Sunday, 30 September 2012

#87: Black Rock and Others

Following up form my brief 'Arthur's Day' post, I've decided to finally put up my notes of Dungarvan's Black Rock Stout. Also appearing here are some more notes from Abbot's.

Dungarvan's Black Rock Stout pours pitch black with cola-like highlights. The head is big and dark, just what I like in a stout. There's a surprising amount of smoke in the aroma, with herbal and vegetal hops getting in on the act too. Roasted malt is obviously hanging around the nose too, with small bits of chocolate and biscuit malt dotted here and there, and a noticeable bread malt note after the yeast is added in. The taste opens with nice sweet malts, with bits of smoke and a robust coffee bitterness. The sweetness is not unlike the Porterhouse Oyster Stout, and while it's not extremely complex, it packs plenty of delicious flavour. The body is full and smooth, yet tapering out into a light finish, making it quite drinkable. Good stuff, and a solid regular stout to have in the cupboard.

The next two are both from the taps in Abbot's Ale House a while back. 

First up is Floreffe Prima Melior. It pours fairly black, with a finger of off-white head. The smell is actually lovely, with bubblegum, candy-like fruit sweetness lording it over rather subdued warm malts. The taste is as above, and you really taste the sugar in this. It's incredibly sweet with that nice - yet potentially overpowering - candy sweetness. Toward the end of the half pint I was looking forward to moving on to an Abt 12, but I have to say I genuinely enjoyed it. 
Not big or clever, but certainly a bit of a laugh.

Finally, a beer I had to try, despite being warned it wasn't very special. Yellow Beard is the house lager in Abbot's, and it's quite cheap. I opted for the half-pint. It pours a very clear straw-gold with a very small head. There's not a whole lot going on in the aroma, but it does give off that lager-malt sweetness. There's slightly more to the taste, with light citrusy fruit opening up, and just a hint of a nutty finish. Other than that, it's fizzy, yellow, light and refreshing. Does the job.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

To Arthur!

As if. Today is the day that Guinness can just go fuck themselves. Drinking a Dungarvan Black Rock Stout, and much better off for it.

I'll post the notes up soon, but for now I think I'll just enjoy the beer.

*UPDATE* Following up the stout with a Rochefort 10 and a crackers and cheese. Simple, but near perfect.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

#86: Trouble on the Homefront

I've gone a bit patriotic at the moment, at least in terms of my beer drinking. I've a lot of English and German stuff in the cupboard, as well as a good few Belgians that I'm hoping to leave alone for a couple of years, so I decided I'd tackle what little I had from my own fair country for a while. This includes a couple of bottles of Eight Degrees' Howling Gale Ale, which is my current go-to from the fridge, a second bottle of the fantastic Ochtoberfest from the same brewer*, and both regular beers from Trouble Brewing in Kildare. I see these around quite regularly now, and I reckon it's about time I added them to the slowly growing list of the Destrier's fuel. Also, it gives me a chance to break out my Murphy's dimpled pint glass. Yes, I caved and bought one from one of those horrible Irish souvenir shops. The reason being I finally found a dimpled pint mug in a charity shop, bought it sharpish for only €2, only to have it smash in my bag on the way home. I refused to be without, and bought myself a branded Murphy's one. At least it's not the Guinness version...

Anyway, sorry.

Trouble Ór pours a few shades darker than it's suggested ór (gold for international readers), and produces a very small yet smooth white head. In the light, you can see it's crystal clear. The aroma presents a lovely malt and fruit balanced bouquet, with banana bread, toffee and dots of citrus becoming prominent. It's not exactly complex, but that's not what I'm looking for in this type of beer. Either way, it smells great. The taste offers more of the same, but with more emphasis on the hop character. A small piece of chocolate blends into the biscuit malt opening, while zesty peel hops take over thereafter. I get just a slight hint of the vegetal hop in the finish, lending a moderate bitterness. The body is medium to light, making this a very drinkable number.

It's good, and I look forward to trying the draught version, to see if it would compete with Metalman's Windjammer or the aforementioned Howling Gale Ale as my pale pint of choice.

Next up is something I was kind of excited about when I bought it, and very excited about when I actually took the time to read the label. Dark Arts Porter promises to go against the current trend of hopping beers to extremity and to deliver a porter driven mainly by malt. "Sometimes it's all about the malt," they say, "and sometimes that's the way it should be." Too right, my friends, I could not agree more. Maltheads unite! 

