Wednesday, 28 November 2012

#100: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

I first heard of this beer when I read the menu for the recent All-Ireland Craft Beer Festival at the RDS in Dublin, and since then, I've been seeing it everywhere. I hadn't heard very much about it, except that it was very bourbon-y, so I finally decided to try it out.

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale pours a clear, dark amber with a small head and on the nose, I have to say I agree with the above description. Whiskey is all I can really take from the aroma, and it's dominant to the point of being one-dimensional. There are suggestions of perhaps some herbal qualities, but even these are just byproducts of the bourbon mess. The taste is more or less the same, with the whiskey opening turning into a slightly fruity but really just sugary middle, before reverting to whiskey for the finish. Once again, I tried to pull some spice or perhaps ginger from the flavour, but I reckon I was being a bit ambitious. 

In other reviews, I've heard vanilla was in there somewhere. Not at all the case on my tasting, though I do have to admit this one was probably doomed from the start. I don't drink whiskey, I don't like whiskey, and I don't know whiskey. I imagine this would be a much more approachable beer to the bourbon drinker. 

That being said, I've had bourbon barrel-aged stuff before and it was never so one-dimensional. As such, I still don't think I could bring myself to recommend this to the beer explorer, even as a curiosity. 

The Destrier does not approve.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

#99: Oh Aye

I recieved a nice little package of Scottish beers courtesy of my Scottish friend, Lachie. Cheers for these bud!
One of the bottles was Crabbie's Ginger Beer, which has featured on the blog already. If my opinion on that has changed, I'll post an update. The other three were as follows.

First up is Deuchars IPA, from Caledonian, AKA the Edinburgh Brewery, a beer that I don't believe I've ever seen around Cork but I reckon it's available elsewhere in the country. This English-style IPA has a nose of cool herbal and floral hops atop a creamy malt biscuit base, with great balance but not a whole lot else. The taste is much better, with bitter citrus fruit rind leading into warmer toffee-hinted malts, while the elderflower note from the hops stays around throughout. 

Low key, easy-going and very refreshing, it's definitely one worth exploring.

Harviestoun are more widely available in this country, with Dunnes Stores stocking their Bitter & Twisted, Old Engine Oil and this, Schiehallion, a lager. It looks and smells like any good pale lager, with grainy light malt propping up the lovely - and very prominent - hop profile. Once again, good balance and not much else.  Also, once again, things get much better on the palate, with gorgeous citric hop notes interspersed with notes of bubblegum. 

Another very refreshing beer, and a totally satisfying lager.

Finally, we come to Orkney's Dark Island. I've heard great things about this, and it was definitely the beer I was most excited for of the bunch. True to it's name, it is indeed dark, almost black in fact. Darkness is on the nose too, in the shape of the wonderful dark fruit that I just adore in a beer. This is balanced by some bitter coffee, liquorice and, after some warming up, chocolate notes. The taste is similarly delicious, with a rather porter-like opening of coffee and smoke turning quickly into sticky fruit and chocolate notes, with hints of spice and fruit zest, and just a suggestion of Christmas pudding in the finish. Very enjoyable and very impressive richness and complexity, when you consider it's a beer of merely 4.6% ABV.

Certainly the most enjoyable of the three, go try it if you can.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

#98: And now for something completely different

I've not been drinking much lately, and when I have, it's been a pretty mixed bunch. Here are the results of the latest two.

I've had Weisenohe's Altfränkisches Klosterbier in the cupboard for a while, and it needed to get the hell out. I'm still a little sketchy about the style of this beer but I used my best judgement to put it in the dimple mug. It looks like a Märzen or other dark lager, with a very slight haze. The aroma again reminds me of an odd Märzen, with darker malts playing off the light hop profile. The taste is much more exciting, with sweet grainy lagery stuff opening up, followed by a chewy toffee malt middle and a finish that emphasizes the herbal, fruity bitterness from the hops. Tasty and nicely balanced, if a little forgettable. 

In the mood for a strong dark Belgian, I picked up an affordable bottle of Gouden Carolus Classic, my first from this brewer, and what I guessed to be a Dubbel of sorts.

It certainly looks like a Dubbel, with the very dark red body holding up a small but smooth off-white cap. I must say I was instantly impressed by the nose, with banana and dark fruit dominating initially, with sweet brown sugary notes underneath, grounded safely by mellower malt notes. In this way, you don't get the kind-of-satisfying-at-first yet ultimately sweetness overkill of a beer like the Floreffe Melior. The taste brings you even further from danger, with a gorgeous dark berries, figs and banana blending into a subtle toffee or chocolate character, with smooth malts throughout. It's delicious, but not as complex as I'd expected, nor as full-bodied. The 8.5% alcohol does show up at the end of the taste, but it doesn't do much harm. Well worth a go, but when I can get a Prior 8 for less, it probably won't feature much in the future.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

#97: Full Circle

It's taken me long enough, but I'm finally getting around to trying the last two regular 8 Degrees beers. I also get to give my nifty new 8 Degrees glass its first outing. Hurrah!

First is the Barefoot Bohemian, a pilsner that was originally a summer seasonal, before becoming a regular fixture. It pours a clear gold with a small bubbly head, pretty much as you'd expect. The aroma is subdued, but is hoppy on a light malt body. The taste is gorgeous, with more than a touch of grapefruit opening proceedings, announcing a very fruity hop profile, just above the surface of the biscuity, grainy malt backbone. Great tasting pils, a good six-pack investment.

