your nose. Slabs of the stuff dominates the aroma, but not without letting a grassy, herbal hop highlight through. The palate too gets toffee, loads of raisins and a touch of coppery punctuation. It's full and hearty at 6.2% but plenty drinkable. My notes finish with 'I love this', and there's really no more to add.

In the Bierhaus then I found myself sitting before a tap of Black Boar, the oatmeal imperial stout that was so well received at the RDS this year. Like all well behaved stouts it pours black with a tan head. The Sober Destrier found this to smell like cold mocha, and I have to agree, even though she meant it in an unpleasant way and I certainly didn't. Chocolate, malty biscuit (read: Maltesers) and red and dark berries are delivered on a full, smooth silky body, with a touch of alcohol heat to finish. Smoke, sticky treacle and maple syrup are all hiding in there too. This is one intense beer with a good deal of complexity, and dare I say it, one of the (if not the) best stouts in the country?

Such a beer is hard to follow, so that evening finished with some Lagavulin 16. Hot, blue turf smoke dominate at first, but there's a surprising amount of caramel and vanilla sweetness to be found underneath. A delicious, phenolic experience. 

Of course, it wouldn't be Halloween without the obligatory pumpkin beer, and though I haven't yet finished exploring that end of things, I did find myself an 'imperial pumpkin ale' by the name of The Fear in Bradley's to go with my White Hag terrors. This is from Flying Dog, and at 9% they're clearly not taking the piss. It pours a surprisingly dark brown-black, and straight away delivers the official 'Pumpkin Beer Smell'. Nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, sweet allspice, vegetable, herbal stuff and a slight hint of coffee. The same is to be said about the taste, with plenty of the spice but done with relative subtely. Said spice lingers for ages but there does appear a great deal of that green, vegetable stuff and residual sugar sweetness in the middle. This is a weird beer, and I guess that's pretty much its raison d'être. There's nothing here you won't have tasted before in another pumpkin beer, but its delivered in just the right way; it is full, rich and genuinely enjoyable to drink, making it one of the most successful pumpkin beers I've had. 
That said, as with every other pumpkin beer, one is plenty.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, 20 October 2014

#244: On the Hop Yet Again

Recently I was lured into the Bierhaus to try some Kinnegar Black Bucket by some lascivious tweeting, and having been a longtime Rustbucket fan, I wasn't disappointed.

It pours pitch black with a creamy cream head and produces an aroma of sweet lime marmalade, citrus zest and lemon peel. As time goes on this becomes more tropical-like, with mango and blood orange on show. The palate gets a storm of citrus with mandarin, tangerine and grapefruit peel opening up for just a sliver of smooth, milky coffee bitterness. It's fruity and roasty and powered by some seriously inspired hopping. After the swallow there's a sort of second wind of coffee and herbal stuff. This is brilliant, palate-ravaging beer. Ronan in the Bierhaus loved the stout-like mouthfeel of it, and I see what he means; it's full-bodied and silky and makes the best possible use of the 6.5% ABV.

In the meantime Swingletree saison swung into action. Pale golden yellow with a big frothy head, it certainly looks like a good Belgian saison. Belgium is on the nose too; spicy, earthy, herbal stuff introduce lemongrass, coriander and menthol notes, with the whole thing backed up by a yeasty, wheaty base. On the palate there's plenty of lemon and biscuit with grainy malt and, thanks to the 7% ABV, a syrupy finish. The balance is splendid; mild sweetness, spice, tingly bitterness and the slightest trace of acidity, all the while remaining dangerously drinkable.

Rustbucket is the only Kinnegar regular that I'm a big fan of. Limeburner and the Devil's Backbone were decent but not exactly remarkable. Maddyroe was a step towards greatness and now, finally, Kinnegar are making the amazing beer they've been threatening to make for some time now.

For more Kinnegar gushery have look at Belgian Smaak's brilliant piece here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

#243: Pik of the Litter

Erdinger have long been my least favourite of the popular purveyors of German wheat beer, but having seen that there's some commendable brewing prowess in their Urweisse, and being a long-time devotee to the Aventinus cause, I reckon it's time Pikantus got its fair shake.

