I was planning on posting during the past week but I just didn't have the time. Thankfully, my time was all filled up with drinking and eating in Dublin.
|Chocolate Truffle Stout|
First stop in the capital is The Porterhouse Temple Bar, especially considering it's stone's throw distance from the hotel. It's always quiet early in day and it's a great place to sit for a couple of hours, especially if you're trying their seasonal Chocolate Truffle Stout. This nitro stout pours thick and black with a tell-tale creamy head. The nose promises plenty of roasty goodness laced to death with cocoa powder, and on an empty stomach, I start to feel like it could be a bit much. However, it's quite the opposite. It's very light, and the chocolatey character doesn't really take off like you'd expect. More interesting are the vanilla and hazelnut notes in the finish, and it's certainly a beer worth trying. For the all-out chocolate stout experience though, it still has to be Brooklyn for me.
The beer on offer was their Winter seasonal Vienna Dark Lager, so I went for a pint. Slightly roasted malts and a generic sweet lager graininess roll off the aroma, with just a hint of a sharp hop bite. Things are better rounded in the tasting of the beer, with grassy hops and even a touch of smoke highlighting a lovely, lightly sweet malt backbone. This is actually quite delicious, I went back for seconds later in the trip.
On cask was Pure Gold, from Purity in Warwickshire. It's nice enough, if a bit boring. Grainy and inoffensive, with a woody, nutty finish that just about prevents you from falling asleep mid-sip. I'm all for the balanced session beer, but this just takes you a bit too close to blandness.
|Purity Pure Gold|
A short stop in Porterhouse Central later in the trip yielded some Hop Head on cask, something I think everyone should try and get if they can. Having only tried the bottled version, I never fully appreciated the power of the hops as I did form the cask, while never feeling the beer was any bit unbalanced.
Finding ourselves up Capel Street, we decided to see what The Black Sheep was all about. In the end, it was a bit of a mixed experience for me. The tap range is great, and my Voyager NZ was beautiful. It's loaded with tropical fruit on the nose, with a hint of the underlying candy-like sweetness betraying the balance to be tasted later on. Those strong, fruity hops take centre stage, but there's plenty of the chewy malt backbone to keep them under control. Lovely stuff, highly recommended. I wish the venue was as good, but I'm afraid I found the atmosphere - and welcome - a bit cold, like I wasn't supposed to be there, not to mention the very expensive drinks. I thought the Galway Bay beers at least would be reasonable, but I still paid €5.50 for a pint. As far as I can remember, nothing on the beer list went below that €5 mark. I'd intended on visiting twice, but it was hard to justify those prices and a 10-minute walk when the Porterhouse, Bull and Castle and Czech Inn were all on my doorstep (or at least, the hotel's).
Speaking of The Czech Inn, we decided to pop in for a late evening drink while everywhere else in the Temple Bar area was packed to the rafters. Here, we found a pretty empty bar and a cosy seating arrangement for a quiet one. Mine was a pint of Zlatý Bažant, a fairly bog-standard lager from Slovakia that has a drinkability and light sweetness that had me quaffing faster than I'd planned. My beer may be average, but I do recommend The Czech Inn. The bar consists of the usual Irish pub suspects, the slightly less usual golden Czech suspects, along with the lovely Kozel Dark and, of all things, O'Hara's IPA. So, there's something for everyone, especially if you're avoiding the Temple Bar crowd. That's the only disadvantage the area has - Farrington's looked a lovely place, with Chimay Tripel and Gouden Carolus on tap (the only Belgian taps I'd seen for the entire trip), but nothing kills the mood like a guy with a mic and guitar singing 'I'll Tell Me Ma' to a packed pub. No doubt there was some dodgy Irish dancing at some stage.
The Bull and Castle isn't exactly quiet, but it's big, dark and sensible, so you can take your drink and be left to it. Seeing some interesting Irish taps I'd not had before, I went for a four-beer platter. The Franciscan Well Hopfenweisse was my first of the style, so I was puzzled by it's mix of typical hefe fare with strong waxy bitterness. Interesting, but not an instant hit. I'd heard much about Sabotage's shortcomings in the hop department, and I must say that I agree. It's very fruity and has a nice sticky malt backbone, but while the hops are there and tasty, there's just not quite enough to take it into memorable IPA territory. Once that get's sorted though, I think it'll be a very good beer indeed. I hadn't seen Rower's Red around before now, so I said I'd give it a go. Unfortunately, like so many other Irish reds before, it just fails to get me excited in any way, with it's toffee and nutty characteristics ranging from bland to, at times, plain unpleasant. Finally, Metalman's Equinox, an incarnation of their Chameleon range. It's got a nice, refreshing biscuity graininess to it, with highlights of citrus and even a champagne-like touch of fruit. Strangely enough, I found it rather bland at first, but after the second and third sips grew to love it. Of the four, it's the only that I would drink a pint of, and I now regret that I didn't. Hopefully it'll be around Cork for a little while.
|L to R: Fran Well Hopfenweisse, Sabotage IPA, Rower's Red, Equinox|