Thursday, 17 April 2014

#221: Weird Beard

I step out of the woodwork today to remind you that this blog remains in existence as well as to celebrate two years of the Drunken Destrier. For the past couple of weeks, just as with the next few, I'm pretty busy with college work, so any drinking that's being done is usually restorative and the painful activities of photographing, note-taking and blogging of the beers have largely been relegated to obsolescence.

There were new beers though, and I just can't get out of beer nerd mode in such situations. These three are part of the Weird Beard range now stocked in Bradley's, and all are pretty fresh, bottled only in February.

The first I had was Mariana Trench, so named for being in between the American and English styles on the pale ale spectrum, and I had it with a very hot curry. Luckily, this beer is choc-a-bloc with hops. A beautiful orangey, citrus pith and candied peel nose is its first greeting, before going further down a grapefruit and tropical mango route. West Coast pine notes are just about suggested, as is a lick of lime marmalade. As you can imagine, the palate gets equally fantastic treatment, with the tropical grapefruit, mango, pineapple and bitter peel attack leading the charge. The hops are grounded by the pessential caramel malt backbone, providing just the right amount of balance while letting that sharp, pithy bitterness shine.
Try this with curry, you'll be surprised how well it cuts through the heat, and then you'll be seduced by its all-round loveliness.

Fade to Black is the black IPA of the range and as the aroma shows, it's very flipping hoppy. Citrus and pith are there just as in the previous beer, but there's a much sharper coppery highlight hanging over this one. It's bold and punchy to taste too, with those bitter tropical fruit notes supported by toffee and plenty roasty, bitter coffee. The length is great, and you'll be sucking the grapefruit peel notes off the sides of your mouth for the rest of the night. 
Another great beer, but second fiddle to the Mariana Trench.

Finally we get to Hit the Lights, the second Metallica-referencing beer of the trio (that may have been a deciding factor), that describes itself as a 'mixed-up IPA'. This refers to the Anglo/Euro hops, English malt backbone and American yeast used in the making. For those who care, Target and Aurora are the hops used. 
And they are gorgeous, if the aroma is anything to go by. Grapefruit and pineapple, candied lemon rind, soft and round notes of apricot; there's a lot less aggression to the hop profile here, and all the fruit expressed is bittersweet. This continues on tasting, with bitter orange pith and flesh opening up among softer mango, peach and apricot notes. A touch of golden syrup sweetness sticks the digestive biscuit malt backbone to your mouth, rounding out the impact of such potent hopping, but just as in the previous two beers, there's a long-lingering bitterness regardless.
Another instant classic.

These are three seriously good beers from a crowd who clearly know what they're doing, and who appear to revel in being trigger happy with the hop gun.

Go in, get.

Monday, 7 April 2014

#220: Vitesse Noir

Hardknot blew my proverbial socks off with core beers Azimuth, Infrared and Queboid, so when a beer of theirs labelled as a 'triple imperial mocha vanilla stout' appeared in Bradley's purchase was simply inevitable. 

Predictably, Vitesse Noir pours pitch black and with 11% ABV, struggles to form any meaningful head. The aroma is powerful to say the least, with alcohol and black marker taking over from the beginning. If you manage to keep your nose alive you might find blackberry jam, liquorice and dark sugary malts, but it's tough going. The body is thick and oily with a spirity finish, but thankfully the palate doesn't get the same abuse as the nose, with dark malts being very much the order of the day. Sweet toffee chocolate, maple syrup and an almost physically detectable residual brown sugar do rather well not to leave a cloying taste in the mouth; bold and harsh without being cheap and sticky. 

The beer is hot an has nothing like the complexity you might expect from something that is a) brewed to 11% and b) flavoured with coffee, chocolate and vanilla. For all that, I found it a positive experience. It's demanding and intense, but once you get a third of the way down the sheer power of the malts and the booze reassure you that you're having a jolly good time. 

Monday, 31 March 2014

#219: Here It Gose

Following on from the previous post's anomaly - a dark saison - the weirdness continues with this beer from the Brown Paper Bag Project and Fanø Bryghus. This time, it's not a stylistic deviation that delivers the weirdness, it's the style itself.

The beer is Gøse, and it is in fact a gose. No, not geueze, gose. Ever since I heard of this style seasoned with salt, I've been marvelling at its weirdness from a safe distance while ultimately desperate to try it. Thankfully, Ireland's only gypsy brewing outfit have teamed up with Fanø Bryghus in Denmark to give me the chance. You know things are good when you can go to town and buy a gose in Bradley's.

Pouring a pale hazy yellow, the first nose receives plenty of herbal, lemony and spice treatment, not giving away any of the sourness that was to follow on the palate. Having not read the label beforehand (and therefore not knowing this was spontaneously fermented) I wasn't expecting a hit of sourness at the very beginning, but it's a cleansing hit that fades to leave behind lemon sherbet and prickly spice. The body is light enough to make this a very refreshing beer while the aftertaste is of wheaty biscuit that lingers for a brief, delicious moment. I was almost hoping to find salt, in a horrible 'I accidentally swallowed some seawater' way, but thankfully I didn't. 

