Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#163: The Roundup

I've been using that same old 'student-money-saving-for-holiday' excuse for a while now, but finally there seems some respite to the stinginess. Even still, the Howling Gale Ale stash remains, but over the weekend I celebrated my 21st birthday, and that calls for a bit more adventure in the beer stakes...

It started off with Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA. At 7.1% ABV, we seem to be heading into DIPA territory, but there's no suggestion of booze in the aroma at all. Instead it's a treat of pineapple and grapefruit with a nice spike of lemon zest. The taste remains on this bright side of things, with just a litttle honey and caramel to counterbalance the lively, resinous bitterness and spicy clove notes. As lovely as it is and as effective as it is in letting the hops shine, the question of "Is it worth the price?" remains.

Next up was Schneider Weisse Meine Blonde Weisse (Tap 1). The Original is hard to beat, and when the Blonde lends refreshing notes of lemongrass to the expected citrus fruits and spice layout of a Schneider Hefe, things are a little more exciting. It's still full bodied and fully flavoured, but a tad lighter on the palate, allowing for yet more quaffing than it's big brother.

The Porterhouse was the venue for an after-dinner drink on Thursday, which put me right in the middle of their Belgian Beer Festival. Unfortunately, we were a bit too late to enjoy some waffles, but there'll be plenty of that on the agenda in Brussels. Instead, I tried a Westmalle Dubbel from the keg. Need I say that it was sweet, full bodied and loaded with chocolate and dark fruits? No. But I do have to admit that like the St Bernardus Abt 12 or Gouden Carolus Classic from the keg, a great deal of the subtlety and delicacy that makes this kind of beer special is lost. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the three aforementioned beers taste a bit too similar for my liking when served cold on tap. Still, a worthy beer it remains.

Franciscan Well
The next night found us (accidentally but on purpose) at the official launch of Black's Kinsale Pale Ale in the Franciscan Well. I thoroughly enjoyed the bottled version I had a short while back, and the draught version is a perfect companion. The Citra works wonders here while never overpowering the soft malt backbone or the rest of the fruity peel and juicy hop character. A real treat, and one of my favourite Irish beers of the minute.

Saturday night was all about bottles, and after the mandatory Howling Gale, it was on to a Schneider Weisse Meine Kristall. My first ever example of the style, Tap 2 has the soft banana and spice notes of a Hefeweizen, backed up by a sweet biscuity malt not unlike that of a good pale lager. However, as I approached the end of the glass, I felt more and more that I missed the Unser Original in all its thick, dark and full-bodied glory. Drinkable and suitable for a sunny Cork evening, but far from special.

The final bottle of the birthday celebration had to be special, and so it was almost with reluctance that I took my last Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from the cellardrobe. This bottle, from 2011, was as good as any. I have to confess that I don't think there's a great deal of flavour development to be witnessed by ageing this for a year or two, but it certainly helps in toning down the alcohol burn to allow you to enjoy the thick chocolate and intense coffee flavours in all their smooth glory.

So there we have it, a complete compendium of the weekend's beer compiled for your comprehension.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

#162: Hoppelhammer

As the heatwave continues, so does the thirst for something suitable. Dead Pony Club was that something suitable last time around, and even though that had a satisfying hop profile, it lacked the fuller body that to me is a defining factor in enjoying a beer. As such, I opted for Hoppelhammer, a Whitewater brew at a heartier 6%.

Now, before having so much as a sniff of this beer, I knew what to expect, or rather, what not to expect. You see, in Irish brewing there seems to be a lack of hop forward beers, and with a name like Hoppelhammer (let alone the billing of a bona fide IPA) there was quite a lot to live up to. 

Pessimism aside, the nose on this was actually quite good. Pungent, juicy, almost piney hops are pinned back by a wheaty cereal character. The taste is good too, with the malt taking on a more balancing sweetness role to counteract the fistfuls of mandarin, citrus peel and floral notes from the hops. There's even a hint of cloves among the folds of flavour, but even that's not as surprising as the almost boozy character that comes from an otherwise well balanced beer at a reasonable 6%.

I can see why this would disappoint you; if it's hops you're looking for, a beer called Hoppelhammer should pretty much be on the ball. However, the hopheads around Ireland were let down, and in a way I feel their pain.

Yet in another way, I feel nothing but the pleasure of a perfectly good, pithy, fruity, malty beer that only gets more delicious as it warms in the glass. Boohoo.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

#161: Proper Hops

So, in case you haven't heard (either because you're from foreign or you've been locked into that house-under-the-rock of yours), Ireland is hot. Very hot. And despite what the pink-skinned sun-worshippers say, it's too hot. A man can work up a thirst very fast in this uncharacteristic heat.

Thankfully, my Howling Gale Ale supply is still trickling along nicely, but this past weekend I felt a craving for something I hadn't had in a while - proper hops. Not that HGA is lacking in the lupuline department; to me it's the perfect example of an American style pale ale. But no, what I wanted was something a little more imbalanced.

Being as it was the afternoon, I opted for a can of Brewdog's Dead Pony Club, at a mightily sessionable 3.8%. The prospect of a beer that delivered a big hoppy punch without much, you know, punch, seemed to good to be true...
However, the nose promised immediate satisfaction, with pungent, dank, fruity, pine-needle hops to the fore. It smells like Citra, and a quick round of the internet confirms this, although I have to admit I wouldn't have identified the other hops used (Simcoe and HBC). The ball keeps rolling on the palate with that hop kick opening up. Citrus fruit aplenty, with the aforementioned pine and peel notes coming through too. Unfortunately, momentum slows down just after this. There's a slight presence of biscuity malt in the background, but ultimately it's a tough find, and the effect is of a beer that lacks body. My guess is that this can be attributed to the low alcohol content, but overall, it doesn't damage the experience too much.

For the extra 9c, Punk IPA in a can is a better investment. Yes, it's higher in alcohol, but just drink less. That said, if a lower alcohol beer is what you're after, Dead Pony Club is a fantastic option to have.

Now all we need is more craft beer in cans. That goes for you, Metalman!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

#160: Kindred Spirit

It's been a while.. what.. what is this place??

In my absence I've been working my way through a glorious mountian of Howling Gale Ale and saving my money for a trip that involves a lot of beer, and a brewkit. There's my excuse, so don't think for a second my mind isn't still on the goods.
Because of that, I've not tried very many new beers, and that's not about to change here either. Rather, I try Kindred Spirit from the bottle, after enjoying it on tap at the Franciscan Well Easterfest. As a whiskey barrel-aged stout at 7% ABV, you'd expect it to hold up well in the cupboard for a few weeks, but that doesn't count for the sweltering heat Ireland is having at the moment. As such, I see an unusual amount of sediment at the bottom of the glass upon pouring. Nothing nasty suggested on the aroma though, as the gorgeous maple syrup, milk chocolate and smoke notes unfold to reveal hints of the eponymous spirit, with it's woody vanilla and light spice character. On the palate, there are plenty of enjoyable chocolate, vanilla and roasted notes, but things start to unravel at the finish, where there's a sharp sour note that shocks the mouth and cuts right across the delicate balance of the rest of the beer.

Kindred Spirit is a great stout, one that must be tried. However, if you get your hands on a bottle, don't neglect it in a warm room, drink it fresh.