Wednesday, 31 December 2014

#250: Golden Pints 2014


2014 hasn't been the busiest beer year for the Destrier; what little travelling that was done was not beer-orientated and the cursory trip to Dublin didn't even happen. As such, though I drank my weight sure enough, there's less of a palette to choose from than I'd like. Still, the tricky business of selecting the best must go on.

Best Irish Draught Beer: Eight Degrees Simcoe and White Hag's Black Boar. Trouble Brewing's Graffiti, the Full Irish and Kinnegar's Black Bucket also make good cases, but Simcoe's juicy hop front and sugary, lightly spicy malt body made it very hard to turn down when on tap in the Bierhaus, while the Black Boar immediately announced itself as one of the most impressive Irish stouts I've ever had.

Best Irish Canned/Bottled Beer: There's nothing particularly jumping out at me in terms of exclusively bottled beers, but one I bought plenty of has again been Simcoe. Always tasty and always well priced. The White Hag and Wicklow Wolf bottles also made good impressions across the board, with particular merit in the IPA from both and the Samhain Oktoberfest lager from the White Hag, simply because of the style of the beer is one that is hard to get a hold of at the best of times, and when it's done well (as it is here) it's a real winner.

Best Irish Cask Beer: There really aren't many to choose from, even though the Bierhaus try to right that wrong. Dry-hopped Kinsale Pale Ale is always good from the cask, but nothing showed off the serving style better than the Franciscan Well's Coffee Porter way back at the start of the year. Smooth, round, warming mocha deliciousness that puts the bottled form to shame.

Best Overseas Draught: I accidentally haven't written about it yet, but the two year old Boon Gueuze on tap at the Bierhaus was one of the most delicious draught beers I've ever tasted. Cidery, sour, sherberty lemon curd delivered perfectly from the keg. Not far behind it is the Kriek of the same age, from the same brewer, with tart cherry rounded out with deep marzipan and cream soda. Hoppin' Frog's B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher made an incredible rich, complex and warming imperial stout, but its price and availability make it an impractical choice.

Best Overseas Canned/Bottled Beer: It has to be Hanssens Artisinaal Oude Kriek. Sitting and drinking this in the sun was one of the most enjoyable quiet, beery moments of the year. Honourable mentions for  way back in January and some 2012 Chimay Grande Réserve.

Best Overall Beer: Impossible and unfair to choose.

Best Pumpclip/Label: The design of the White Hag bottle labels perfectly reflect the boldly flavoured beers within.

Best Irish Brewery: Eight Degrees. Amber Ella made a return, as did Hurricane. We got Simcoe, Vic Secret and Nelson Sauvin, the brilliant Full Irish and finally the winter trio of Dubbel, DIPA and Imperial Stout. There were others throughout the year but these are fresh in my mind, and the regular Howling Gale is still a bottle to buy plenty of. And you know what? They were all good.

Best Overseas Brewery: A smattering of specials and some deliciously fresh (and rebranded) Jackhammer make Brewdog one of the few non-Irish breweries I've endorsed more than unusual throughout the year. Only by a whisker, though.

Best New Brewery Opening 2014: A dead heat between The White Hag's U.S.-flavoured ballsiness and Wicklow Wolf's mastering of a number of styles right from the off. Mescan were not far behind, and their Belgian-styled farmhouse brewery is probably the most fascinating brewing project in the country.

Pub of the Year: For choice, value, service and lack of loud noise: the Bierhaus.

Beer Festival of the Year: Again I only made it to the Franciscan Well festivals, and the best is as always the Easterfest. Those who attended this year's RDS fest will have something to say about that.

Supermarket of the Year: Dunnes Stores seemed to constantly have 4 Schneider Weisse for €9 this year, which is a bloody good deal. The presence of Howling Gale also made it a handy place to do the shopping.

Independent of the Year: Same as last year, Bradley's. The selection continues to grow, and the new beers cropping up over Ireland and beyond always find their way to North Main Street before long.

Best Beer Book/Magazine of the Year: An easy pick; Sláinte

Best Beer Blog/Website: The blog I read most of was again The Beer Nut, but visits to The Tale of the Ale, Beermack and Irish Beer Snob were constantly taken, and picking a favourite is simply a case of selecting the most active. Which I cannot do. The wonderful Belgian Smaak must also be mentioned here.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: This is the year that I discovered mature Gouda, and proceeded to have it with more or less every beer I could.

In 2015 I'd Most Like To...
...live up to 2014's ambitions to go UK beering, with a particular eye to Scotland. More urgently, though, is to increase blogging activity, which has slowed down over the past few months.

As ever, thanks for reading and have a happy 2015!

