Thursday, 28 August 2014

#238: Beavering Away

The steadily increasing flow of good UK craft beer into Ireland is to me the one most exciting aspects of the Irish beer scene (obviously outside of the growing number of homegrown breweries making beer that gets better by the year).

One of the latest British imports is from Beavertown, and Bradley's has the range.

My first was Gamma Ray, a slightly hazy and very effervescent pale ale. Juicy and ripe citrus fruit hits first and hits hardest on the nose. Bitter lime skins are balanced by sweet candied fruit that leans towards strawberries, while the main impression is made by American citrus hops. more citrus reaches the palate, with a faint grapefruit pithiness and lemony bitterness on a medium. This is American pale ale by the numbers in the best possible way.

Smog Rocket is a smoked porter and I got mine in a can, because I can. It pours dark brown and gives off a sort of blue woodsmoke aroma, hiding beneath which there's some plummy fruit and dark berry sweetness. It's actually quite strange to taste, with round and fleshy dark fruits opening for sweet milk chocolate before things take a savoury twist at the end, producing the only hint of smoke proper at the very finish. Not a bad porter, but it is not quite robust or smoky enough for my liking.

A step back brings us to Neck Oil, a session pale ale, something everyone needs all of a sudden. Looking quite a lot like the Gamma Ray, the aroma is actually rather different; punchty pine needle and tropical fruit with some grapefruit peel. Again, this is textbook American pale ale, and again that's perfect. Equally astringent and zesty is the flavour, with an eager hop attack whose plentiful fruit notes fade fast under the weight of the potent bitterness. After that, there's not a whole lot going on to balance things out and make it an enjoyable session. If you just want a decent rush of American hops and nothing else, and you want it all day long, then... then you have a problem. 

Otherwise you might find joy in a beer like this. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

#237: Sour Power

It's a difficult decision, picking out beer you want somebody else to buy you for your birthday, but then, I do lead a slovenly downward slope of a life. For this year I picked two from Cantillon, having craved something from them since my last fix in the brewery last year.

First is the Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, a name that truly gets the message across. Utterly predictable is the pissy, straw appearance and gentle farmy sourness on the nose. It's sharp and acidic with a little flash of citrus, but otherwise does nothing to shock the nostrils. Similarly controlled is the taste, which opens with the same wheaty, bready sourness but fadrs quickly to a lingering near-sweetness and a waxy bitterness. It's grainy and gutsy and refreshing, and is eminently drinkable. This is the beer I wish I had when approaching sour beer styles for the first time, as opposed to the balsamic shock that is Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Rosé de Gambrinus, with its quite weird and slightly disturbing label, is just as round and approachable as the above - perhaps even more so thanks to the addition of raspberries which show themselves right from the beginning. Softly sweet fruit can be found amid the sour grainy smack, as well a distinct vinous quality that suggests a more pertinent sourness to taste. In truth, it's not going to shock the palate any more than the gueuze in terms of its sour impact, but what you get is an incredibly intense - and utterly delicious - symphony of sour berries, nutty malts and prickly wheat fullness. Fantastic.

That's two recommendations, as if you needed them for Cantillon.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

#236: Monstrous

I learned when writing about Blast! a few days ago that I hadn't reported on Monster, the English-style barleywine from the same brewer.
Mine is the 2012 release, and that's likely to be the only you'll find in the shops today; the beer has since been retired after its namesake (the brewery cat) passed away in 2012. That said, there seem to be plenty of these 2012 bottles still knocking around the shops for interested buyers.

Monster Ale pours amber and headless and gives forth heady, honeyed sweet fruits on the aroma. There's some dark toffee and caramel malts with a definite brown sugar presence; at this stage I'm anticipating a sticky sweet mess to taste. the palate gets raisins and orange rind all over, as well as a touch of alcohol heat and a dollop of residual toffeeish sweetness. 

Brooklyn have stayed their hand with the hops, and as such have kind of forgotten to balance this beer out. As it stands, it's not as soupy and disappointing as the likes of Porterhouse's Louder (or The Devil's Halfacre for that matter), but it does lack any real complexity, remaining just about enjoyable for the duration of the 355ml bottle.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

#235: Having a Blast!

A 'decidedly robust IPA' is my sort of thing. And coming from a brewer I've been enamoured with ever since Black Chocolate Stout it seemed a sure-fire winner.

Brooklyn Blast! is an IPA of 8.4% and a cursory glance at the beer's webpage reveals a hefty hop bill of Willamette, Magnum, Cascade, Fuggle, Aurora, Zythos, Bravo, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, Amarillo and Experiment 6300. That's eleven, if you weren't paying attention. Such are the fruits of an effort to produce something of an Anglo-American IPA. 