Dark Arts pours a very dark but very clear red, and supports only a small bubbly off-white head. Reading my notes, I see the first thing written about the aroma is a big WOW. Despite the promise made on the label, I still wasn't expecting the beer to have such deep and dark malts. It's not entirely unlike a doppelbock, in the way there's a chewy toffee and chocolate sweetness to the aroma, as well as a touch of whiskey, despite the sessionable 4.4% ABV. I'm reminded of another heavyweight upon tasting - the dark chocolate and toffee opening has echoes of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, albeit on a toned-down scale - followed by a very light coffee bitterness and a gorgeous mix of dark fruits. There's great complexity to this beer, and it's absolutely delicious. The body's medium to light, and once again it's very sessionable and easy to drink, despite packing tonnes of flavour.

Hats off to Trouble Brewing for both these beers, but in particular the porter. It's malt driven for sure, but there's so much more to it than that. I now regret passing up a pint of this on taps around Cork...

*I remind any Irish drinkers out there to try the limited edition Ochtoberfest from Eight Degrees, it's a stunner. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

#85: Back to the Abbot

To celebrate my return to college on Monday, we went for an early evening drink in the Abbot's Ale House. In truth, the only reason I wanted to go out at all was because I had seen on Facebook that Abbot's had St Bernardus Abt 12 on tap. They've already given me some of my all time favourite beers on tap in the form of Piraat and Tripel Karmeliet, so why not complete the bunch. Fingers crossed for Rochefort 10 in a few weeks then...

Kozel Dark
I like my Quads served at room temperature, or just a little bit chilled, so I ordered my Abt 12 with another beer, to enjoy while the former warmed up. That other beer was Kozel Dark, a Czech dark lager with a very sessionable 3.8%. It pours a dark mahogany colour that looks black apart from the highlights of red visible through the base. The head is small, off-white and surprisingly creamy. There's not a whole lot to the aroma, but I do pick up some lager sweetness, with malty chocolate and toffee darkening things down quite a bit. When the beer warmed up a small bit, the aroma really reminded me of a Tootsie Roll, in a good way - Tootsie Rolls taste horrible, but the smell is good here. Thankfully, there's none of the American 'chocolate' candy in the flavour of Kozel, which instead delivers nice dark sweet malts along with a good fist of raisins, toffee and a very light finish. The body's medium to light, and I have to say it's a tasty beer. There's a very understated hop profile and practically no bitterness, but the light sticky malt lingers long after the sip.

St Bernardus Abt 12
By now, it was time for the main act. This St Bernardus Abt 12 pours a thick, murky, dark brown. It sports a nice small head that never dissipates, and leaves behind a speckled lace. Already, I'm thinking of the body. The aroma is surprisingly subdued, but there is a lovely warm malt character to it, and more than a hint of chocolate. The rich Christmas pudding fruits from the bottled version are sadly nowhere to be found on the nose. Thankfully, all is redeemed in the taste. Because it's amazing. Deep dark woody malts, the elusive dark fruit, chocolate, toffee, hints of caramel and a hot whiskey-like finish. The body's full, smooth and creamy. Beautifully rich stuff with great complexity, another winner.

It was a Monday evening and I'd got what I came for, so that was going to be it, until I realised they still had Barbar on tap. I love honey, I love beer, what could go wrong with a half of pint of the stuff? Not much, actually.

Barbar pours a slightly hazy gold with a very small film of head. The aroma is certainly sweet, but has much more lemon than anything else. As the beer warms up, there are little hints of honey, but only just. Glycerin honey and lemon comes to mind, and that's nicer than it sounds. The taste is delicious, with juicy lemon opening and with a very light hint of honey toward the finish. Warm sweet malts are there throughout, and the beer is much more drinkable than the 8% ABV would suggest. Nice stuff, would definitely go for one again. 

The Abt 12 is a classic, the Barbar is a lovely curiosity and the Kozel is an unsophisticated but enjoyable dunkel. A successful evening, I reckon.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

#84: Sierra Obscura

I love Sierra Nevada for their Pale Ale and Torpedo - two delicious hoppy West-Coasters - as well as the lovely Bigfoot. Those three are well known and well respected, but what of the black sheep in the range? I've had both of these before, but notes weren't taken, and my memory of them is rather iffy. As such, it's time to give them a reappraisal.