Monday, 22 December 2014

#249: Imperial Brew Ceremony

Eight Degrees did good work with their Back to Black series last winter, and this year they have done something similar; a trio of strong beers just in time for Christmas, under the moniker of A Very Imperial Winter.

The first of the three I had was the Belgian Dubbel. As far as I can remember, this is the first time the Mitchelstown outfit has made a fist of one of the classic Belgian styles that are so well suited to this time of year. It pours a clear, dark red with a cream head, and was described to me at least a couple of times as Christmas pudding in a glass. This isn't immediately apparent to the nose however; it gives plenty of yeasty, fruity stuff you'd expect from the style, with a good dollop of red and green apple syrup, raisins, cherries and, rather conspicuously, soft over-ripe banana and clove. There are flashes of Chimay, but no more than that. The taste is almost exactly as the above, although it is dominated by sweet, estery banana and clove elements that remove it too far from the warming dark Belgian sphere and too close to the lighter Belgian and Bavarian Venn diagram of flavours. Still, it remains enjoyable most of the way down, before the tangy sweetness becomes a bit more work than a warming, smooth Dubbel should be. 

I got a better response from the Double Irish, presumably the Full Irish but doubled up, which is fine by me. The aroma is juicy, bold and sharply bitter, belying some aggressive hopping. Lots of grapefruit and orange marmalade make up the guts of it, with darker mandarin and tangerine stuff hiding in the folds of the sweet fruit, along with mango, a hint of pine and just a smidgen of Starbursts. The citrus fruit explosion keeps exploding on the palate, and it is bitter. Again it's all orange and mandarin, with more oily pithy skins suggesting orange essential oil, along with grapefruit and all the other usual suspects delivered with aplomb. Like the Full Irish upon which it's based, the malt backing is recessive, though at this ABV there are some guest appearances from caramel and toffee roundness, but nothing to seriously upset the hopheads. 
Excellent beer.

Finally we have a Russian Imperial Stout, a style they brewed convincingly enough last year as part of the aforementioned Back to Black series. This one makes all the right impressions from the off; it is ridiculously good looking with a pitch black body and a dark and dense brown head. As we know, however, there is more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking, and this beer evokes that with its deep chocolate,chewy toffee, brown sugar, and a tickle of fresh ground coffee beans; all warm, subtle, complexity. There’s not a touch of the 9% alcohol either here or on the palate, where it’s rich and chocolatey again, with more caramel and brown sugar than you can shake a stick at, as well as a touch of raisiny goodness at the finish. 
Like last year’s version, it isn’t the boldest or brashest of imperial stouts you’ll have, but it’s certainly a satisfying winter warmer.

Three well worth trying this Christmas, with at least one big winner.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

#248: Lost and Found

Trawling the notebook is bad enough without trying to find groups of beers you know you intended to review together. Thankfully, these two made themselves available right away.

Founders Curmudgeon catches my eye with ease in Bradley's. The old man on the label - probably the titular curmudgeon - and the stated use of molasses and oak ageing is enough to get my money.

At home, the beer is a surprisingly bright red. Unsurprisingly, the nose is a heady phenolic mix of syrup, molasses, sweet overripe fruit, macerated berries and glazed cherries. The aroma does approach the dreaded soupy heat, but at a very safe distance. Orange chocolate and vanilla become more apparent with time. The palate gets the full brunt of the toffee, with vanilla and chocolate following up. The body is slick and thick but carries with it a pleasantly sprite carbonation. With time, marzipan and treacle come forth, before an intense finish of burnt brown sugar. 

It may sound messy, but don't take my word(s) for it; this is actually a quite subtle beer that is dominated by sweetness, but never overpowering. The slight heat and great depth of the malts might not be everyone's cup of tea (with good reason; this stuff is all too easy to get horribly wrong) but Curmudgeon gets it just about right.

Next is Founders Breakfast Stout. It is as black as they come and forms a dark tan/brown head that fizzles away to nothing in no time. The aroma is not as immediate and aggressive as the Curmudgeon, with dry coffee, chocolate and a slight tang of smoke creating a olfactory presence that is actually quite light, and even a little bit Irish. Sticky malts coat the mouth with toffee chocolate, raisins and figs, before everything crescendos in a substantial and lingering coffee-like bitterness. It's good and it beats the much lauded Mikkeler breakfast stout, but the same or less money could be spent on a more complex and invigorating strong stout.

Still, Founders' performance sustains its consistent high standard.


Friday, 5 December 2014

#247: NewDog

Brewdog are always reliable and Weihenstephaner are makers of some of the best weissbier readily available to us on this here island. As such, a collaboration brew between the two seemed a safe enough bet and an interesting mix of old and new-world beer styles.

