Tuesday, 31 July 2012

#63: Few More Cans?

The range of canned English ale really is increasing, or at least my access to it is. My local(est) Carry Out offered a smart 4 cans for €6.99, which I couldn't  resist. Rather than try four wholly new beers though, I only tried two new ones, reserving the remaining slots for Old Speckled Hen and personal favourite London Pride.

First up, London Pride. I've not got much more to say about this beer, as I've already hyped it up the maximum amount, but I suppose I'll go through the motions. Toffee malt hits hard on this ale, and it's extremely quaffable and  tasty. However, the body really pales in comparison to the bottled version.

Next of the batch to go down the hatch was Old Speckled Hen. Only around a week previous I'd had the bottled version again, and although it was enjoyable for about 300 mls, it became quite watery and boring in the finish. On the nose with the canned version I was surprised to find a touch of yeast amidst the usual malt and fruit balance. The body on this was extremely light, almost to the point of being watery, and yet it surprised me with a decently complex palette. Toffee malt is to the fore, with red and dark juicy fruits following up. It's not as bitter as the Pride, and it has better head retention.

Fuller's ESB was one of the new beers I opted for. Looking at my notes, I see the first word I wrote at the time was 'delicious'. It's certainly hoppier than the others but I still found a very strong biscuit malt backbone, with elements of, you guessed it, toffee. For the sake of variety, I might have said caramel, but really it was deeper than that. Hops make themselves known by lending a slight oily and astringent character to the beer, while the oily fruitiness lingers long after the finish. As time goes on, caramel does develop in the malty section of the drink, as well as very surprising hint of booze for a beer of 5.9%.

The last of the bunch was also new to me - Marston's Pedigree. To be frank, it's watery, it's got a slightly cider-like green apple element, it's got a very mild (or weak) malt character, and a very mild bitterness. Unremarkable, so don't bother.

So far, of all the English ales I've tried from the can, Fuller's ESB is by far the best. The biggest problem I have with the can is the apparent weakness to the body that I've noticed in most of the beers, but there's no real lack of fullness to the ESB. I look forward to trying the bottled version - it may replace London Pride as my go-to English ale. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

#62: Birthday Drinks

It was my birthday over the weekend, and while I didn't do an awful lot of drinking, I did manage to pull together a decent beer haul, with the help of my Much Better Half. From her, I got a nice set of two Schneider Weisse Originals with the branded weizen glass to match. I have to say, it's classy as fuck. Also, two beers from a brewery I've been dying to explore - Verdi and Sally Brown from the Birrificio Del Ducato in Italy. The brewery has been recently added to Bradley's' shelves, along with a host of Odells, Flying Dogs, and other Americans that are really expanding the selection in there, not to mention the host of Belgians that joined the ranks a couple of months ago. Finally, a six pack of Budweiser Budvar means my girlfriend has me well supplied. So, good drinking to be done there in weeks to come.

 I ordered and recieved my first package from drinkstore.ie in anticipation of my name-day, and opened up a 6-bottle gift pack of Piraat, along with branded tulip glass. The box will lead you to believe that it's 9% alcohol, while the bottles will promise the normal 10.5% version. Really, I spent a good while online looking for an explanation of why there are two versions in the first place and found zilch, even from Van Steenberge's official website. One chap on an Aussie homebrew forum suggested the puny 9% beer was brewed especially for the Dutch market, and that's good enough for me. 

Why the box and bottle conflict each other is anybody's guess.

Despite how it looks, I wasn't just looking at beer over the weekend - I did manage to go out on the night and have a few pints. My first of the evening was the vocally locally brewed but otherwise secretive Mi Daza stout. I had heard nothing of this before I saw the tap in the Crane Lane, and even now on the net I can find little mention of it's very existence. Nevertheless I was intrigued. Maybe I was just full from the day's indulgence, or maybe this really was a tough drink to finish. I haven'd had a Beamish, Murphy's or Guinness in ages, but this seems to be directed at that crowd. It has the ridiculously thick nitro head in an unnatural shade of white, but beneath the surface it's watery and very low on flavour, with only a hint of general roasted malt. Granted, that wasn't helped by the ice cold serving temperature but I have to say  I didn't wait around to find out if it warmed up well. The pint was finished by a friend. 