This is great stuff, and that's coming from someone who still makes a concerned frown when encountering any hint of sourness in a beer. It goes far beyond that tough, and delivers spicy, grainy goodness aplenty. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

#218: Pepe Nero

This is the last of the beers gifted to me buy a travelling acquaintance, so it's been sitting in the cupboard for a few weeks. Only the other day, right before opening it up, did I discover what it actually is. 

Goose Island's Pepe Nero is supposedly a dark saison (a first for me) brewed with the addition of peppercorns. My first instinct is to reckon that this addition (as well as the presumably darker malt flavours) would contradict the saison's raison d'être - to be a bright and refreshing summer beers.

This is how it continues to appear when it pours an opaque dark brown with an eggshell white head. The aroma is gorgeous, no matter what the weather; spice reminiscent of a decent tripel with just a hint of prickly sourness, backed up by sugary dark fruit and malts. Any particularly peppery influence is more or less absent in the initial stages. The palate doesn't get as much of the complexity as the aroma suggested, but there's plenty of sweet caramel malt and dark fruit flavours with some coriander and, finally, peppery spice, but even then it doesn't attack the palate like that of a tripel. Also absent from tasting is any hint of the 'farmyardy' tartness or earthiness that I expect from a saison.

Overall it's actually a pretty positive experience, even though it fails to fully deliver the best qualities of a farmhouse saison or indeed a beer with peppercorns added. All the same it remains drinkable and quite interesting to pull apart, and for that alone deserves consideration. 

Only in a small bottle, mind.

Friday, 21 March 2014

#217: A Late Early Summer Weisse

I would say I've been too busy to post, and that wouldn't be a complete lie, honest, but really it's because I'm incredibly lazy and besides, there just hasn't been much to report of late. And so I flick a few pages back to find this last unreported beer in the notebook, Schneider's Tap X 2013 - Meine Sommer Weisse. Of course, this being 2014 the beer is a good few months past its ideal drinking time (you know, the summer) but still just within its BBE date.

Unlike the Tap 7, this hefe pours a very pale, hazy yellow with white soapy bubbles constituting a somewhat weak and withered appearance. Plenty of brawn in the aroma though, with lemony, herbal and floral notes in place of the banana and clove weightiness of the Tap 7. At times it leans into sharp farmyardy stuff, a thread continued on the palate with ever so slightly tart citrus fruits backing up a lemon sherbert opening. The finish is sweet and leaves a lasting impression of overripe fruit and biscuity malt on the tongue.

It's tasty stuff, as with everything Schneider make. Keep your eyes peeled for this year's Tap X, Meine Porter Weisse, which will surely be an interesting one.

Monday, 10 March 2014

#216: On the Hop Again

Kinnegar came out of nowhere to impress the Irish beer scene with their core range, with particular praise showered upon Rustbucket, a rye pale ale. Recently, they've started to experiment with limited edition brews that have, rather unsurprisingly, been equally impressive.
First up is Maddyroe, described as a 'burnt red IPA' and released as a pseudo-Valentine's special. True to its name, it pours a dark rusty red and produces a gorgeous aroma of juicy, sweet orange and grapefruit with sprinkles of pine here and there atop an underlying bed of lemon sherbert. I mean Christ, there is tons of fruit hitting the nose here, with the overall effect being round and softly sweet but with plenty of sharp zestiness throughout. Things are even rounder on the palate with that resinous, pithy bitterness taking the back seat to candied citrus and red fruits. The bittersweet character of the beer is rounded off by just a touch of darker roasted malt. 

Whatever the label suggests, I absolutely love this.

No, it's not the same photo
The other special I got my hands on was the Yannaroddy Coconut Porter. Of course, I couldn't miss this. While observing the stream of black liquid leave the bottle and fill the glass I realised this was to be my first (the first?) properly dark beer from Kinnegar, which only bolstered my enthusiasm. Unfortunately, despite being relatively pleasantly sweet and roasty, there wasn't much to be said about the nose on this. The palate does get a bit more TLC with a deliciously smooth and lightly milk chocolatey base porter just about teasing the tongue with the slightest hint of coconut. 

An enjoyable drink, but mainly for the smoothness and drinkability of what is a very good plain, rather than any exotic additions. 

Here's to more dark and experimental beers from Kinnegar!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

#215: Old World Russian Imperial Stout

Brewdog have been impressing me of late. Their core range is always solid, but special beers like the Jackhammer, Hoppy Christmas and their Old World IPA are a cut above.

Hoping to continue this legacy is the Old World Russian Imperial Stout, which I believe is my first stout from the Ellon outfit.

It looks magnificent to begin with, pouring totally opaque black with a light brown head. I've a feeling you could smell this a mile off, such is its pungency. I smells dark, with burnt sugary, raisiny, figgy stuff hitting the nose first. There's no smell of alcohol as such, but the strength of the beer certainly amplifies the phenolic effect. While the smell is nice if uncomplicated, the taste is bold and complex. There's just so much going on, with a whole palette of dark malt flavours ranging from deep toffee to sweet sugary dark fruit, stopping at marzipan and bitter chocolate along the way. 
All of this is delivered on a thick and oily body that coats the mouth and lingers long after the beer has left.

This is an absolutely beautiful beer that drinks far easier than it sounds, and while it doesn't play in the same league as the bigger, bolder Black Chocolate Stout (to which I still find myself devoted), it offers plenty of intensity and complexity with impressive smoothness.
Certainly one to try.