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.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

#238: Beavering Away

The steadily increasing flow of good UK craft beer into Ireland is to me the one most exciting aspects of the Irish beer scene (obviously outside of the growing number of homegrown breweries making beer that gets better by the year).

One of the latest British imports is from Beavertown, and Bradley's has the range.

My first was Gamma Ray, a slightly hazy and very effervescent pale ale. Juicy and ripe citrus fruit hits first and hits hardest on the nose. Bitter lime skins are balanced by sweet candied fruit that leans towards strawberries, while the main impression is made by American citrus hops. more citrus reaches the palate, with a faint grapefruit pithiness and lemony bitterness on a medium. This is American pale ale by the numbers in the best possible way.

Smog Rocket is a smoked porter and I got mine in a can, because I can. It pours dark brown and gives off a sort of blue woodsmoke aroma, hiding beneath which there's some plummy fruit and dark berry sweetness. It's actually quite strange to taste, with round and fleshy dark fruits opening for sweet milk chocolate before things take a savoury twist at the end, producing the only hint of smoke proper at the very finish. Not a bad porter, but it is not quite robust or smoky enough for my liking.

A step back brings us to Neck Oil, a session pale ale, something everyone needs all of a sudden. Looking quite a lot like the Gamma Ray, the aroma is actually rather different; punchty pine needle and tropical fruit with some grapefruit peel. Again, this is textbook American pale ale, and again that's perfect. Equally astringent and zesty is the flavour, with an eager hop attack whose plentiful fruit notes fade fast under the weight of the potent bitterness. After that, there's not a whole lot going on to balance things out and make it an enjoyable session. If you just want a decent rush of American hops and nothing else, and you want it all day long, then... then you have a problem. 

Otherwise you might find joy in a beer like this. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

#237: Sour Power

It's a difficult decision, picking out beer you want somebody else to buy you for your birthday, but then, I do lead a slovenly downward slope of a life. For this year I picked two from Cantillon, having craved something from them since my last fix in the brewery last year.

First is the Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, a name that truly gets the message across. Utterly predictable is the pissy, straw appearance and gentle farmy sourness on the nose. It's sharp and acidic with a little flash of citrus, but otherwise does nothing to shock the nostrils. Similarly controlled is the taste, which opens with the same wheaty, bready sourness but fadrs quickly to a lingering near-sweetness and a waxy bitterness. It's grainy and gutsy and refreshing, and is eminently drinkable. This is the beer I wish I had when approaching sour beer styles for the first time, as opposed to the balsamic shock that is Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Rosé de Gambrinus, with its quite weird and slightly disturbing label, is just as round and approachable as the above - perhaps even more so thanks to the addition of raspberries which show themselves right from the beginning. Softly sweet fruit can be found amid the sour grainy smack, as well a distinct vinous quality that suggests a more pertinent sourness to taste. In truth, it's not going to shock the palate any more than the gueuze in terms of its sour impact, but what you get is an incredibly intense - and utterly delicious - symphony of sour berries, nutty malts and prickly wheat fullness. Fantastic.

That's two recommendations, as if you needed them for Cantillon.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

#236: Monstrous

I learned when writing about Blast! a few days ago that I hadn't reported on Monster, the English-style barleywine from the same brewer.
Mine is the 2012 release, and that's likely to be the only you'll find in the shops today; the beer has since been retired after its namesake (the brewery cat) passed away in 2012. That said, there seem to be plenty of these 2012 bottles still knocking around the shops for interested buyers.

Monster Ale pours amber and headless and gives forth heady, honeyed sweet fruits on the aroma. There's some dark toffee and caramel malts with a definite brown sugar presence; at this stage I'm anticipating a sticky sweet mess to taste. the palate gets raisins and orange rind all over, as well as a touch of alcohol heat and a dollop of residual toffeeish sweetness. 

Brooklyn have stayed their hand with the hops, and as such have kind of forgotten to balance this beer out. As it stands, it's not as soupy and disappointing as the likes of Porterhouse's Louder (or The Devil's Halfacre for that matter), but it does lack any real complexity, remaining just about enjoyable for the duration of the 355ml bottle.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

#235: Having a Blast!

A 'decidedly robust IPA' is my sort of thing. And coming from a brewer I've been enamoured with ever since Black Chocolate Stout it seemed a sure-fire winner.

Brooklyn Blast! is an IPA of 8.4% and a cursory glance at the beer's webpage reveals a hefty hop bill of Willamette, Magnum, Cascade, Fuggle, Aurora, Zythos, Bravo, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, Amarillo and Experiment 6300. That's eleven, if you weren't paying attention. Such are the fruits of an effort to produce something of an Anglo-American IPA. 

Things start strangely with an aroma of fruity stickiness that suggests seriously overripe grapefruit, banana and sweet lemon spongecake. The hazy golden fluid washes the palate with orange marmalade and sweet toffee notes, before strains of lime, grapefruit and mango come into play. There's even a little bit of tropical fruit and despite the overall warmth and sweetness to the beer, as well as the lack of any real attack at the front, there's quite a long lingering citrusy bitterness.

Alcohol heat is there in flashes, but is nowhere near as hot as the Black Chocolate Stout or Monster, and the beer drinks a great deal easier than it ought to. 

A big win by Brooklyn.