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.