A spooky coincidence it was that just as i was beginning to wonder about the White Hag of Sligo, some of their beers appeared both in Bradley's and in the Bierhaus.
The first of the bottled pair I picked up was Bran & Sceolan, the IPA of the range. At 7.2%, White Hag have thankfully resisted the urge to label this a double IPA. After pouring copper, this beer gives you an aroma of phwoar. It's sharp, juicy, dank and loaded with pine, grapefruit, mango, peach and a mouth watering soft and ripe sweetness. There's more of this sweetness to taste, with malty caramel supporting stone fruit, strawberry and orange marmalade. That's not to say that the beer is shy of the bitter side; the finish delivers the most concentrated attack of the hop profile, with grapefruit and lemon zest left lingering long after the beer is gone.
A truly fantastic IPA.
I haven't had a good Oktoberfestbier or Märzen since Ochtoberfest from Eight Degrees, and seeing the style brewed by another Irish brewery who also find themselves free from the obligation to brew a slightly stronger Helles was a promising prospect. Like the IPA, Samhain pours copper with a yellowy white head. Unlike the IPA, Samhain screams TOFFEE MALT at your nose. Slabs of the stuff dominates the aroma, but not without letting a grassy, herbal hop highlight through. The palate too gets toffee, loads of raisins and a touch of coppery punctuation. It's full and hearty at 6.2% but plenty drinkable. My notes finish with 'I love this', and there's really no more to add.
In the Bierhaus then I found myself sitting before a tap of Black Boar, the oatmeal imperial stout that was so well received at the RDS this year. Like all well behaved stouts it pours black with a tan head. The Sober Destrier found this to smell like cold mocha, and I have to agree, even though she meant it in an unpleasant way and I certainly didn't. Chocolate, malty biscuit (read: Maltesers) and red and dark berries are delivered on a full, smooth silky body, with a touch of alcohol heat to finish. Smoke, sticky treacle and maple syrup are all hiding in there too. This is one intense beer with a good deal of complexity, and dare I say it, one of the (if not the) best stouts in the country?
Such a beer is hard to follow, so that evening finished with some Lagavulin 16. Hot, blue turf smoke dominate at first, but there's a surprising amount of caramel and vanilla sweetness to be found underneath. A delicious, phenolic experience.
Of course, it wouldn't be Halloween without the obligatory pumpkin beer, and though I haven't yet finished exploring that end of things, I did find myself an 'imperial pumpkin ale' by the name of The Fear in Bradley's to go with my White Hag terrors. This is from Flying Dog, and at 9% they're clearly not taking the piss. It pours a surprisingly dark brown-black, and straight away delivers the official 'Pumpkin Beer Smell'. Nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, sweet allspice, vegetable, herbal stuff and a slight hint of coffee. The same is to be said about the taste, with plenty of the spice but done with relative subtely. Said spice lingers for ages but there does appear a great deal of that green, vegetable stuff and residual sugar sweetness in the middle. This is a weird beer, and I guess that's pretty much its raison d'être. There's nothing here you won't have tasted before in another pumpkin beer, but its delivered in just the right way; it is full, rich and genuinely enjoyable to drink, making it one of the most successful pumpkin beers I've had.
That said, as with every other pumpkin beer, one is plenty.