Sunday, 7 December 2014

#248: Lost and Found

Trawling the notebook is bad enough without trying to find groups of beers you know you intended to review together. Thankfully, these two made themselves available right away.

Founders Curmudgeon catches my eye with ease in Bradley's. The old man on the label - probably the titular curmudgeon - and the stated use of molasses and oak ageing is enough to get my money.

At home, the beer is a surprisingly bright red. Unsurprisingly, the nose is a heady phenolic mix of syrup, molasses, sweet overripe fruit, macerated berries and glazed cherries. The aroma does approach the dreaded soupy heat, but at a very safe distance. Orange chocolate and vanilla become more apparent with time. The palate gets the full brunt of the toffee, with vanilla and chocolate following up. The body is slick and thick but carries with it a pleasantly sprite carbonation. With time, marzipan and treacle come forth, before an intense finish of burnt brown sugar. 

It may sound messy, but don't take my word(s) for it; this is actually a quite subtle beer that is dominated by sweetness, but never overpowering. The slight heat and great depth of the malts might not be everyone's cup of tea (with good reason; this stuff is all too easy to get horribly wrong) but Curmudgeon gets it just about right.

Next is Founders Breakfast Stout. It is as black as they come and forms a dark tan/brown head that fizzles away to nothing in no time. The aroma is not as immediate and aggressive as the Curmudgeon, with dry coffee, chocolate and a slight tang of smoke creating a olfactory presence that is actually quite light, and even a little bit Irish. Sticky malts coat the mouth with toffee chocolate, raisins and figs, before everything crescendos in a substantial and lingering coffee-like bitterness. It's good and it beats the much lauded Mikkeler breakfast stout, but the same or less money could be spent on a more complex and invigorating strong stout.

Still, Founders' performance sustains its consistent high standard.

Friday, 5 December 2014

#247: NewDog

Brewdog are always reliable and Weihenstephaner are makers of some of the best weissbier readily available to us on this here island. As such, a collaboration brew between the two seemed a safe enough bet and an interesting mix of old and new-world beer styles.

As you could guess, that beer is called India Pale Weizen and, as you could also guess, is intended as a hopped-up version of the German style. 

The aroma offers soft weissbier fare and a light fruity bitterness, but really not much else. Things don't stay as boring on the palate though, with the hops playing predominantly crunchy herbal notes off the sweetness of the malt base. Mint and coriander are the most interesting special guests, with the fruit character remaining somewhere between sweet lemon and pineapple; there's no real sign of the Simcoe used in the making.

Not the greatest beer you'll taste from either of these brewers, but there's still plenty to enjoy.

The next two are new additions to the Brewdog core range, and both came resplendent in their new packaging.
Brixton Porter is a proper black and tan porter, giving the nose some burnt malt and smoke, milk chocolate, a touch of savoury woody malt and a tickle of coffee bitterness. It's flipping good to taste too, opening with a round of chocolate and smoke before coffee and malted milk biscuit make for an incredibly rounded drink made all the better by the smooth, slick mouthfeel upon which it's delivered. Ridiculously drinkable and balanced without letting up in the flavour stakes. Top stuff.

This. Is. Lager. is a lager, obviously, and much was made of the bold claims about 'reclaiming' and 'perfecting' the world's most popular beer style upon its release. Whatever the case, the beer received plenty of praise and I was happy to get it in a glass before me. Like many of Europe's perfectly-fine-but-apparently-not-good-enough-for-Brewdog lagers, it's clear, gold, and doesn't smell of much. The taste is all Hobnobs and golden syrup underneath, with fresh cut grass, elderflower and lemon peel highlights on top. The finish is anything but 'crisp' or 'clean', leaving behind a delightful long-lasting bitterness. Yet more top stuff.

With craft beer in the UK and Ireland seemingly growing exponentially, Brewdog have the balls, brains and the beer to prove that they're still as relevant as ever. Tip of the hat to them.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

#246: The Promise

November was completely blog-free, but it was by no means beer free. With a thesis and a house move coming to a close, it's time to get back on the Destrier, to ride irresponsibly forth to Christmas. 

This is a special bottling of White Gypsy's 100% Irish beer and, according to the gorgeously screen-printed blurb on the back of the bottle, is less than a month old.

There is no mention on the bottle of any particular style, and at first this annoyed me
What glass do I put it in? The bottle suggests that it's to be taken by the pint but I would prefer a fresh hopped pale ale or IPA in something kinder to the nose. Only, I don't know that it is a pale ale or IPA. In fact, I don't even know if 'fresh and hoppy' is the goal here. This beer promised nothing.

As it turns out, it pretty much delivers. Emerald pours a pale cloudy orange, with an understated light and grassy nose akin to a decent pils. Wait, is that some citrus hoppiness coming through? Just for a singular whiff, before it turns to lemony biscuit. There's not a lot going on on the palate, just the same lemon and biscuit malt crispness. It's plenty refreshing and drinkable, but really not engaging.

Unfortunately, the concept of the beer proves more interesting than the beer itself.

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!?