Friday, 28 February 2014

#214: Black is Back

An unexpected gift from a non-beery person on their travels is always in danger of yielding dodgy beer. Thankfully, this is not one of those times. Sure, it reaches me from Scotland via Puerto Rico, but it's a free beer. A Libertine. It wanted to see the world and find itself before it had its head removed and its insides drained into the gaping mouth of a tyrant.

Libertine is a black ale, and I really didn't know what Brewdog meant by that, until I got it in a glass. Gorgeous and bountiful leafy hoppy goodness. It's got grapefruit and citrus peel by the bucket load and after a few minutes wilfully reveals its coffee and chocolate underbelly. Burnt sugar and a touch of smoke complete an aroma profile that embodies everything I believe a Black IPA should be all about. The palate gets this treatment too; a wonderful  bright, juicy citrus and tropical hoppiness playing off some sticky, coffee-tinted dark malts. An ABV of 7.2% helps it reach its full-bodied potential, resulting in a very satisfying drinking experience all-round.

While typing this I was trying to remember which beers I'd had that would be comparable in quality and style to this, and I realised I had some things to address.

First of all, Zeus Black IPA, from Eight Degrees' Back to Black series. On the first go I felt it was lacklustre. A couple of weeks later I tried it again and realised it was the bomb. Deliciously lime zest hops and dark chocolatey malts, for me this has the beating of the Brew Dog.

Also, Blacks of Kinsale have had a Black IPA around for a while now, and I have tasted it, contrary to the Drunken Destrier's beer menu. The aroma on this one opens with a coppery suggestion of bitterness with highlights of grapefruit juiciness. Where it really differs from both of the above is that it's not nearly as roasty in its malt profile. Just a touch of burnt caramel stuff remains to pin down the otherwise orangey, bubblegum sweet bones of this beer. Good stuff yet again from Kinsale.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

#213: JJJ IPA

I'm finally having a Moor beer. I don't know why it's taken me this long, but I know whenever it appears in Bradley's is doesn't seem to stay around for very long.

The label describes a beer that occupies the intersection of a DIPA and barleywine Venn diagram. That sounds more or less perfect to me.

JJJ IPA doesn't look perfect though, with the cloudy orange body supporting a weak soapy head that doesn't last a very long time. Things are put right from the moment of the first sniff though, with shitloads of intense grapefruit and sticky marmalade making up the bulk of the first hit. Candied lemon peel and a tropical tutti frutti suggest a sweet underbelly, with even a bit of strawberry in attendance. The palate gets the same complexity but leans more toward the sweet; here, the fruit has been softened out and matches the rounder caramel malt backbone, with highlights of citrus zest and peel cropping up here and there. As suggested by the lack of head, the carbonation falls a little flat, which doesn't do a big beer like this any favours. Thankfully, the brightness of the hops prevents the beer from becoming a hot and soupy number, and the experience remains overwhelmingly positive.

Even after 660ml of the stuff, it all ends too soon.

I need more Moor. We all need more Moor. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

#212: Franciscan Well Winter & Cask Ale Fest 2014

It's all in the title. I actually missed this festival last year, so was determined to be in attendance this time round, even if it was just for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

I was hungry when I arrived, so started the day with some irresistible Pompeii Pizza (please set up a permanent shop guys), accompanied by some Barrelhead Galaxy, what I can only assume is a single hop pale ale at 4.6%. The aroma offers nice tropical hops, namely passionfruit and pineapple by my, er, assistant's reckoning. I found more citrus pungency, but either way it's an enticing aroma. The palate follows in a similar vein but doesn't quite pack the punch suggested. It's all waxy orange and bubblegum sweetness atop a fairly thin body. Not a world-beater, but incredibly easy drinking and a real treat with the pizza. 
Not so good was the same brewer's Sorachi Zuki, which was running from keg. It pours mahogany in tone and produces a strange aroma of burnt toast, coffee cake and a little bit of grassiness. The taste has all of these flavour characteristics with the added 'bonus' of stinky rubber boot. Not totally unlike the dirty Thornbridge Wild Raven I had at last year's Octoberfest; some TLC for the lines is in order. 

Brú Rí
After being denied the spritely lemongrass hoppiness I was expecting from a beer with Sorachi in the name, I was back on the market for bright and hoppy. This brought me to Brú and their IPA, . I had tasted their stout previously, and found it enjoyable if forgettable. No such half measures here, as the buttery full body carries plenty of juicy bitter fruitiness, with grapefruit and pine maing their essential contributions in what is being called a West Coast IPA. The biscuity malt backbone doesn't impose itself too much, allowing the lively citrus peel hops to dance freely around the palate. I detect some Citra at work, but I could of course be mistaken. What's for certain is that this is a properly punchy IPA that does very good work with its ~5% ABV.