First up is the Sierra Nevada Porter. It pours a dark red/brown that's quite clear in the light, and supports a small off-white head. The aroma has a nice hop profile, with herbal highlights shining through the otherwise malty aroma. There's a small bit of coffee bitterness, but apart from this there's not a whole lot going on in the nose. The taste is actually pretty nice - there's a hoppy, vegetal opening with a malty toffee and chocolate follow-up. The finish revives some of the juicy, fizzy hop highlights from the aroma, while there's a slight tobacco aftertaste. It's very light bodied, and quite easygoing. Tasty, but not a classic entry to the style.

The next is better - Sierra Nevada Stout pours a much darker black with highlights of caramel visible at the base of the glass. It also produces a head that's more tan than white, just what I like to see in a stout. Straight away I can tell there's more biscuit malt coming from the aroma, backed up by the same herbal and floral hoppy notes as in the porter. It's beautiful to taste, and clearly a step above the porter in it's intensity and body. Dark fruit begins proceedings, followed by sticky toffee and chocolate malt. The hops lend more bitterness to the palate than they do in the porter, helped along by small coffee notes. Lovely stuff, and all supported on a nice full body.

To be honest, both of these beers are quite good, with the Stout being the pick of the two. That being said, when I'm next availing of the 4 for €10 offer on SN beers, I'll be sticking to the Pale Ale and Torpedo.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

#83: Taste of Bavaria in Ballyhoura?

Eight Degrees are one of my favourite craft breweries these days, and I still consider Howling Gale Ale to be my go-to pint on a night out. It's one of the best things about craft beer; the knowledge that you're enjoying a product of your home county, and not only that, but one that costs less than and far exceeds the quality of one of the international lager brands you'll find occupying most of the country's taps. As such, I was very excited to hear of a new limited edition brew from the Mitchelstown-based brewery in the form of a Märzen style lager. It's called Ochtoberfest, though I can't help but pronounce it Ochtoberfesht. Sure you know yourself.

Eight Degrees Ochtoberfest pours a surprisingly dark amber, with a small off-white head and nice clarity. At first the aroma is of fresh citric and floral hops, with a lovely toast and biscuit malt base underneath. As the beer warms up ever so slightly, the aroma is much more about deep toffee and sweet caramel malts. It smells great, and promises a good lager. This promise is delivered on the first tasting of the beer. Woody toffee malts seem to dominate at the very beginning, but in the middle and finish they take a back seat to the hops that are more herbal than fruity, and provide a light bitterness. The finish is a nice bitter kick, with a golden syrup sweetness lingering in the aftertaste. Wheat is listed among the ingredients, and you can feel it in the full, wholesome body.

I love beers like this, where you really feel like you're tasting the ingredients. Lovely stuff, I'll be picking up a few more bottles of this appropriately Autumnal beer. 

#82: Dublin - Round 1

The Irish Craft Beer Festival took place last weekend in Dublin, and I sadly couldn't make it. However, I had planned to go to the capital in the days after anyway, so I tried my best to get some nice beers in to nurse the disappointment. Here they are. Oh, and you can read a nice account of the actual festival here.

Staying near Temple Bar, we decided to keep it local. We only had two days and a lot of time and walking was to be spent on non-beer related tourism. Luckily, with a hotel on Dame Street we were right in the middle of two great craft beer pubs, each a 3-minute walk from our lodgings.

On the Temple Bar side is the Porterhouse, the place I was most determined to see of the many good craft beer joints in Dublin. The have all their own on tap, with one on cask (on this occasion Hop Head), and around three or four guest taps. One of those was housing Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and for me there was only one choice to make.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
This Sierra Nevada Pale Ale pours clear amber with a tiny white head and slow carbonation. The nose doesn't surprise, but it delivers lovely fruity hops, the piney bitterness you'd expect from Sierra Nevada and a slight hint of caramel malt underneath. The taste is nothing short of excellent. It's got loads of citrus, grapefruit and bubblegum, as does the bottled version, but with a surprisingly more pronounced woody malt character. The beer signs off with a nutty finish.