For my second (and third) I went with a pale ale I'd only tried once before but loved to bits - Windjammer from Metalman. Lovely stuff that went down so much easier, but did so while still providing so much flavour. It's fruity and refreshing and the body has a bit of a punch to it - no empty water finish here.

In the mood for a Belgian, I went for one from the pub's newly acquired bottled range. La/Mc Chouffe were advertised along with Leffe, St Martin's Blonde and Fruh Kolsch. La Chouffe was the easy choice to make here, but alas, it was too good to be true. The bottles were nowhere to be seen and I settled for another Belgian, St Martin's Blond. It didn't have much going for it - yeast, slight bready malt character, stingy acidic fruit finish... I regretted not opting for the reliable Duvel.

Changing scene to the less trendy Fred Zeppelin's, my Irish craft beer tap range was taken away completely. Well, almost. After surveying the taps here, I realized there was really only one beer that called out to me - Rebel Red. And so I dug in. This was a beautiful pint, one I enjoyed much more than my first Rebel Red about one year ago. It was malt driven with toffee and caramel announcing themselves far before the fruit and hops bitterness got involved at the finish. Very refreshing and drinkable, yet retaining a good medium body.

All in all, not a bad weekend beer-wise. I do hope Metalman decide to bottle their wares in the future, the Windjammer is fast becoming my favourite session ale.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

#61: Westmalle Tripel

This one wasn't rushed, but it's notes were. In fact, the beer itself was savoured and enjoyed with the minimum amount of writing I could tolerate when trying a new beer. What I'm left with is a picture of the beer that's not quite broken, but blurred in my memory. I will be trying it again, along with the Dubbel.

Westmalle Tripel pours like any self-respecting tripel would like to - pale golden, crystal clear, foamy white head with good retention and good carbonation. On the nose it's grainy in a lovely farmhouse kind of way, with caramel malt mixed in, rather like the Karmeliet. Underneath you can detect a nice spiciness and a hint of the boozy element. It's lovely, but in what must be a first for me, I'd actually like to chill this for 20 minutes next time to take the boozy/hot edge off the aroma. The taste is delicious, with caramel, yeast, pepper and a wonderful vanilla finish all popping up. 

This is a great beer, and I enjoyed sitting back and sipping it more than I enjoy being hunched over the desk with the very unimpressive Marston's Pedigree. More on that to come.

Monday, 23 July 2012

#60: Brasserie Caracole Nostradamus

I'm already getting in the winter warmer mood with this quad from Brasserie Caracole in Falmignoul, Belgium. In fact, my desire for quads has risen considerably in the past few weeks as it's been a while since I've bought a Rochefort 10 or a St Bernardus Abt 12. So far, I've resisted the temptation to open one of my five remaining Westvleteren 12s, but I can't say the same for the Chimay Bleu I was hoping to age for a year. Granted, it was a 2011 dated bottle but seeing as we're only six and a bit months into 2012, it may not necessarily be a year old. As such, I was hoping to hang on to it until Christmas, before my insatiable dark ale appetite struck. Also, I can still invariably find 2011 dated bottles in the shops so I'll replace it soon. What I can say is that I certainly enjoyed it more than the one I had a couple of weeks ago. Placebo? Perhaps.


The wonderfully packaged and named Nostradamus pours like a glass of Coke. There's a bit of an off-white head for a second or two, but ultimately the thing completely disappears and leaves absolutely nothing on top. This is despite the very lively carbonation clearly visible in the glass. Dark chocolate is the first thing I get on the nose. It's rich, dark and deep, with malt and wood following up but failing to smother the booziness at the back. It may not be very complex, but it smells delicious. It tastes delicious too, with toffee coming to the fore and a very strong, definite whiskey finish. It's incredibly warming and comforting, yet once again may be lacking in depth or complexity. None of this bothers me, and it's a beer I'll very likely try again. One thing I will say is that the whiskey finish might come on a bit too strong as time goes by. 