Moving up the scale, it was certainly Double IPA time. Black's of Kinsale had their Hop Magnet on cask and after the top-notched-ness of their previous two permanent releases (as well as the presumably top notch specials they did after getting funded) expectations were high. Well, for me anyway. The aroma is nice and fruity but beyond that I'm unable to deliver much detail, muted as it was. The palate takes shape better though, with a big hit of sweet and zesty mandarin and pine right at the front. It fades quickly to some slightly syrupy malts thereafter, resulting in a pleasant and drinkable beer but not as effective an experience of DIPA as you'd hope for from such an accomplished brewing operation. If it gets bottled I'll be first in line to try, hopefully it will have been tweaked by then.
Otterbank Farami

We ended with my only dark beer of the day, Otterbank's Farami, a coffee stout. At 6% this is a wholesome affair, offering aromatic notes of those Café Noir biscuits that nobody really likes. In this instance, though, it's a welcoming smell. Roasy warm coffee and chocolate notes are the bulk of this heart stout, with sweeter caramel mocha notes coming towards the end. After each swallow there's a lingering bitterness on the inside of the cheeks leaving you in no doubt as to what just happened. Great stuff, I look forward to seeing more this in Cork.

And that was it. A short stay as always, but with so many casks and no real schedule for the weekend, planning for certain beers was just implausible. My only regret is passing up Rascal's Ginger Porter. Next time...
Hats off to the Franciscan Well for another fine festival. Roll on Easterfest!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

#211: Cool as Eis

Another week+ break from blogging. I don't want to be the blogger who only posts once a week - my content simply isn't worth it - but college, work and a commission are keeping me pretty busy. In fact I'll be doing one of those things right now, regardless of when now is for you. 

I wasn't doing any of those things when I decided to venture once again into my winter beer cupboard, which I of course procured in the summer. This time my eager hand retrieved an Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, a freeze-distilled version of the already fantastic Aventinus.

Like its former self, it pours a murky brown with a gorgeous sweet banana and brown sugar nose. Mellow toffee malts and a hint of spice are framed by the slight sourness of overripe fruit. The palate gets a dollop of marzipan to start with, among other sugary flavours of banana and chocolate, with the 12% alcohol showing some heat at the finish. 

This is positively, undeniably delicious.


For roughly the same price you can get yourself 500ml of the 8.2% Aventinus. Is it better? I don't know. Which would I buy? I don't know. That's the problem, and the only solution is to buy both. Sorry.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

#210: Loud and Clear

The unexpected hiatus is what makes a blog at times the most frustrating of mediums. For that I apologize. While I certainly wasn't writing about beer, or even buying beer, I was still drinking it. Finally, the last of the Christmas stock has been drained.
One half of this pair was in my pre-Christmas beer run, while the other came as part of my massive haul from a certain Mrs. Claus. 

The latter was Porterhouse's Louder, and was the first to be opened. A barleywine of 11%, this one has had my attention since its release back in the summer (I think), the barleywine being a favourite style of mine. Unfortunately, my anticipation was about the most enjoyable aspect of the experience. A big whack of boozy malts is the first thing to hit the nose, and some serious digging has to be done to find some of the dark fruit and almond toffee notes I picked up. After a while i got red berries and some pissy yeasty stuff but again, imagination is required. As expected, the palate is hot and heavy, with alcoholic malts cutting the back of the throat and overpowering the rest of the flavour profile. Sugary and a  touch fruity, in that dark and sweet sort of way, but ultimately a boozy mess.

So Louder hits a bum note, but what about the Devil's Half Acre? I've heard great things about this barrel-aged black IPA so we should at least be improving on the previous beer. 

The beer is dark red to black, and like the Louder has an aroma that relies heavily on its malt content. Again it's boozy, but surprisingly not as harshly so as the Louder, even though it weighs a hefty 13.5% ABV. Dark chocolate and marzipan with lighter biscuit and caramel malts, but all of it sticky and sweet. The real secret here is that on the second go some of the barrel-ageing effects come to light; woody vanilla and maple syrup with lots of crushed dark berries. The palate is slick and oily and for all its best intentions, still carries some that 'Louder' harshness with it. Abrasive boozy malts open up to mellower toffee chocolate while the finish has lingering fig notes, but even here there's a burn at the swallow to take you out of your happy place and drop back into harsh alcoholic battlefield that characterizes both of these beers, albeit to differing degrees.

And with that, I'm left reflecting that The Devil's Half Acre is indeed a much better beer more deserving of your precious gold, but the next time I'm in the Porterhouse I'll be stepping right over these to get to the Wrasslers.