To compare it more to the bottled version, I'd say it's got a bit more balance, but that doesn't take anything from the hops in this beer - you still get the gorgeous sunny refreshment from the fruit and floral notes. Lovely stuff, and one I'm coming to appreciate more and more as my standard Pale Ale. I wish I could get this on tap regularly.

The next day, we had just over an hour to spare before we made our way to the train station, so it was back to the Porterhouse to say goodbye. Really, I love pretty much everything about this place, what I would give to have one in Cork!

Galway Hooker
My first was a pint of Galway Hooker, something I should have tried a long time ago. Hooker pours a nice bronze colour, with a small film of a head. The aroma is amazing. Bubblegum and candy sweetness scream from this one, with hops lending the appropriate fruit high notes and big slabs of toffee underneath. Really, gorgeous stuff. The taste took me by surprise, with loads of chopped hazelnuts and peanuts interspersed with malty toffee, grapefruit and bitter apple.

It's a delicious beer, and more malt driven than I'd expected, with a lovely aftertaste that lingers for ages. Another good choice.

My last in the Porterhouse was a treat I decided to award myself. I usually never buy bottles in a bar because of the huge mark-up, but seeing as I was having trouble finding this one in my local off-licences, I decided to take the plunge.


Paulaner Salvator is supposedly the original Doppelbock, a style I've fallen in love with. Keep your hop bombs, I'll take an atomic malt assault any day. Salvator pours a dark copper colour with a very small head. I'm not sure how people are 'supposed' to serve doppelbocks, and each to their own and all that, but I definitely prefer mine off the shelf, if you will. This was right from the fridge, and the aroma was fairly subdued. I did pick up the massive sweetness, offered by brown sugar and dark oily malts. The taste follows suit, with loads of brown sugar, golden syrup, marzipan, toffee and a hint of alcohol to finish. This is my kind of beer, but not in my kind of way. These are flavours that need to be enjoyed at room temperature (or just below), and the ice cold serving only adds to the harshness of the drink that in the end, I couldn't finish.

The higher alcohol content didn't seem to be the problem here, rather it was the way the stuff sat on my already iffy stomach, and the way you can almost feel scratchy grains of sugar siding down your throat. It's all just perceived, I know, but really the best word to describe the beer is harsh. I still loved the taste, so I expect to someday try this again on my own terms, and not immediately after a pint, which may have compounded the problem.

In between those two visits to the Porterhouse, we managed to do a couple in the Bull and Castle, also extremely close to the hotel, but in the other direction. I love the look of the place, and it offers a very nice craft beer selection, so I was happy as soon as I took my seat.

Helvick Gold
 They had Dungarvan's Helvick Gold on cask, so I went for the half pint. What a disappointment. I know I make such a fuss about cold serving temperatures, and now I feel like Goldilocks, but really this was just too warm. It pours golden-copper hue, and offers very little on the aroma. The taste is woody, grainy and malty, and with a horrible and potent soapy finish, where it gets it's bitterness. Lemon might be hidden in there too, but really, it's the chemical taste that dominates the whole mess. Warm, flat and tasting like washing-up liquid, a massive disappointment.

They have lots of good stuff on offer in the Bull and Castle, including four Irish taps for €4 a pint. Metalman Pale Ale and Galway Hooker were among them, but I opted instead for something I knew I wouldn't be able to get back home.

Buckley's Golden Ale

Buckley's Golden Ale is contract brewed by the Carlow Brewing Company for the F.X Buckley bar/restaurant collection. It pours a pale golden into the lovely Bull and Castle glass. The aroma doesn't give off too much, with sweet lager-like malts enticing the drinker. The taste is where things start to go downhill. It's tangy. Really tangy like the terribly off Paulaner Hefeweissbier I once had in the Crane Lane. Maybe the tap here was having the same problems, and I hope so, because otherwise this is just a very bad beer. It's lightly hopped and once again imitates a lager with a nice grainy finish, but nothing can cover up the tangy bite that all but ruins the beer. It's quite gassy too, and I ended up leaving half the pint behind.

It's a shame my only two drinks in the Bull and Castle were duds, as the selection was fantastic and the setting perfect. I can't help but feel I just go t a bit unlucky.

