Two Irish dark beers have been on the to-try list for quite a while, and after subjecting them to a few weeks in the dark, I finally decided to give them a go. In truth, I should probably have tried both a long time ago, but whenever I go on a beer run I get distracted by pretty Belgians and Americans.
First up was Knockmealdown Porter from Eight Degrees. This is one of the beers that Tesco have recently started to stock by the six-pack, but I picked mine up on his own. It pours pitch black with a lovely off-white head that dissipates rather quickly - already you can see it's pretty light-bodied. Dark roasted malts are all there on the nose as you'd expect, but there's a definite hop presence making itself known too. It's grassy and a bit 'fizzy', and there's a strange blend of dark fruit with a sharp citric bite. The taste is smoky coffee and roasted malt with a bitter finish, and an otherwise absence of the complexity you find in the aroma. It's light, yes, and sessionable, yes, but it's far from inspiring. I'll be sticking to Howling Gale (which I realise I still haven't written about).
The Porterhouse Brewing Company's Celebration Stout is one I've been pretty excited about for some time. It's labelled on the bottle as an Imperial Irish Stout, which was reason enough to try it - after my Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout experience I've fallen in love with Russian Imperials. So, how would an Irish incarnation fare? Well, it pours the appropriate colour - pitch black with no light penetration - it's got a lovely tan head and it leaves a sticky webbed lace down the glass. Very nice. The aroma is deep, with medicinal, herbal aniseed qualities being followed up by sweeter chocolate or toffee notes. It's certainly got a malt backbone, but it does have a light hops presence. I have to say, the first taste was a bit of a let down after the aroma. It's bitter to start, and not as fully flavoured as you'd think for a 7% 'Imperial' stout. Still, it's got the sticky sweet toffee, smoke and roast flavour that completely coats the inside of your mouth momentarily, before a light fruity finish washes it away. Surprisingly, despite the ABV, I could easily drink a few of these. Sessionable is not a trait I'd look for in an Imperial Stout, but that's where it's headed with it's lightness. I'd like to try the barrel-aged version.
Despite how it looks, I'd probably go for the Knockmealdown again before the Celebration - I reckon it's better value for money, and the ABV is more suited to a nice session porter. Also, it's much more accessible.