So, it's not as deep or complex as some of the other quads I like, and it has very little of the dark or red fruit notes that I'd also expect, but it's a delicious beer that would make for a great winter warmer.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

#59: Bitter & Twisted

Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil is a beer that seriously impressed me when I first tried it, and since then I've held the brewery in pretty high regard. Why I've waited so long then to try the rest of their range is a question I can't answer and a delay I can't offer an excuse for - Dunnes Stores sell a few Harviestoun beers at a decent price. I picked one up a few days ago.

Bitter & Twisted appears to be an IPA. This is judging by the nose of the beer, considering it pours a slightly darker amber than I'd expected. It's exceptionally well balanced without being boring, with fresh citrus hops and malt biscuit qualities complimenting each other, while the light fruitiness of the aroma develops more caramel with time and warmth. This biscuit malt backbone to the beer becomes more evident on tasting, with the zesty citrus peel and bitter bite still making themselves known. It's definitely more English in style than the Alpha Dawg, which was leaning toward the more American West Coast style IPAs. As such, I'd say the Alpha Dawg is more summery and refreshing, while the Harviestoun is better balanced and really quite quaffable. 

Really enjoyable beer that went quite well with a very mild, very Irish curry.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

#58: Alpha Dawg, Guinness Black Lager

Alpha Dawg is a limited edition IPA brewed by the Franciscan Well and released around three months ago, and it's only now that I'm getting my hands on it. I wasn't extremely excited for this one, to be honest, but I felt I couldn't risk having it disappear from the shelves without so much as having a sniff.

Good choice.

Alpha Dawg looks beautiful in the glass, with a hazy amber-golden hue and a tiny white head that had to be forced. After the beer warmed up from it's recommended 8 degrees, it produced a much more generous foamy cap. On the nose it's pretty much the hop domination you'd expect, with a fresh grassy smell complimenting the inevitable citrus peel and pine notes. Very 'West Coast' IPA. I have to say though, the aroma is pretty weak when served at the recommended temperature, so lots of the more interesting stuff happens when it warms up - lemon becomes discernible from the rest of the fruit and a sticky caramel and honey sweetness develops. On tasting you'll find more fruity hops offering grapefruit and juicy peel, a caramel sweetness follow-up, and a bread malt and nutty quality hiding in the background. This finish leaves a nice bitter kick that lingers for ages. Once again, things get even more interesting when the beer warms to room temperature. The malt character becomes more potent, there's a candy/bubblegum taste that's the strongest I've had in any beer before, and there's a nice syrupy sweet finish that's still kept in check by the bitter bite. I swear, there's a Strong Pale Ale hiding in there somewhere, and it only comes out to play in the warmth. Maybe this is down to the (not-so) freshness of the bottle. 

This is a gorgeous IPA and if it wasn't €10 a pop, I'd definitely stock up.

Guinness Black Lager appears here as a side-note. I was wrong earlier when I said you'd have to commit to a four-pack to try it, as it turns out I got a lonely bottle for a reasonable €1.80. Guinness want you to drink this ice cold and from the bottle. Well, they would, wouldn't they. Chilled, yes, but I had to get this in a glass. Lo and behold, it looks just like a lager, but black. A one-finger head disappears almost immediately. The smell is that of your average macro lager, as is the taste. On the bottle, we're promised 'the refreshing taste of lager with the unique character of Guinness'. I think they're trying to imply there's a roasted malt character to the beer, and there may be a tiny hint of a touch of a clue of roasted malt, but it's not at all strong enough to get noticed above the overpowering sting of metal. It's like drinking tin foil, if you get me.

I scoffed at this when I saw it on the shelf, and was then overwhelmed with snobby guilt. I felt I had to give it a chance. I did, and while it's not the worst thing I've had, it's just not enjoyable for me. I look for more in a beer.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

#57: Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne - Cúl Dorcha

This is my second one from Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne, and I have to say I was pretty excited about it. I loved their Carriag Dubh porter, and with their location and size, I just have to love the guys. Surely this beer wouldn't let me down?

