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.
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.