The next is supposedly an Irish Red, a style that doesn't get me very excited. Sunburnt Irish Red doesn't really look like an Irish Red, being a rather pale shade of amber, and what's more, it doesn't smell like one either. In terms of smell it's not a million miles from the Howling Gale Ale, with waxy hops being prominent, producing a very 'American'-like aroma. The taste is once again at odds with the plainness I'd expect from an Irish Red, producing a very fruity character at first, before revealing notes of nuts and a toffee finish. To me, this has more in line with an Amber Ale, like 5AM Saint, rather than an Irish Red. That being said, it's much better than that particular beer. 

Two more great beers from what is now one of my favourite breweries. Bring on the Winter Ale.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

#96: White Gypsy Russian Imperial Stout

I've already written about White Gypsy's Belgian Dubbel, but I have to say I was much more excited for this one. 

White Gypsy's Russian Imperial Stout pours a perfectly opaque black with big tan head, just what I look for from a beer of this style. The aroma gives tonnes of smoky, roasted sweetness, with hints of bitter dark chocolate, herbal hop notes and a lovely malt backbone. For an Imperial Stout, it's low-key, but still smells great. The taste is absolutely delicious, with a gorgeous smokey, woody malt opening turning quickly into caramel, with a fruity middle that reminds me of a much brighter beer. There's a sticky, syrupy finish that I suspect is given by the 7% ABV, and the mouth is very satisfying.

As an example of the style, it's not outstanding. As The Beer Nut writes, it won't surprise or stun the stout drinker, but it remains a delicious beer well worth trying. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

#95: Last Oktober

I promise this will be the last Oktoberfest I'll review this year.

A while back I tasted four of the six 'official' Oktoberfest beers in their bottled form, with Augustiner and Spaten being absent from the list. I've yet to see Augustiner knocking around, but I got my hands on a bottle of the Spaten Oktoberfestbier in O'Briens in Douglas. I'm a big fan of the original Spaten, so was looking forward to giving this one a go.

Spaten Oktoberfestier is pale, yellow and fizzy. Nothing untoward there. The nose finds oily hops and sugary grain sweetness, and not a whole lot else. The taste isn't much different, but it's very satisfying to find some mild bitterness in the folds of the mildly vegetal malty sweetness.

Nothing special, but nice and refreshing all the same. 

Aside from this, I afforded myself the chance to retry the St. Bernardus Prior 8. I had this a while back, and while I'm sure I enjoyed it, I think it's evaluation suffered on the basis of unfair comparisons with it's big sister, the Abt 12. 

The Prior 8 pours a dark red hue with a long-lasting creamy head. The aroma is bloody gorgeous. The first thign I notice is loads of juicy dark fruits and red berries, particularly raisins, as well as a hint of green apple. This is followed by a great earthy yeastiness, and the whole thing is propped up on a smooth and mild malt platform. The taste is equally beautiful, with chocolate malt opening proceedings, with the transition to the dark fruits punctuated with a touch of spice. The presence of the 8% ABV is mostly unnoticed, except for when it matters, as it produces a lovely sticky mouthfeel and syrupy finish. 

For the seasoned beer explorer, Prior 8 won't throw up any real surprises or anything, but it's deliciously rich, very affordable, and an undeniably great beer. 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

#94: White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel

White Gypsy in Tipperary have recently started to bottle their wares, which is great news in my book. My only previous experience with the brewery came in the form of a pint of Bruinette a while back, and I'm dying to get into these new styles.

That's the big thing for me, the styles White Gypsy are brewing. First of all we've a Belgian Dubbel, and there's a Russian Imperial Stout in the cupboard. A German Doppelbock and American Pale Ale complete the selection, so articles on the remaining three should be forthcoming.

White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel pours a hazy orange with a fizzy off-white head, much lighter than I'd expected. The bottle nearly gushed upon opening, and when I eventually did get the cap off, there was a strong bubblegum smell straight away. In the glass, this was crowded out by citrus zestiness, hints of banana, a strong yeast character and a touch of Belgian Blonde spiciness. To be honest, though, there's a bit more Hefeweizen to the aroma than I'd like. The taste is more or less as above, but with a more pronounced sugary malt character in the middle. This is aided by the touch of syrupy alcohol that the 8% ABV is bound to lend. It finishes grainy, and the body is nice and wheaty. 

Overall, this beer is a very worthy experiment on the part of both the drinker and the brewer. It's refreshing to see the styles White Gypsy are brewing, and they deserve plenty of credit for that. I must confess, however, that at around €8 a pop I won't be going back for seconds on this one. Roll on the Russian.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

#93: Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

For the day that was in it, I decided to give another pumpkin beer a go yesterday. My first of the style was a Shipyard a few weeks back, and it was very poor. This one was more promising.

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale pours a nice dark orange with a very short-lived head. The nose is at first a strong sense of dark ale, before a considerable amount of spice takes over. Cinnamon, clove and peel are the main suspects, and they overpower any real smell of pumpkin. That being said, pumpkin doesn't necessarily have a strong smell, does it? The taste is better, with those wheaty, spicy clove characteristics balanced out nicely with fruity sweetness, and the whole thing is rather fully flavoured. The finish has hints of herbal, vegetal coolness, and the overall experience is miles ahead of the Shipyard.

Definitely worth a go.