It might do.

The Cúl Dorcha pours a dark but crystal clear blood red, with a two to three finger off white head that doesn't last too long. The first thing I noticed on the nose was a slight smokiness that gave way to the fruitiness that otherwise dominates the aroma - red berries and green apple, with a touch of bitterness. Underneath there's a definite malty toffee backbone, but overall the aroma does little to excite me. On tasting, I get much more of the same. A balance of malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness with a touch of smoke and spice. Once again, nothing spectacular. 

Easy to drink but difficult to love, this doesn't go beyond being an average (or even below average) ale.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

#56: Brewdog, Finally

I am certainly lagging behind when it comes to trying beers from some of the most popular craft brewers around, and this is something I'm trying to rectify. I only recently tried Dungarvan's Black Rock Stout, and fell in love. I also finally picked up a bottle of Alpha Dawg, the limited edition IPA from the Franciscan Well in Cork, after two months of pondering and assuring myself that it would still be there when I felt ready to financially commit to the only serving available - a whole litre in a nice swingtop bottle, at around €10. Not much to some, but I am only a student, and that means I have to do craft beer like a student - on the cheap.

Brewdog are probably one of the most recognisable craft beer brands around, with their distinctive packaging and apparent no-bullshit approach to brewing, but to be honest I haven't really been compelled to explore their wares. As such, it was mostly out of guilt and a strange sense of duty that I picked up two of their beers - Punk IPA and 5.A.M Saint. Besides, after watching this I find it damn near impossible not to like the brewers. 

Punk IPA was the first up, and it poured pretty much as anticipated: slightly hazy light amber, with a thick bubbly white head that doesn't stick around too long. On the nose you've got a waxy pine note dominating things, with elements of both citrus fruit and peel, and a very slight hint of wood or caramel. Really, it's hard to tell when the hops are so forward. No surprises there either, then. The aroma is more or less imitated by the taste, with refreshing light fruitiness paving the way for a nice hoppy bitterness, with bread malt and clove hiding out somewhere in the bite. This is a solid IPA, and it went well with the mildly spicy fajita I had it with,  though in truth, it's not really something to write home about.

Next is 5 A.M Saint, described as an amber ale. However, it's less amber than the Punk, and more a dark copper, with a nice fluffy tan head. The aroma at first seemed to be almost identical to the Punk, with pine and peel hops dominating, but after a while you start to notice that there appears to be a much stronger malt character to this beer, as well as a more potent spiciness. This is confirmed upon tasting, as caramel, coffee and liquorice make brief but effective appearances. This is the better of the two beers, and one well worth a try.

I'm still only learning to love hops the way many others do, because although I've not been the biggest fan of hoppy beers, I believe I just need to find the one that makes the breakthrough and gets me really interested.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

#55: Guinness Foreign Extra (incl. rambling about Guinness)

Guinness is a company I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, they make and sell one of the worst beers I've tasted and not only that, they've managed to make it their best seller. Guinness Draught is horrid no matter how much pint-pulling expertise the barman claims to have, and this has marred my view of the brewing giant. Recently, having come across a 4-pack of their new 'Black Lager', I immediately made my mind up that it was toss and moved on with my life, without so much as sniffing a drop. What's more, it's unlikely that I ever will, considering you've to commit to a 4-pack to try it. If nothing else it's a marker of how I feel about Guinness. It's not about principle or ideals or anything like that, it's just what I've come to expect from a brewer who seems to no longer need to put the effort in. On the other hand, however, you've got Guinness Foreign Extra. This reasonably priced and readily available 7.5% stout is one of the things that makes me look twice at the Guinness harp icon; once with head shaking disapproval, and once with an inexplicable pride. Also, their marketing and iconography has always been top notch, from old-timey ads as Gaeilge, to modern commercials with Micheal Fassbender. I especially like the sneaky wink that suggests that as soon he's finished the reconciliation pint with his buddy, he's almost certainly going to ride that girl he was with.