Nevertheless, there's plenty to encourage me to return to both of these bars, as well as to explore more of Dublin's craft beer credentials. Perhaps when I have more time.

Friday, 14 September 2012

#81: Double Dog

Flying Dog is a brewery I've yet to initiate myself with, but I do see their stuff around quite a bit. It's hard to miss their crazy artwork. The price is always a bit much, but I figure that's the same everywhere in Ireland, with regards to imports of the slightly lesser-known Americans. I took the plunge with this one, eager to see what all the fuss is about.

Double Dog is an Imperial IPA, something I now consider to be the quintessential American Craft Beer, what with their obsession with hops and constant desire for the extreme. It pours a lovely blood orange, perfectly clear with a small off-white head. In my notes, the first thing I've written about the aroma is 'Wow'. There's so much fruit in here, it smells like a tropical cocktail. Strawberry, orange, citrus, pine and zest are all present, and the caramel malt underlayer keeps in grounded. It brings Sierra Nevada to mind - first for the fruitiness of the Pale Ale and then for the toffee malt heaviness of the Bigfoot barleywine. Lovely stuff. As time goes on, chocolate becomes more noticeable in the aroma, as in the Bigfoot. Bubblegum fruit also becomes more defined with warmth. The taste opens with syrupy malty toffee and caramel flooding the palette, before juicy fruit follows up with highlights of strawberry and grapefruit. The whole thing actually finishes quite mellow, which is nice. 

It's not at all as bitter as I'd expected, and it's maybe not as spectacular as I'd hoped, but it's something different and it's still bloody delicious.

Monday, 10 September 2012

#80: Munich Trio

As the title suggests, the following are all from well-known Munich breweries that I've decided to lump together into one themed post. 

First up is a beer from Paulaner, a brand I'm already very familiar with. Their Hefe-weissbier is a good standard of Bavarian wheat beer, and it's very wide availability and low price makes it a good one to stock up on. They also produce a dunkel, however, and this will be my very first time trying it. I've only had one beer of this style before, in the form of a Maisel's Weisse Dunkel.

Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel pours the expected shade of dark, muddy brown, with a big smooth, creamy head on top. The aroma has strong banana bread notes, with an underlying spiciness that's almost completely hidden. Overall, it smells like an ordinary hefe, but with more of the bready, yeasty and malty character. The taste is pretty much as above. It's not too different from the ordinary hefe, with the citrus and spice flavours, but if you try you can pick out small dots of caramel here and there, along with the aforementioned bread yeast quality. There's also a light biscuity flavour, and on the whole, the flavour is much fuller than and an ordinary hefe.

It's interesting, refreshing and it looks nice, but it's just not really that different from the regular version. It doesn't warrant the slightly higher pricetag, and it probably won't warrant a retry on this blog.

Next up is a beer I tried and loved a long time ago, but I have never taken notes for.

At first, Spaten Münchner Hell pours like a standard lager, almost like a 'macro' adjunct lager in fact. Crucially, however, it supports a big creamy white head, signifying a much better body. The aroma doesn't really scream of anything, but it does have quite a pleasant sweetness to it. No hop profile to speak of. All is made up for with the taste, however - it's bloody delicious. Very easygoing with grainy, malty, biscuit favours, and a lovely sweet finish with a light-roasted barley aftertaste. There's possibly some hint of hops toward the end, but overall it's just a nice refreshing composition of malty, grainy goodness. It's got a good body that helps retain a small layer of foam throughout, and there's not even a hint of the wimpy, watery finish here. Excellent drinkability.

It's not clever, it's not complex, and it's not going to blow the socks off anyone, but it's fantastically enjoyable and, I reckon, it's become one of my favourite lagers. The fact that it's sold for less than €2 for a half-litre is a major bonus.

Finally, we have my first beer from the Hofbräuhaus, and rather than their original Helles lager, I've opted here for their Hefe-weissbier.

Hofbräu Münchner Weisse pours just like any beer of the style, albeit with a surprisingly small head. Sharp yeasty bread dominates the aroma, with lemon and hints of spice underneath. There's kind of a Belgian Wit-like mustiness to the aroma, but maybe that's just me. As the beer warms up in the glass, a very nice candy, malty sweetness develops that puts me in mind of a doppelbock or weizenbock. The taste opens with citrus and banana, leads into a nice biscuit malt and signs off with a syrupy sweet malt finish. I don't mean to give the impression that it's a malt bomb though, as the dominant flavour throughout is always the fizzy juiciness you'd expect from a hefe.

