Thursday, 27 June 2013

#159: Stuck in Limbo

There's a reason why I haven't been blogging much lately, and that is that I am saving. Much of the beer I'm buying now is cheap, easily-accessible stuff that, as well as saving me cúpla Euro, also feeds into a collection of nice empty bottles for homebrewing. Yes, I intend to start homebrewing soon. That's where the savings are going, as well as a late summer visit to Amsterdam, Brussels and Munich (with a dash of Paris thrown in). Alas, Prague was a step too far...

So with beer heaven on the horizon and a seemingly constant stream of Spaten/Franziskaner getting me there, I haven't had a whole lot of interesting beers to write about. To amend this, I felt a short trip to the Franciscan Well was warranted.

I forced myself to override the muscle memory that had me pointing towards the Rebel Red tap, and instead opted for Purgatory, the Anglo-American Pale Ale I'd yet to try. It's an instant winner, with candied tropical and citrus fruit allaying a nice pithy bitterness. It certainly leans toward the American side over the 'Anglo', and it's absolutely delicious. The aim of the evening was to try new things, but still I felt terrible passing up a second and third pint of this.

Next up was Preacher's Best Bitter, again, simply because I've never had it before. It didn't smell or taste of much, but it's light nutty malt profile and gentle hop bitterness made for an instantly forgettable experience. I'm glad I only got the half pint.

Finally, Shandon Stout. I've been kicking myself for missing out on Shandon Century Stout a couple of years ago, but this regular version is quite highly thought of too. Certainly it has the roasty and smoky notes I appreciate in an Irish dry stout, with even a hint of savoury character to the nose. It's milky, smooth and drinkable with the aforementioned highlights cropping up here and there, but ultimately it feels a touch light.

If you're in the Franciscan Well, pretty much anything on tap is a good bet. But Purgatory is just a better bet.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

#158: Marmite: The Beer

Well, not exactly.

In fact, it's Storm King from Victory, and my lax research around the blogosphere and beery internet tells me that this is held in high regard by some, and by others damned for being too hoppy. Either way, I was eager to taste it.

Storm King pours thick and black with a velvety tan head. Mine was very lightly chilled, and the aroma it produced was gorgeous. A strong whack of pungent citrus and dark fruit underlines the aforementioned hoppiness of the beer, while still allowing plenty of treacle, milky toffee sweetness and fistfuls of liquorice through the gates. The palate isn't totally at odds with this, but it isn't quite the same either. That strange herbal fruitiness is felt for just a second before the sweeter brittle caramel biscuit malts take over and fade to an end with roasted coffee lingering in the aftertaste. There's even a hint of chocolate hidden in there somewhere, adding to the already wonderful complexity of the drink.

I highly recommend Storm King. In fact, I love Storm King. But even if you don't, there's still plenty going on to make it an interesting beer to try, and isn't that what beer geekdom is all about?

Monday, 17 June 2013

#157: Kinsale Pale Ale

The second Cork pale ale in quick succession comes to us from the Kinsale Brewery in, you guessed it, Kinsale. 

Kinsale Pale Ale pours darker than the recent Green Bullet from Mountain Man, and supports a bigger head. Also unlike the Green Bullet, there's a strong burst of honey and pine needle that instantly brings Citra to mind. The label confirms this, and also links the tropical and citrus fruit notes to the presence of Cascade. The mouth waters. On tasting, much of the same fruity pine and peel notes are revived to great effect, before it tails off into a grainy, biscuity finish that has much less sticky sweetness to it than the aroma suggested. 

A great pale ale, and a hearty sessioner at 5% ABV. I'm looking forward to trying this in it's inevitable draft form, and of course, seeing what else Kinsale has in store for us.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

#156: Franciscan Well IPA & Coffee Porter

Here, we move onto yet more new Irish beer, albeit limited editions. They are from the Franciscan Well, and I have to say a big thanks to Shane for these bottles.

First up is the IPA. The 7.5% ABV suggests we could be heading into Double IPA territory, and with Citra leading the charge for the hops, I can't wait to get tucked in. Straight away I get a whack of pine resin and pungent, fruity citrus peel that brings Torpedo to mind, while the whole thing is skewed by a nice honey sweet undertone. Equally impressive is the effect on the palate, with loads of bitter fruit and similar notes of citrus (particularly lemon and grapefruit) and piney hop character with, once again, plenty of balance on the malt side with a vaguely sweet, caramel malt background.

Make no mistake, this is truly hop driven, and very effectively done.

The other beer is a Coffee Porter, complete with coffee from Cork Coffee Roasters. Once again, the aroma tells you all you need to know, with the coffee here having the same impact on this beer as the Citra had on the last beer; it's incredibly potent. As it warms up, it becomes more pleasantly balanced by the smoky, chocolatey malt character, while on the palate the experience is altogether more mellow. This produces the effect of a sweet, nutty brown ale with a gentle hop bitterness and a dash of dark fruits. As I've said, it only gets better as it goes on.

These are two great beers, and definitely worth trying out if you get the chance. Both are tasty and drinkable, with the porter being a close second to the brilliant IPA.

I'll certainly be trying these again.

Monday, 10 June 2013

#155: Aloha Kona

Kona Brewing, Widmer Brothers and Red Hook are three breweries whose beers have recently become more widely available on there shores, and I've been eyeing up some of the goods for a little while now. Finally I caved and decided to pick up these two from Kona Brewing because hey, look at those labels.

First up is the not-so-pale pale ale Fire Rock. Now, the aroma has plenty of fruity hoppiness to the fore, but already I can smell the sticky malt underneath. Sure enough, On tasting I find that there's quite a hit of toffee before the generic grapefruit rind hop flavour manages to fight it's way through. Of course, people will want this to be hoppier and will probably damn it for not being so, but I think it's pretty enjoyable and very easy to drink.