As you could guess, that beer is called India Pale Weizen and, as you could also guess, is intended as a hopped-up version of the German style. 

The aroma offers soft weissbier fare and a light fruity bitterness, but really not much else. Things don't stay as boring on the palate though, with the hops playing predominantly crunchy herbal notes off the sweetness of the malt base. Mint and coriander are the most interesting special guests, with the fruit character remaining somewhere between sweet lemon and pineapple; there's no real sign of the Simcoe used in the making.

Not the greatest beer you'll taste from either of these brewers, but there's still plenty to enjoy.

The next two are new additions to the Brewdog core range, and both came resplendent in their new packaging.
Brixton Porter is a proper black and tan porter, giving the nose some burnt malt and smoke, milk chocolate, a touch of savoury woody malt and a tickle of coffee bitterness. It's flipping good to taste too, opening with a round of chocolate and smoke before coffee and malted milk biscuit make for an incredibly rounded drink made all the better by the smooth, slick mouthfeel upon which it's delivered. Ridiculously drinkable and balanced without letting up in the flavour stakes. Top stuff.

This. Is. Lager. is a lager, obviously, and much was made of the bold claims about 'reclaiming' and 'perfecting' the world's most popular beer style upon its release. Whatever the case, the beer received plenty of praise and I was happy to get it in a glass before me. Like many of Europe's perfectly-fine-but-apparently-not-good-enough-for-Brewdog lagers, it's clear, gold, and doesn't smell of much. The taste is all Hobnobs and golden syrup underneath, with fresh cut grass, elderflower and lemon peel highlights on top. The finish is anything but 'crisp' or 'clean', leaving behind a delightful long-lasting bitterness. Yet more top stuff.

With craft beer in the UK and Ireland seemingly growing exponentially, Brewdog have the balls, brains and the beer to prove that they're still as relevant as ever. Tip of the hat to them.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

#246: The Promise

November was completely blog-free, but it was by no means beer free. With a thesis and a house move coming to a close, it's time to get back on the Destrier, to ride irresponsibly forth to Christmas. 

This is a special bottling of White Gypsy's 100% Irish beer and, according to the gorgeously screen-printed blurb on the back of the bottle, is less than a month old.

There is no mention on the bottle of any particular style, and at first this annoyed me
What glass do I put it in? The bottle suggests that it's to be taken by the pint but I would prefer a fresh hopped pale ale or IPA in something kinder to the nose. Only, I don't know that it is a pale ale or IPA. In fact, I don't even know if 'fresh and hoppy' is the goal here. This beer promised nothing.

As it turns out, it pretty much delivers. Emerald pours a pale cloudy orange, with an understated light and grassy nose akin to a decent pils. Wait, is that some citrus hoppiness coming through? Just for a singular whiff, before it turns to lemony biscuit. There's not a lot going on on the palate, just the same lemon and biscuit malt crispness. It's plenty refreshing and drinkable, but really not engaging.

Unfortunately, the concept of the beer proves more interesting than the beer itself.

Friday, 31 October 2014

#245: Fear the Hag

A spooky coincidence it was that just as i was beginning to wonder about the White Hag of Sligo, some of their beers appeared both in Bradley's and in the Bierhaus.

The first of the bottled pair I picked up was Bran & Sceolan, the IPA of the range. At 7.2%, White Hag have thankfully resisted the urge to label this a double IPA. After pouring copper, this beer gives you an aroma of phwoar. It's sharp, juicy, dank and loaded with pine, grapefruit, mango, peach and a mouth watering soft and ripe sweetness. There's more of this sweetness to taste, with malty caramel supporting stone fruit, strawberry and orange marmalade. That's not to say that the beer is shy of the bitter side; the finish delivers the most concentrated attack of the hop profile, with grapefruit and lemon zest left lingering long after the beer is gone. 
A truly fantastic IPA.

I haven't had a good Oktoberfestbier or Märzen since Ochtoberfest from Eight Degrees, and seeing the style brewed by another Irish brewery who also find themselves free from the obligation to brew a slightly stronger Helles was a promising prospect. Like the IPA, Samhain pours copper with a yellowy white head. Unlike the IPA, Samhain screams TOFFEE MALT at your nose. Slabs of the stuff dominates the aroma, but not without letting a grassy, herbal hop highlight through. The palate too gets toffee, loads of raisins and a touch of coppery punctuation. It's full and hearty at 6.2% but plenty drinkable. My notes finish with 'I love this', and there's really no more to add.