Pikantus is a dunkler weizenbock, so very much in the same vein as Aventinus. As expected, the brown murky beer gives plenty of soft, sweet over-ripe banana and just a hint of clove. Less expected is the slab of toffee and even an inkling towards roast coffee on the palate. This happens in spite of the citric acid and wild fruit sweetness that forms the basis of the bee. It's pretty substantial and would be well suited to winter, if a bit unsophisticated. For a wheat beer fix with plenty of character and stuff, it serves well. In terms of quality and worthiness, it surely occupies the higher end of Erdinger's output.

That said, I think I'll be sticking to Schneider.

Friday, 3 October 2014

#242: On the Rye-t Track

N17's Rye Ale is not new to me, though it certainly feels that way.

The first and only time I've tried this beer before is from a Bierhaus cask, and that time I wasn't unimpressed, but slightly confused. Dare I say, disappointed.
This is because in my mind's palate I'd built an expectation of this being a spicy, fruity number with perhaps some adventurous hopping. What I got, however, was a cloudy, earthy, malty beer that somehow managed to typify the best things about cask serving while falling in line with what I imagine to be a cask-virgin's greatest concerns; it's lack of carbonation and cellar temperature perfectly suited the beer's overall murkiness of both appearance and flavour.

Bottled N17 Rye Ale is much clearer to begin with, and a a few shades paler; this glass would be a dead ringer for Lucozade in any family pub. The nose doesn't find much outside of the husky, dry, sawdust graininess except for the slightest flash of some toffee malt depth. A million miles from the standard Irish red this isn't, yet the toffee malt that dominates the flavour does show some restraint in letting some of that grassy dryness through before falling away to reveal a lingering back of the mouth bitterness that seems to be the main play area for the rye and hops. It's here that, with time, the bitter, roasty, every so slightly peppery namesake makes itself known, but not quite enough to warrent a headline billing. At least, not for this palate.

Drinkable and enjoyable fare from N17 that I'd like to try from the keg, if not very exciting. 

A salute to the N17 crowd too for making granola bars and doggie treats with spent materials - why isn't everyone doing this and where can I buy the doggie treats!?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

#241: Up Kriek, With Paddle

This is a beer I've been waiting to have for over a year, since it was given to me by friend/reliable beer gifter Lachie for my 21st. At the time, he walked into the Abbott's and asked for a beer that his beer nerd friend probably won't have had, and was directed towards this, supposedly from the only case of such beer in the country. 
As it turns out, this was indeed sage advice.

Hanssens Artisinaal Oude Kriek pours a ruddy pink and attacks the nose with ridiculous amounts of juicy, sharp and tart cherry. There's sherbety sweet hints and some roundness underneath too; semi-sweet macerated fruit provides some aromatic balance for what is a mostly acidic nose, while, with time, some damp wood and sawdust develop to add to the generally enticing pungency. The palate too faces unrelenting attack, this time from a mouth puckering, eye watering, intensely satisfying sourness at the front akin to pure lemon juice, though here, the main player is still tart cherry. This is grounded by almondy roundness, sandalwood and a thirst-quenching wheat fullness, while the finish again produces lingering, refreshing sour notes. 

The overall effect here is of an acidic wash that fades in and out of potency, while allowing the more delicate flavours to shine in the middle.
Truly wonderful stuff, and the best of the style I've had so far.

Friday, 19 September 2014

#240: 888

Two weeks ago the Bierhaus celebrated their 8th birthday, and rather fittingly, they featured Eight Degrees heavily on their guest tap list to help things along. Sure enough, I was there.

The Irish Craft Beer and Cider Fest was going on in the RDS at the time, and two new beers the Mitchelstown outfit were exhibiting there were on tap here. First up was the third (and final) entry to the single hop series, this time with Nelson Sauvin in the starring role of a saison. It's pale, cloudy and orange and produces a gorgeous aroma of bitter lemon rind and curd, sweet pineapple and an acidic tang. I can't help but make comparisons with the Magic Stone Dog of the previous week, itself a hopped-up saison, and this beer comes out on top. Sharp, tangy acidity at the start, almost to the point of being cheesy, before abruptly switching to coriander and clove spiciness and a cool, herbal bitter finish that suggests flashes of mint. The ABV is an overshot 7.4%, but the beer remains far more drinkable than you'd think. Layered, refreshing and an outright success. 