OK, maybe I'm bigging it up quite a bit here - it's not even my favourite stout. I was just excited that I could pick up a Guinness in Dunnes Stores for around €2 and thoroughly enjoy it back home. Don't let me convince you that this is the only good Guinness product though - Guinness Extra Stout (Original) is a fine drink, and represents great value for money, while Guinness Special Export, made chiefly for export to Europe, is something else entirely. I'm only now developing the same enthusiasm for stout as I've had for all other beers, so you can imagine how I felt about the style back when I started out in craft beer. Furthermore, you can imagine how under-prepared I was for a stout of such intensity as the Special Export, and I'm ashamed to say that my first bottle went down the drain. May she rest in peace.

Forgive my distraction.

Guinness Foreign Extra pours absolute pitch black with a two to three finger dark tan head. This is exactly how I like my stouts to look. Forget that artificially acquired thick white cream on top of the draught stuff, this is a truly gorgeous beer. Equally impressive is the aroma - an extremely well balanced and complex selection of roasted coffee and chocolate malt with liquorice and herbal qualities, as well as a nice fresh grassy hop smell. There's also a curious similarity to a Belgian Quad or strong dark ale. This is replicated in the taste, with dark fruit and brown sugar sweetness softening the intense coffee and smoke tastes that remind you you're drinking an Irish stout. Chocolate and toffee malt also make an appearance, and there's a slight bitterness to the end of the sup, followed by a mild alcohol heat. The body is medium, edging on full, and that's about the only weak point of the beer.

While it's not as complex, deep or mind-blowing as some stuff I've had in the past (including stouts), it's very enjoyable and truly satisfying, with a good complexity and depth of it's own. Try it if you haven't. 

If you have, why not try it again?

#54: Chimay White

I had this one quite a while back, and at the time I wasn't completely sure what I was drinking. It came in a gift pack of a 750ml  bottle (labelled Cinq Cents) and a minuscule tasting glass, with a very reasonable price tag. Not too long after, I learned about my Dubbles, Tripels and Quads and came to appreciate each style differently, sampling the other Trappist and Abbey incarnations of the styles. Since then I've been looking back in curiousity, wondering what I would make of the Tripel now that I had some grounds for comparison and some sort of familiarity with the style. On Friday I decided I wouldn't wait any longer and bought myself a small stubby bottle.

Chimay White pours a hazy honey colour with a large puffy off-white head and a fair amount of carbonation. A twang of sharp yeast is the first thing I pick up on the aroma, with a malty caramel note on the follow-up, but both are dwarved by the fruity elements of the beer. Citrus and grapefruit with hints of banana make me think I should be drinking this out in the sun, if only we had some. My favourite thing to find in a tripel is a caramel or toffee malt note, and it was duly delivered right at the front of the taste, followed by an equally satisying bread malt flavour. Citrus banana and grapefruit once again make an appearance, but I find it's more spicy than juicy, with dots of clove throughout the middle and finish. Oddly enough - and surprisingly to me - there's a quiet but defined orange peel bitterness hiding somewhere in the taste. This is something I'd only really experienced in a tripel with the very hop-forward Slaapmutske Tripel. Finally, there's a candy-like sweetness that goes well with the syrupy alcohol finish. The body's medium to full, and overall it's a very satisfying tripel.

This is an enjoyable beer, but I have to warn you not to make the same mistake I did - do not serve it straight from the fridge. In fact, if I was drinking this again (which I probably will) I wouldn't chill it at all.

Another beer I had on Friday was the Chimay Quadrupel. This blew me away first time round, so I was eager to see how I'd take to it now that I've had the Westvleteren, St Bernardus and Rochefort Quads for comparison. Notes weren't taken, but I have to say it was a slight disappointment. The flavours and complexity I loved were all there, but the whole experience was a bit too rough around the edges. I can't help but think this would be a stunning beer in a couple of years or even less.

If anyone's aged a Chimay Grande Reserve let me know how it went. I have a feeling it would compete with any of the aforementioned three after a little bit of smoothing out.