It's refreshing and drinkable, but like so many beers, it's just not inspiring.

All three of these beers are worth a try, and I wouldn't turn my nose up at an offer, but to be honest, I'll probably only be buying one of them again. The Spaten is just so tasty and refreshing that I definitely see it becoming a regular fixture in the cupboard.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

#79: All Well and Good

I don't drink out very often, because I just enjoy buying bottles far too much. The selection tends to be greater when things are bottled, and bottled beer seems to cost twice as much from behind a bar. Nevertheless, it's nice to go and see what's on tap around town.

Tripel Karmeliet
First stop is Abbot's Ale House, which is fast becoming my favourite place to explore beer. I had around 40 minutes to spare, so it was just the one for me, thanks, and I opted for a Tripel Karmeliet. I know, the idea is try something new, but I couldn't resist the chance to try this on tap. It pours a very pale gold with a decent clarity and a nice slice of white head. Being served cold, the aroma was quite subdued, although I did get to make out hints of fizzy citrus, biscuit malt, nuts and a touch of booze. The taste opens with lots of juicy grapefruit and lemon, followed by a wholesome barley malt graininess. It's incredibly smooth and well-rounded. The caramel malt that I loved from the bottled version is here too, and completely coats your mouth, before fading into a nutty biscuit finish and aftertaste. There's no real boozy taste to it, but the 8.4% alcohol does lend a nice bit of heat of the experience. 

Sweet, delicious, and yet surprisingly light, this remains a fantastic beer.

Metalman Moonbeam
Moving to the Franciscan Well, I decided I wanted a hoppier beer after the malted grain driven Karmeliet. Luckily, both of the guest taps here were spouting just that. The first I went for was Moonbeam, from Metalman in Waterford. I'm a huge fan of their Windjammer, and their fantastic Art Deco logos, so I was excited for this darker beer. It pours a dark mahogany with a very creamy beige head. The aroma is fantastic, with toffee malt, candy sweetness and bubblegum forming the backbone, with juicy hops highlights dotted throughout. The taste offers up the same sweetness as the aroma, but with an added coffee note, while hops take control in the middle of the sip and see it out through the finish and bitter aftertaste. Tasty and easy to drink, though not as complex as the aroma suggests.

Another great release from Metalman, and I once again can't stress how much I'd love for them to bottle their beers.

La Rullés Estivale
I went back to Belgium for my third, though not all the way back. Rather than an abbey or Trappist strong ale, it was La Rullés Estivale, a hoppy blonde ale with a just-about-sessionable 5.2%. I made this one a pint, looking for some nice refreshment. It pours surprisingly like a lager, with very active carbonation and a crystal clear yellow-gold (or piss) colour. The massive ice-cream head gave it away. The aroma is that of a typical blonde, but much lighter and, well, altogether more beautiful. It's grainy like a biére de garde, but has strong lemony hops sitting atop a sweet malt base. The taste opens with a candy-sweetness that turns to fruity and herbal hops, with yet more citrus fruit fizziness. The whole is propped on a quiet but ever-present caramel malt underlayer. This is a gorgeous hoppy beer, without actually being very bitter. Curious. The body's light, effervescent and brilliantly refreshing.

This isn't a mind-blowing beer, but it's fantastically enjoyable and definitely worth a pint or two if you get the chance.

Watou Wit
Last stop was the Bierhaus, a pub I've wanted to visit for so long, but every time I've looked in, it's relatively small floorspace was jammed. If I can't sit for a drink, I'm not going in. Thankfully, this Wednesday night was a quiet one for the place, although it still seemed to enjoy plenty of business. They had some intersting things on top, chief among them being Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. I was tempted, but as I've only tried it recently, I opted instead for a Watou Wit. I'm going to be honest and say that I don't really like Witbiers that much anymore, but I feel attached to the style for introducing me to real beer, in the form of a simple bottle of Wieckse Witte, enjoyed in a quiet square just outside the city on what was the last night of my first trip to Amsterdam. Aaah... Anyway, this wit pours like a wit is wont to pour - cloudy, very pale yellow, with a very small head. There's not a whole lot going on in the aroma, with just hints of coriander and yeast. It smells like a wit though, which can't be too bad. The taste is better, despite being decidedly low-key. Citrus peel is trying desperately to make a full appearance, but ultimately it's just hints of this and shades of that.