The novelty of the pair was Koko Brown, a brown ale brewed with roasted coconut. It sounds delicious, right? Well the smell shoves plenty of coconut at your face, along with a lightly roasted malt character that has bits of smoke and caramel dotted here and there. The flavour also has some coconut, but I'm sorry to say it just doesn't work. Not that it's just not nice, it actually tastes bad. Shame that.

A little less flavouring and a little more flavour, please! Otherwise the Fire Rock was solid, but I don't think I'll be stretching the Euros to pick up a few more.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

#154: Cuvée René Gueuze

After the very disappointing experience that was my first venture into a sour beer, I was determined to make Lindeman's Gueuze Cuvée René  work. To do this, I wanted to wait until I could enjoy it in my garden in the sun with a proper thirst on, to maximise it's quenching, refreshing ablilities. Unfortunately, with work dominating most evenings for the next few weeks, drinking during the sunny day was just never going to happen. So, I settled to drink the beer just after sunset, with candlelight for added romance. 

I don't know why I was surprised to see a pale, orangey amber shade of a beer when I poured it out, but I was. I was even more pleasantly surprised when my cautious nose found none of the vinegary fumes of Rodenbach Grand Cru, but instead a fruity, wheaty, pungent and slightly sweet aroma that spoke more of grapefruit, bready malt and farmyard-yeastiness than of vinous acidity. There is some sourness to the taste, but it's actually quite delicious, with tangy, almost sherberty apple being the key player among a palate that's generally light, fruity, sweet and dry. The finish is abrupt in killing the piquancy of the sour note, but leaves in it's place a gentle citrus aftertaste. To be honest though, the real star of the show is the aroma. At times it smells like a field complete with smelly cows, at others the sea, but all the time it smells good.

Warm it wasn't, thirsty I wasn't, but delicious this beer was. 
Roll on a summer of Lambic.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

#153: Strong as an Ox

The Brown Paper Bag Project is Ireland's first (I think) gypsy brewing setup, and this particular beer is their second. It's called Oxman, and is labelled as a dark brown ale. 

Which is appropriate, because it looks dark brown in the glass. At first, the nose is pretty sweet, with brown sugary molasses to the fore, covering up some roasty coffee notes and even a hint of savoury, smoky stuff. The taste delivers on the promise of the aroma, although not quite as sweet, with more of the coffee, tanniny fruit and smoke cropping up here and there. There's a light bitterness throughout, but most interesting of all to me is the almost rubbery taste at the finish. 

I really like this, because not only does it smell and taste great, but it has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel that makes it a pleasure to drink. Sure give it a go.

More new Irish beer coming soon!

Monday, 3 June 2013

#152: Shot out of the Green

When you're the kind of person that gets excited about beer, it's hard to beat new beer, especially when it's close to home. As such, I was delighted to try this pale ale from Ireland's latest craft brewery, Mountain Man. And yes, it's from Cork!

Green Bullet is the name, and from the get go I have to give top marks for the branding. The beer itself pours a surprisingly pale shade of gold, with a very short-lived head, looking rathe rmore like a lager than a pale ale. The nose is reminded instantly of Howling Gale Ale, with a similar tropical fruit character underpinned by a light sweetness, with the taste more or less following suit. However, what happens on the palate is a straight balance of gentle bitterness and soft sweetness throwing up tropical, citrus fruit hops here and sweet caramel malts there, before turning to a 'crisp' and 'clean' lager for the finish. I must say, the longer it goes one, the less I feel like I'm tasting. 

While not at all bad, Green Bullet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of flavour and, for the style, I'd be looking for around 4.5-5.5% ABV as opposed to the bordering-on-light-beer 4%. When Howling Gale Ale is the same price with a good fist more flavour and a nice full 5%, there's really no competition.

Still though, it's plenty drinkable and I look forward to seeing much more of Mountain Man.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

#151: Back in the Swing of Things

It's been a while since I've posted, but then it's been a while since I've had anything new. I've more or less survived on Howling Gale Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and even a couple of pints of Hophead for the past couple of weeks, so I honestly found very little to write about. 

One of the curiosities I had in storage was a bottle of Tusker lager I picked up in Bradley's on the merit of it's label alone. Even here there was so little to write about, finding the beer to be the usual sweet, watery lager with an unpleasant and overpowering tin foil finish to it. Best to avoid this, unless the novelty of an African beer is just too appealing for you to pass up.

Much, much more interesting is a present I gift from my much better half in the form of Harviestoun's Ola Dubh 12. Readers without Scots Gaelic (or in my case, rudimentary Irish) are advised that Ola Dubh is pronounced Ulla Duv, as opposed to Oh-la Dubb. The beer itself is more straightforward, but plenty complex. The aroma gives off loads of toffee, chocolate, smoke, marzipan, vanilla and even some bacon, bringing the unusual Schlenkerla smoked Märzen to mind. The taste is even better, with a delicious malted honeycomb* sweetness to the fore, and more notes of smoke and liquorice following up. The finish has a touch of Tootsie Roll chocolate to it, and apart from a very slight touch of coffee in the mix, the whole experience is rather low on bitterness, favouring a warming, mellow sweetness.

Trust me though, you won't really miss it.

When you consider that the base beer for this is Old Engine Oil, saying that Harviestoun have made a good beer great would be an understatement. To me, this is the whiskey barrel-aged stout to beat.

*description lifted from the back of Maltesers bag, because at times, that sweet biscuity core is exactly what this beer tastes like.