Friday, 6 July 2012

#53: Rebel Red

Finally, as a beer enthusiast and blogger I find myself present and paying attention when something beery happens in my area. Fair enough, Elbow Lane started up recently, but even then I missed the cue to write a timely review of their first beer, Angel Stout. My ambition is to change this slack blogging and to actually experience these things when and as they happen. For now, Angel Stout and the other two forthcoming beers will have to wait for coverage on my lowly blog, because I have something that may actually be news.

OK, probably not.

Rebel Red is an Irish Red Ale brewed by the Franciscan Well brewpub in my own Cork City. It's one of their five standard beers, so it's been around quite a while. Not exactly new then. However, it's only now that they've started bottling it. Distribution started on Monday and last night I finally got my act together and tried my own bottle from Bradley's.

First of all, they did a lovely job with the packaging. It pours a dark rebellious red (sorry), with a nice creamy off-white head that has good retention and leaves a nice speckled lace down the glass. This is all fed by the very active carbonation streaming up from the bottom of the glass. On the nose, malt arrives first. Biscuit and bread malt with hints of caramel that develop into toffee slabs as time goes on and the beer heats up. It's not all malt though - hops live here too, providing a slight bitter note and a decent fruitiness. The taste is gorgeous, and more or less picks up where the aroma left off. Malt-forward with wood smoked toffee giving way to juicy citrus and banana, a touch of bitterness, and a finish that's all nutty and grainy. Light to medium bodied without being thin or watery, this is a very well made beer.

Irish Red Ale is a style that is very hit and miss with me, and I have to say it's usually a wide miss. This is different though. I've had the stuff on tap before but rather like Howling Gale Ale from Eight Degrees, it's just a much more mature or balanced beer from the bottle. This may just be my obsession with choosing my own favourite serving temperature, but either way it's a beer I enjoy much better at home. 

Which reminds me, I completely forgot to write up on the bottled Howling Gale...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

#52: Beer and Curry - Round 2 (1) and Update

Finally had my Warsteiner with a nice curry, and I'm calling this meal Round 2, as the first retrospective 'round' with Budweiser Budvar went ridiculously well.

This time round, it wasn't so spectacular. Warsteiner Premium Verum is a German Pilsener that pours like a pint of piss. This may not sound exceptionally appetizing, but for a pilsener I really don't mind the urine look. A 2-3 finger head quickly becomes a film, which in turn becomes absolutely nothing. On the nose is wet straw or corn... Really, I don't know. It smells like adjuncts, and beyond that there's no discernible aroma. The taste is equally nondescript, but it's just sweet enough with that syrupy element to hold my interest. It's not as refreshing or clean as I'd hope for when eating hot food, but it provides just enough bubbles and coolness to satisfy me and compliment the curry until the food's gone. When the plate is empty, the remaining sups of slightly warmed-up Warsteiner are considerably less enjoyable. 

I'd pick this up over any of the major international macros any day. This is definitely one to quaff cold, and in that particular arena it delivers absolute perfection - low taste, low budget and requiring zero levels of attention to drink. What more should we expect from Germany's 4th best-selling beer brand?

In other news I managed quite the beer haul over the past few days, and there are some very interesting things coming up. With this Warsteiner gone, as well as last night's second bottle of Young's Double Chocolate Stout (which I enjoyed much more than the first one), the only remnants of the collection I photographed and posted on the blog are the five remaining Westvleteren 12s. Safe to say I'm very excited about taking tasting notes over the coming weeks.

On a side note, say what you will about Guinness, but how good does their toucan souvenir pint glass look filled with Young's DCS?


#51: Few Cans?

I've recently been seeing more canned English ale cropping up in supermarkets - Tesco's world/craft beer thing in the past month or so brought in London Pride, Abbot Ale and Ruddle's County all in the street drinker's vessel - and while I would usually go for the bottle, the cans tend to be less than €2 a pop so it is a good way to get around a few ales.