Though the flavour doesn't seem to get going, it's refreshing and drinkable, and I'm sure it would be better appreciated by a wit fan.

I'd recommend all four of these beers, which is the mark of a successful evening.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

#78: Brooklyn Highs and Lows

I love Brooklyn Lager and Black Chocolate Stout, so I thought it was odd that I hadn't really explored the Brooklyn range further in my blog's (ongoing) infancy. As such, I picked up two of their ales on a rare sunny day this past week. I was hoping to finally try their Summer Ale that I've been seeing all summer, but it seems I left it too late, as the bugger was nowhere to be seen.

I settled for the Brooklyn East India Pale Ale. This IPA pours a hazy light orange with a single finger of white head. The aroma is full or waxy bitterness but also packs lots of fruity hops in. Citrus is strongest, followed by a fresh, grassy smell that I love in a pale ale. There's a hint of malt, and all in all it reminds me more of an English IPA than the explosive hops of an American version. The taste has the same characteristics as the aroma, but with a more pronounced biscuit malt flavour, especially in the finish. Resinous hops remind you you're still drinking an American IPA, but the malt maintains a static balance on the palate. 

It's tasty and enjoyable, but altogether not as good as I'd hoped. If I was looking for a nice IPA to go with a nice sunny day, there's no reason I would opt for this over a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Torpedo. 

Next up is a beer that was always next to the Summer Ale, and that I've also been seeing all summer long. Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 is packaged to make it very clear that it's a beer for baseball, and that's fine with me. I was looking for something light and drinkable with a bit of flavour and this seemed to fit the bill.

It pours pale copper in colour, and supports just a small slice of creamy head. On the nose, I get the same hoppy notes as in the Brooklyn Lager, but with a caramel and biscuit malt backbone. The taste opens with English hops and leads into a fruit and toffee-malt flavour, not unlike an English ale. The finish gives strong notes of grapefruit and metal,  while the mouthfeel here tapers into something akin to water. There's not much flavour going on in here, but that's something I'd get over if it was a nice drinker, but ever here it falls short. It's flat and unexciting and I wouldn't recommend it. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

#77: Cheap as Wheat

As I'm in the process of replenishing my beer stock, I've decided to be economical and seek out only deals and cheaper stuff for a little while. The result is these two German hefeweizens from Lidl and Aldi respectively.

 Grafenwalder Hefe-Weissbier comes from Lidl packaged in a can, as opposed to the usual (yet baffling) plastic bottle. In Lidl and Aldi, you get two types of product. First you get the cheap, supposedly-lower quality 'Made for Lidl' offerings, then you get the big brand product for less money. This particular branch sold both, with Leffe and Hoegaarden alongside Goldstein and Excelsior. I feel Grafenwalder is part of the latter group; a brand that's cheap even by German standards. As such, I wasn't expecting much.

To my surprise, it wasn't all that bad. It pours a pale cloudy yellow with virtually no head, and smells like a standard hefe. Banana and citrus is there, but with a strange artificial candy sweetness. There's also a bit of adjunct-lager graininess. The taste is more of the same, but with a more potent malt character. It's not exciting by any means, but for the price it's a very sessionable and acceptable hefe. This is a German Hefe-weizen that's function over form, and there's nothing really wrong with that.

Aldi also sell a cheap wheat beer, this time in a bottle thankfully. €1.49 gets you a half litre of Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen in Aldi, a beer that pours a pale hazy orange like a glass of orange squash. This one produces a bigger, puffier head than the Grafenwalder, which suggests a potentially better body. The aroma brings up bananas and a sharp twang of yeast, a bit of lemon and and the tiniest hint of spice. There's a slightly malty backbone to the smell too. Surprisingly, this one tastes lovely, though the overly fizzy opening prevents much of the flavour from reaching your tongue, while the finish is all malt and fruit. Overall though, it's light and refreshing and would make a nice sunny-day quaffer.

These two dirt-cheap wheat beers have surprised me, but I look forward to getting back into the German Hefe-weissbier Premier League as soon as possible.