Things start strangely with an aroma of fruity stickiness that suggests seriously overripe grapefruit, banana and sweet lemon spongecake. The hazy golden fluid washes the palate with orange marmalade and sweet toffee notes, before strains of lime, grapefruit and mango come into play. There's even a little bit of tropical fruit and despite the overall warmth and sweetness to the beer, as well as the lack of any real attack at the front, there's quite a long lingering citrusy bitterness.

Alcohol heat is there in flashes, but is nowhere near as hot as the Black Chocolate Stout or Monster, and the beer drinks a great deal easier than it ought to. 

A big win by Brooklyn.

Friday, 15 August 2014

#234: Divine Inspiration

When I heard that there was an Irish brewery starting up with a mission to commercially brew Belgian beer styles - with dedication to the point of using classic Belgian Duvel style stubby bottles - I was very excited. That brewery was Holy Mountain in Mayo. Much hard work in the neat farmhouse brewery (documented here) as well as a name change to Mescan, and beers are finally flowing. Distribution is low, so it took a trip to Mayo by what must be a very dedicated Bierhaus team for me to get my hands on a trio of bottles.

I started with the Stout, which pours suspiciously pale for the style, showing plenty of light through its red/brown depths. There's nothing iffy about the nose though; slightly smoky dark fruit and a hint of tobacco, which much of the same on the palate. Blackberries and roasty malts fight to be heard over a very effervescent delivery but just about get the job done. While hinting towards the darker, more savoury aspects of Foreign Extra, it remains resolutely conservative, and more drinkable for it. Not bad at all.

The White followed, and just like the stout, it proved incredibly drinkable fare. Despite not listing any spice among the ingredients, this white delivers a heavy handed hit of coriander and clove atop the light, citrusy wheatiness. This perfectly offsets the sweetness of said malts, avoiding flirtation with cloying over-sweetness in a way that Olé Olé couldn't. A solid wit to add to Ireland's roster.

I finished on the Blond, which, despite once again being a quite sinkable affair, failed to produce as much notable characteristics as the other two. Sure, there's the background of caramel biscuit, a whiff of citrus fruitiness, and a finish that pines towards a spiciness that is just unwilling to attend, but this beer passes by too easily for my liking. Unlike the other two, which managed to be eminently drinkable while asserting their own character, the Blond fails to perform for me.

All in all, a good showing from Mescan who, despite all the hard work to date, are still at very early stage. I look forward to seeing what they do with the bigger Belgian styles.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

#233: Singled Out

Eight Degrees. You can't help but love them. At least, I can't. When trying to think of an Eight Degrees beer that I didn't at least find 'great', I am brought back to their Aztec Stout. This is actually a decent, chocolatey, drinkable stout in that close-to-bland sort of way that springs a prickle of chilli heat upon the back of the throat at the finish, making for a weird experience, and in my eyes, killing the beer's drinkability. I also consider the Winter's Ale, with it's lightness and nutmeg-y oddness failing to strike a chord with me. But even these two beers have merit and are worthy of experiencing; both have unorthodox extra ingredients, both are limited in release.

Since inception the Mitchelstown outfit has only gone from strength to strength. Kindred Spirit. Ochtoberfest (please come back). Hurricane. Cyclone. Amber Ella. Russian Imperial Stout. Zeus Black IPA. The Full Irish (please stay forever). Horn8's Nest. Amber-Ella again. And now these two beauties. 

Vic Secret seemed a questionable name to me before I found out that Vic Secret is indeed an Australian hop varietal, and this is the first in a range of single hop beers. Rather than brew a handful of blank canvas pale ales, there's some stylistic experimentation going on here too. This one is a black IPA, and it's the best I've had so far. As should be the case with any single hop beer, the hops are up front about their business; a veritable market's worth of tropical fruit and strawberry Hubba Bubba (I know right?) hit the nose hard. Things are rounder when it gets to the palate. Dark, silky coffee and liquorice caress the the inside of the mouth while never subduing the intensity of the grapefruit and mango highlights that burn bright and leave a trailing bitterness. There's a familiar burnt rubber twinge that interrupts the blackberry jam malts, as I find in many beers where thick, dark malts are forced to do battle with bright and bitter hops. Overall a truly scrumptious beer.

The next hop to get VIP treatment is Simcoe, residing in the comfortable and delicious accommodation of a rye ale. The nose finds notes of sweet Jesus. Razor-sharp lemon skin and pith bitterness slices your olfaction in twain, before onrushing orange marmalade - with bits, of course - does its level best to soothe you. Unsurprisingly, and rather like the Vic Secret, there's a bitter fruit attack on the palate. Grapefruit and yet more orange are the big players; pine needle and resiny stuff provides background harmonics. I don't get much grassiness or peppery spice from the rye, as it all seems rather pedestrian compared to the long-lasting coppery bitterness that dominates proceedings. At the very end (if you're careless with your pour) a muddy homebrew quality becomes part of the malt profile, but that doesn't take away from the beer's performance. 

Two more stunning brews from Mitchelstown. Hon Cork.