First up is Greene King's Abbot Ale. The colour seemed pretty familiar, and after a moment of pondering I put my finger on it: Lucozade. It's lightly carbonated and has a creamy 2-finger slice of head. On the nose, toffee malt is pretty strong at first. Caramel and bread-like yeast follow up, with the fresh grassy hop aroma actually developing over time - usually I find this is the other way round. I wouldn't say the beer has a definite fruity character, but there are little suggestions otherwise. Upon sipping, I realise there are indeed small fruity elements mixed here and there with the nutty toffee malt and bitter finish. It's very drinkable, if not a bit flat. I concede this may have been the pour, but either way, the body and overall drinking experience deteriorates over time. Fairly standard, probably won't be trying again, but if I do, I think I'd go for the bottle.

Next up is Ruddles County, another ale that Tesco recently got in in both can and bottle, and once again I opted here for the €2 can. Lucozade again comes to mind, but thankfully that's just on the appearance. On the nose, it's very malt-heavy at first, with a nutty toffee character dominating and fresh citrus zest hop notes hiding underneath. Woody toffee malts are again on the front of the taste, with citrus, grapefruit and apple following up and offering a nice bitterness, and gorgeous nutty biscuit flavour finishing things off. It's very smooth and drinkable, but like the Abbot, it deteriorates quite a bit as time goes on, making it downright unenjoyable after around halfway through. Also like the Abbot, I don't think I'll be trying this one again anytime soon.

Finally, a beer I didn't pick up in Tesco, but in off-licence chain Carry Out. Hobgoblin came in what I perceived as a quirky lightweight 440ml can. Unlike the previous two, this pours very dark, but is quite clearly ruby red when held to light. Deep malts dominate the aroma, just as in the bottled version. These are characterised by sticky toffee and caramel, with floral and citrus hops hidden in the folds of malt. The aroma is matched almost perfectly by the taste, with nice dark wooden chocolate and toffee flavours giving way to dark and citrus fruits, with a mild bitter finish. The body is probably the best of the three cans, and the drinkability lasts longer. Not bad from the can, but Hobgoblin costs around €2 from  a bottle anyway, so that would still be my serving of choice.

I didn't take notes on the London Pride, and like the Hobgoblin it's good, but not as good as from the bottle. Both are better than the canned Abbot Ale or Ruddles County. I think this is a fairly worthwhile experiment, as canned ale is becoming more common in non-specialist outlets in Ireland. In bulk, it can work out a good deal cheaper, but I've yet to find a can that I really enjoy.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

#50: Cooper's Sparkling Ale

I'm finally nearing completion of my notebook catch-up. After this beer, I only have my Euro 2012 notes to get through and then it's on to taking new notes! Huzzah!

For now though, I have my first Australian beer to look at.

Coopers Sparkling Ale pours a lovely honey tone, with a slight haziness and a big three-finger head that turns to a film in next to no time. It's quite carbonated - as the name suggests - and it sticks to the glass pretty well. Surprisingly, there was a massive amount of sediment in the bottle that was just impossible to keep out of the glass. On the nose it's citrus fruit en force, with a quiet malt caramel undertone and a sherbert sweetness. Also, I have to say there was a slight stinging smell of piss, though that may have been the ridiculous amount of sediment, to be fair. The taste is equally strange, with an odd, sharp, artificial candy-fruit taste underpinning the nicely balanced citrus and malt flavours, to the point of being generally unpleasant. However, as time goes by the taste definitely improves, again leading me to blame the yeast sediment, which by now has begun to settle. The body's OK, if not a bit too fizzy.

Overall, a fairly average beer that could have been much better. At first I thought it was an off bottle - the sediment really threw me off - but taking a look around the net this seems to be the normal amount of floaters. So, the beer hasn't blown me away, but I endeavour to try more from the brewer in good time, as well as more from Australia.

Anyone know any good Aussie beers?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

#49: Euro 2012 of Beer - FINAL!!!

Finally, here it is. The moment of truth. The post we've all been waiting for and that many of us thought would never come. 