The other beer on show was Alba Abú, a 'Scottish Independence ale' brewed with pine needle and heather, the effects of which are felt to varying degrees in the finished product, but that's not to say that it isn't delicious all the same. This dark red ale gives plenty of pine, grapefruit peel and sweet bubblegum on the nose while the flavour is propped up by a caramel backbone but supports a decently bitter, citrus fruit and piney hop presence; the piney-ness could be down to the addition of actual pine needle, but having never tasted a beer with pine needle added, I can't tell. Either way, there is pine. Of heather there's nary a whiff, but the 'green' leafy dryness at the finish may have something to do with it. A punchy opening peels off pretty early to feel a tad light, but never does the beer stop being delicious. Another success.

Pair these two with a silly amount of the phenomenally good Simcoe, and a good night was had by all. Eight cheers to the Bierhaus and Eight Degrees, two stalwart proponents of good beer in Cork.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

#239: Dogged

Four Corners recently had Jonny from Brewdog doing tasting sessions of new (at the time unreleased, apparently) Brewdog beers in both Bradley's and Bierhaus. I meant to attend both, but only made it to the Bierhaus. Here's how it went down.

On arrival, the guest Brewdog draught beers were revealed to be Dead Pony Club, Jackhammer (which was deliciously juicy) and spanking new Magic Stone Dog, billed as a saison-IPA hybrid and hopped with citra and amarillo.

Magic Stone Dog (a collaboration with Magic Rock and Stone, duh) smells ever so slightly sour in an acidic, citrusy sort of way. There's lemongrass and coriander from the off and as it warms it starts to produce more fruity, herbal notes, as well as some background bubblegum sweetness. For this nose, there's not much to suggest any IPA hybridization. The same can be said about the taste; there's more sharp sourness than you'd expect from a saison, but nothing wobbly. Wheaty and biscuity at its core, with lingering white pepper spiciness. The citra and amarillo seem unwilling to participate, but the beer is better off for it, leaving us with a ridiculously drinkable and refreshing beer. Definitely one to try.

While I had plenty of this beer and Jackhammer, I also strayed from the headliners, indulging first in some Cutthroat Porter from Odell. Just a half of this smoky sweet beauty was enough to convince me that I should have opted for the pint - especially at €5.30. It's silky milk chocoloate throughout with slightly rubbery, smoky stuff hiding here and there, and all delivered on a body reminiscent of Founders Porter. Lovely stuff.

Since having Stonewell on cask at last year's Easterfest, I've vowed never to pass up cask cider again. This time it was Tempted's Summer Sweet, and it was incredibly delicious. Sweet, vinous, slightly tart and eminently drinkable. The other non-Brewdog beer I indulged was the magnificent Hurricane. This year's version seems altogether more delicious than the initial bottled release here, showing trucks of pine needle, grapefruit pith and lime peel on a candied pineapple and biscuity sweet backbone. A perfect go-to IPA.

Since the other new Brewdog beers were only available in bottled form I picked them up the next day in Bradley's.

Another collaboration is U-Boat (above), this time with Victory Brewing, makers of the godlike Storm King. I like my porters drinkable but robust, so an ABV of 8.4% raised my eyebrow a bit; many brewers would be happy to slap the word 'imperial' onto the label with a number like that. Unsurprisingly it pours very dark with a nice tan head that fizzles away before long. The aroma is intense chocolate and dark fruits, while the smoke is a sting rather than a pungent burst. On first sipping the beer you get a coating, oily wash packed with salted caramel, chocolate, raisiny sweetness and, again, just a tickle of woodsmoke. Carbonation is very light, which only adds to the slick, stickiness of the beer. Nice as it was at first, finishing the bottle was a bit more work than I'd like; that texture coupled with a predominant sweetness does no favours for the beer's drinkability.

From there, we get to the 2014 edition of Mashtag; a beer cobbled together with ideas and suggestions from the online public; the style, hops and special ingredients were decided in this way, which is a great idea. The resulting beer is an imperial red ale with 'global hops', citrus zest and blood orange. Bring it on. The aroma is a beautiful punchy, juicy, bitter and fruity treat, with discernible blood orange, citrus peel and grapefruit atop thick slabs of toffee chocolate. The palate is gorgeous, opening first with chocolate orange peel and pithy bitterness, building to a hefty caramel and marmalade finish. A much more layered and enjoyable experience than the U-Boat, and well worth trying.

Hats off to Jonny, Four Corners and the Bierhaus, as well as the ever-reliable Bradley's for doing the event (s). Always nice to leave a pub with free swag.
If you see a man wearing a Brewdog hat and t-shirt around Cork, tell him to get a grip.