Wednesday, 9 December 2015

#299: Seasonal Deviance

Something about the change of the seasons makes brewers lose the run of themselves and get excited about throwing extra ingredients into their beers. Such is the theme of today's post, but even I have deviated from my own theme; the original idea of seasonal Autumn/Winter beers with odd ingredients has been corrupted to include any old weird-ingredient beer or even the odd notable seasonal, deviant or not. When trying to decide how best to compile the beers into suitable, separate posts I realised it would be just as good, and way easier, to lump the whole lot together.

The first and most deviant (in more than one way) beer of proceedings is the unforgivably terribly named Curly Hole from Jack Cody's. The jokey way I'm guessing we are supposed to take the beer's name isn't even prompted on the label; there's no mention of what led them to those two words whatsoever. The label does describe a brown ale with sour cherry and apricot additions, however, and I'm intrigued.
Even lightly chilled this one gives next to nothing on the nose, except perhaps for a faint malty sweetness that's matched on the palate. Here, there's nothing of the sour cherry or apricot, the whole thing playing like a rather mild brown ale. After some time a fruit character does develop, but I chalk this down to some ordinary beery fruit expression over any additives. Not bad, just bland, which is pretty close to bad.

Wicklow Wolf bring another brown ale to the party, A Beer Called Rwanda, brewed with Rwandan coffee from Java Republic. It wasn't until the glass was empty that I remembered this was in fact a brown ale and not a stout, such is the look and feel of the thing. It pours black and tan and immediately gives a dollop of milky caramel latté on the nose. This weird, sweet heaviness is fun at first but I soon start to worry that it's going to be cloying mess. Thankfully this is dispelled pretty quickly on tasting; it is a caramel, mocha, sweet-over-bitter mix but it doesn't go anywhere near cloying. In fact, it stays safely within the aforementioned weird dairy cream caramel fudge zone. Good.
Certainly unlike any coffee beer I've come across.

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne are at it too, this time a beer of unspecified style with a helping of blackberries. Riasc Black pours black and headless despite a vigorous pour. Unlike the Jack Cody's above there is some aromatic evidence of the fruit additions here; some blackberry jam or even yoghurt suggests some brewhouse deviance. To taste it's a dark, roasty, light dry stout effect in the beginning, before moving on to a lightly sweet fruit and nut chocolate and finally falling into a long bitter finish. It's not called a stout or porter, but could very well pass as a good, light, robustly falvoured, dry enough example of either.
Hat tip to West Kerry for this one.

There's no deviant ingredient in Dungarvan's Autumn seasonal Gallows Hill, but as a bottle conditioned 8.5% barleywine it has a sort of deviance of it own. In the pantheon of barleywines it plays very much like an English version of such; typical, murky, Dungarvan yeast character is the main player on the aroma initially, but it does round out to some red berries and crisp red apple, surprisingly clean and without much malt heft. There's more of this to taste, all very Dungarvany with added moreishness and warmth but it never quite scratches my demanding barleywine itch. Still, I'm sure this old style barleywine will have its fans, it just hasn't found one in me.

Sligo's White Hag has a strong U.S. influence in its workforce and sees this influence play out in its beer, whether its the punchy, American-style IPA Bran and Sceolan or hefty, malty, amber Oktoberfest lager Samhain, both featured here. So, it's strange to see something like Meabh Rua, billed as an Irish bog ale and featuring as its main flavour component some turf smoked malt. It's dark brown and instantly smoky, but in less of a Schlenkerla or Scotch way and more of a soft earthy kind of way. On the palate this is played out like bloomy, savoury mushroomy stuff on a thick malty body that, despite a valiant attempt and with 8.2% ABV behind it, can't overcome the plumes. This too will have its fans - things as unique and left-field as Meabh Rua always do - and while I enjoy the novelty at first, I do well to finish the bottle. 

It's no work at all to get through the White Sow, though, especially this Coffee Infused White Sow that showed up in work a couple of months ago. The chocolate and oatmeal that help form the base stout are completely overrun (and delightfully so) by strong, bitter espresso and bittersweet dark chocolate on the aroma. This is matched to taste, with strong cold coffee and, again, dark or even milk chocolate lending some sweetness, giving the impression that it's going to be big and heavy but it actually comes off pretty light, silky and very drinkable. Good stuff.

If those weren't quite seasonal, this Festive IBA from Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne certainly is. Yes, that's IBA, as in Imperial Black Ale. There are no more stylistic clues beyond this and at 6% it's no more imperial than the Carraig Dubh. Also like the Carriag Dubh, and like a lot of dark beers from West Kerry, it appears to be essentially a porter, and a beautiful one at that. On the nose it's light roasted malt, chocolate and dark fruits galore, and, with time, some sweet brown sugar and bubblegum. There's a lot more blackberry in this than in the Riasc Black and it's supported by bitter black malt that warms to soft sugary forest fruit sweetness over time. It's all very West Kerry, and that's all good. 

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