It was the start of June and the day was sweaty and dry and I had a few hours to kill in the Christchurch area so it only made sense that I would hobble thirstily into the Beer Market just after opening.
The Sober Destrier was down the road getting tattooed for a couple of hours so the extensive beer list was my liquid oyster yet, despite an embarrassment of mostly imported guest taps, I had to go for a house beer.
Careen is a lager that I believe was billed as German-style without much of an indication as to what that is, but it was bright gold and ever-so-slightly hazy so I'm happy.
I'm happy with the taste too; a softly sweet barley syrup lays the foundation for a fairly robust bitterness. It wavers back and forth between stalky German pils and melanoidin-y malty Helles but either way makes for incredibly refreshing and enjoyable quaffing.
I had a second, with a hape of big chunky chips.
I followed that with Godspeed. This one arrives as a solid, turbid orange scoop. A tart front of mango and pineapple leads the way for sweet creamy sorbet in the finish, staying tropical throughout. There's a flash of soapiness that a cynic might cling to, but for me it was just a passing wave and a common enough risk when a beer goes into Lilt territory. In any case it's tasty and drinkable and a properly fruity palate cleansing sour.
The eve-cap was Banished Sun, an imperial porter of 8%. It comes black and almost headless in the glass. Bittersweet dark chocolate is the main effect of the beer, and it's laid on pretty thick and creamy. There's a time and place for this kind of thing, and this probably wasn't it. In any case it's a bit simple for the strength, lacking anything that would call me back for seconds in future.
And that was Dublin. Not long after that, in the beginning of July, more college work brought the Sober Destrier to Edinburgh, and, though the trip was short and not beer-orientated, it was thrilling to finally set foot in Scotland after many years of delay.
The place 2 b for fancy beers is the Hanging Bat and my first in the door was a Kernel of all things. Their Table Beer it was, a 3.1% that comes pale, slightly hazy and a fun start of new world hop stuff, more tropical than citrus. However, all turns to onion pretty fast which is especially disappointing in such a light and tweensy beer. Such savoury bang makes it way too hard to drink to be anything like a functional table beer so I'm miffed.
So miffed that I dive straight into the deep end with Dry & Bitter/Pyrata's Black Flag collaboration, a thick and oily 13% stout. It has all the expected hallmarks of such a beer minus excessive heat. Funnily enough there's a mild savoury edge to this one too but in a completely different form; here it's a touch of slightly salty soy sauce, a turn I usually associate with a strong black beer that's been aged, barrelled or both, though I don't believe either of those things apply to Black Flag. This is just an aside from the main event, which is a celebration of sweet vanilla and coconut against coffee and dark bitter chocolate. Lovely stuff, even if it did mean I had to go away and have a nice lie down.
The rest of the beering happened in the naff student accommodation we'd booked in the form of bottles bought at The Salt Horse, a rather smart bottle shop with on-site drinking next door, I think.
As the last two were forn I went native with Six Degrees North, though this is a native brewery with very Belgian designs for life. This first bottle is a collaboration with D.O.M. brewing, ATC 1.4. It's billed as a Belgian brown fermented in whisky barrels from Speyside, Lowland and Islay blended together. For all that remarkable information it's hardly surprising when the thing comes out weird. It's brown in a Yorkshire relish kind of way, approaching tartness before this is curbed by wood and whisky. At 7.8% there are flares of booze here and there and a finish of apple skin tannins. The afters offer more unusual flair, with blooms of smoke that speak of Islay in a kind of chemically/painty way. Bloody quare fare, and not exactly the kind of thing I'm going to be runing back to, but there you have it.
I was even less impressed by 6°N's collab with Twelve Triangles, ATC 2.2, enticingly featuring sourdough and intriguingly featuring only 2.4% alcohol. A sourdough starter is the thing here, and it hasn't done much. The resulting beer is murky, orange and flat, while a very generous taster will note mild acidity, mild bread and nothing else. Even this is a stretch, with the glass seeming to last for way too long.
A step in the right direction is Brevet Saison from the same brewer, starting out pretty well with soft pepper and floral notes. Unfortunately this turns to syrupy lemon that cloys and destroys. This is #NotMySaison.
The helpful staff in The Salt Horse recommended the wares of Little Earth Project of Suffolk so I went away with Hedgerow Sour - Blackberry and Nettle. As I was warned this one pours dead flat too and cola brown. Excitement comes in the form of a blast of balsamic, wood, sour fruit and acid. Dark fruity malts lay a fairly robust backbone for just 4.7%, but there's none of the cocoa powder softness you might find in other sour brown powerhouses like Rodenbach Grand Cru. For all it's serious puckering sourness it's actually fairly easy and refreshing going down, with a touch of jammy sweetness doing its utmost in the interest of balance. There's plenty of evidence of fruit additions, through not so much of the nettle. This isn't important, as ultimately the experience is a good one.
Similarly uncarbonated is Little Earth's South Island Sour. As the name suggests it does recall flashes of sauvignon blanc, channelling its light acidity and rounder fruit. There's no tropical fruit, though, just a slick presence of lemon and lime with waxy bitterness to offset that light sourness. Decent and enjoyable stuff.