Like The White Hag, Wicklow Wolf stormed into action with a full range of bottled beers in 2014, and I tried my best to get the lot. Alas, the porter evaded me, but that will be pinned on when it next crosses my path.
The first I had was the IPA, and these days breweries live and die by their IPA, or if there isn't any, their pale ale. The good news for Wicklow Wolf is that this one makes a good first impression. Punchy citrus galore is what greets the nose, with orange and lemon marmalade leading the bittersweet charge. Candied citrus skins (like the ones you put in your Christmas pudding) grapefruit and pungent peach all make appearances too, and with time, the nose becomes even more like confected mandarin or mango. Mouth watering stuff. The flavour is mouth watering too, with a potent bitterness of orange pith and grapefruit shining above a lightly sweet backbone. There's an ever so slightly sugary element to the Starburst fruitiness on show, but nothing that detracts from the impact of the beer. A very good start from the Wolf, with a 6.2% IPA that shows plenty of balance and drinkability while not skimping on flavour.
The American Amber was next, and just like the IPA, it seems like the real deal right from the off. Juicy, bitter hopping is the first stop on the aroma, with sweet lime and grapefruit rounding out the sharpness some. It opens the same way on the palate, with grapefruit peel and caramel biscuit following up, before a lingering, grain husk finish. The impression left on the mouth is that of an orange zest biscuit, whatever that is. It's not a million miles from the IPA, though it shows a more recessive hop profile and a grainier, 'dirtier' malt body. As an amber it is more Amber Ella than Amber Adventure, but is not quite as bold and delicious as the former while proving much more exciting than the latter.
Locavore Blonde came third, and like White Gypsy's Emerald a while back, it is made from 100% Irish ingredients - hops 'n all. A hazy gold, orangey sort of blonde this is, and what at first seemed like an innocent and fresh nose turned out to be a citrusy mustiness, with melon and softly sweet bubblegum all playing their own subdued roles. It's just as light to taste, but nowhere near the almost limpid Emerald. Digestive biscuit forms the bones of the beer, and the highlights are all crunchy, herbal, leafy stuff with a touch of lemon sorbet. Perhaps the least memorable of the beers, though it serves as a perfectly sinkable and more impressive all-Irish effort than the Emerald.
The last I had of the range was the Kentucky Common. The ever reliable Wikipedia describes a well-made Kentucky Common as 'an easy-drinking, slightly sour brown ale'. It's certainly brown, and the aroma is lightly smoky with sweet caramel and light milk chocolate forming the base. There's a flash of rye bread, as well as some slight coppery sharpness and spicy, herbal qualities. Unsurprisingly, the taste is malt-forward. Subdued Yorkshire toffee, milk chocolate and caramel malt offer a fairly plain backbone with a soft roasted bitterness performing the only lead duties. Of the purported sourness there is no sign. Like the Locavore, there just isn't a lot going on, but rather curiously, it turned out to be the quickest drink of the four. The smooth milky texture and lukewarm malt sweetness probably helped that a lot, but it was far too easy to go through the half litre. This would be a great option for a sessioner, if we didn't already have a plethora of gorgeous session beers in this country.
One thing's for certain though; with no proper dud in the bunch Wicklow Wolf are the real deal, and they've surely brewed Ireland's best ever Kentucky Common.
EDIT: The porter appears as if from nowhere to answer my call and take its place alongside its stablemates. Black Perle is its name, and it's another goodun. It pours black with a reassuringly dark head and immediately produces a rich aroma of nutty, cold coffee. Chocolate fruit and nut - not unlike Plain Porter - form most of the basis of both the nose and palate, with a bitter, burnt grain bite at the finish. It's cocoa milk smoothness makes it surprisingly quenching. A good, sinkable porter that keeps the Wolf's ball up.