Alas, chronic laziness and terminal distraction are no match for beer lust, so here we stand, at the final match of my mission to find my favourite beer from any of the countries competing in UEFA's Euro 2012. Indeed, we may question the legitimacy of that particular competition (I think they may have stolen the whole 'Euro 2012' idea from me, replacing beer with actual footballing nations) but my own competition is just and true. 

Whatever, here goes.

ENGLAND - LONDON PRIDE: Very fresh hop aroma from this, if not a little subdued and all but drowned out by malt - something avid readers will know I actually appreciate. Speaking of the malt, it's nutty, toffee chocolate malt that dominates the first nose, with a nice hint of spice kicking in as time ticks by. The taste is even better - fully flavoured and wonderfully layered for such a light and easy-going beer. Soft, warm toffee and biscuit malt notes, a fruity underlayer and a nice bitter slap at the end. I have to say, this needs to be enjoyed at room temperature (or just below) for maximum effect.

FRANCE - 3 MONTS: This lovely stuff pours a very clear gold with a big fluffy white head that dissipates fairly soon. Carbonation is pretty active, too, although that may have something to do with the etched 'D' in my Duvel glass. On the nose, the first thing I'm picking up is a champagne yeast, followed by a grassy hop aroma with hints of citrus zest, herbs and spice. Very light and fresh smelling, something that really surprised  me the first time round. Malt kicks in on the tongue, with slightly sweet bread and caramel flavours bowing out to nice grainy wheat and barley flavours. It's refreshing and fairly easy-going, and a great beer to drink in the sun, all of which defies the 8.5% ABV.  However, that alcohol does make an appearance in the syrupy finish that provides a touch of heat.

As is befitting of a final, this is a tough one to call. Originally, I thought the price point and supermarket accessibility of London Pride would give it a slight advantage, but on this final tasting, I find it hard to downplay the already understated beauty of 3 Monts.

As such, I see no other alternative to a France win, and without a handball in sight. 


#48: Euro 2012 Beer Semi Finals

It took me a while to work out the tasting of these four beers, so while I was at it, I decided on the overall winner...

But that'll come later on.

First of all, we have the semi finals to get through, so let's see who'll be making up the final later on tonight.

SF 1 - Ireland v England: This was always gonna be a tough one. On the one hand, Ireland's Carraig Dubh is a thoroughly enjoyable, complex, flavoursome and rich porter. It succeeded in an area where very few have done the job for me. That, and the fact that I genuinely just love the flavour and aroma I get from the beer, is the reason Ireland have come so far in the competition. On the other hand, however, is England's London Pride. While the complexity and intensity does not quite match that of the porter (at least not anymore), my enjoyment of it's layered malt, fruit and hop flavours has not diminished a bit. It's incredibly satisfying and refreshing, with a drinkability that I find hard to match. 

Clearly, both beers have winning points, but I suppose the best test is as follows; if I was to go shopping for beer, which of these two would I pick up? Around 7 or 8 times out of 10, I'd go for London Pride. It's consistent, reliable, and I never question buying a bottle. As such, England go through.

SF 2 - Germany v France: I'm only realising now that these two matchups are rather similar. There's the new, exciting beer that I tried and that really impressed me in the form of the French 3 Monts, and there's an old favourite, a beer that I buy almost automatically when I shop for beer. The thing is, there's a significant difference between my opinions of Paulaner and London Pride. Both are my favourite beers in their respective styles, both managed to really impress me and stand head an shoulders above their peers. But in the past 6-8 months, my tastes have changed considerably. I no linger look for Hefes and Wits the way I used to. Instead, I look to explore Belgian, English or American ales, even including porters and stouts. Often, this leads to me finding a style that I had not known existed before, like a Bière de Garde, represented wonderfully by the great 3 Monts. This beer is satisfying to no end. I've said it before but I'll say it again - it just feels so nourishing. This beer tastes like it's made on a farm, for farmers to drink. And it's surprisingly drinkable and refreshing for it's alcohol content, yet the body never feels too light. Brilliant beer...

And there we have it. England will play France to find out which nation in Euro 2012 has my favourite beer. Oh the excitement!