In the Bierhaus then I found myself sitting before a tap of Black Boar, the oatmeal imperial stout that was so well received at the RDS this year. Like all well behaved stouts it pours black with a tan head. The Sober Destrier found this to smell like cold mocha, and I have to agree, even though she meant it in an unpleasant way and I certainly didn't. Chocolate, malty biscuit (read: Maltesers) and red and dark berries are delivered on a full, smooth silky body, with a touch of alcohol heat to finish. Smoke, sticky treacle and maple syrup are all hiding in there too. This is one intense beer with a good deal of complexity, and dare I say it, one of the (if not the) best stouts in the country?

Such a beer is hard to follow, so that evening finished with some Lagavulin 16. Hot, blue turf smoke dominate at first, but there's a surprising amount of caramel and vanilla sweetness to be found underneath. A delicious, phenolic experience. 

Of course, it wouldn't be Halloween without the obligatory pumpkin beer, and though I haven't yet finished exploring that end of things, I did find myself an 'imperial pumpkin ale' by the name of The Fear in Bradley's to go with my White Hag terrors. This is from Flying Dog, and at 9% they're clearly not taking the piss. It pours a surprisingly dark brown-black, and straight away delivers the official 'Pumpkin Beer Smell'. Nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, sweet allspice, vegetable, herbal stuff and a slight hint of coffee. The same is to be said about the taste, with plenty of the spice but done with relative subtely. Said spice lingers for ages but there does appear a great deal of that green, vegetable stuff and residual sugar sweetness in the middle. This is a weird beer, and I guess that's pretty much its raison d'être. There's nothing here you won't have tasted before in another pumpkin beer, but its delivered in just the right way; it is full, rich and genuinely enjoyable to drink, making it one of the most successful pumpkin beers I've had. 
That said, as with every other pumpkin beer, one is plenty.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, 20 October 2014

#244: On the Hop Yet Again

Recently I was lured into the Bierhaus to try some Kinnegar Black Bucket by some lascivious tweeting, and having been a longtime Rustbucket fan, I wasn't disappointed.

It pours pitch black with a creamy cream head and produces an aroma of sweet lime marmalade, citrus zest and lemon peel. As time goes on this becomes more tropical-like, with mango and blood orange on show. The palate gets a storm of citrus with mandarin, tangerine and grapefruit peel opening up for just a sliver of smooth, milky coffee bitterness. It's fruity and roasty and powered by some seriously inspired hopping. After the swallow there's a sort of second wind of coffee and herbal stuff. This is brilliant, palate-ravaging beer. Ronan in the Bierhaus loved the stout-like mouthfeel of it, and I see what he means; it's full-bodied and silky and makes the best possible use of the 6.5% ABV.

In the meantime Swingletree saison swung into action. Pale golden yellow with a big frothy head, it certainly looks like a good Belgian saison. Belgium is on the nose too; spicy, earthy, herbal stuff introduce lemongrass, coriander and menthol notes, with the whole thing backed up by a yeasty, wheaty base. On the palate there's plenty of lemon and biscuit with grainy malt and, thanks to the 7% ABV, a syrupy finish. The balance is splendid; mild sweetness, spice, tingly bitterness and the slightest trace of acidity, all the while remaining dangerously drinkable.

Rustbucket is the only Kinnegar regular that I'm a big fan of. Limeburner and the Devil's Backbone were decent but not exactly remarkable. Maddyroe was a step towards greatness and now, finally, Kinnegar are making the amazing beer they've been threatening to make for some time now.

For more Kinnegar gushery have look at Belgian Smaak's brilliant piece here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

#243: Pik of the Litter

Erdinger have long been my least favourite of the popular purveyors of German wheat beer, but having seen that there's some commendable brewing prowess in their Urweisse, and being a long-time devotee to the Aventinus cause, I reckon it's time Pikantus got its fair shake.

Pikantus is a dunkler weizenbock, so very much in the same vein as Aventinus. As expected, the brown murky beer gives plenty of soft, sweet over-ripe banana and just a hint of clove. Less expected is the slab of toffee and even an inkling towards roast coffee on the palate. This happens in spite of the citric acid and wild fruit sweetness that forms the basis of the bee. It's pretty substantial and would be well suited to winter, if a bit unsophisticated. For a wheat beer fix with plenty of character and stuff, it serves well. In terms of quality and worthiness, it surely occupies the higher end of Erdinger's output.

That said, I think I'll be sticking to Schneider.

Friday, 3 October 2014

#242: On the Rye-t Track

N17's Rye Ale is not new to me, though it certainly feels that way.

The first and only time I've tried this beer before is from a Bierhaus cask, and that time I wasn't unimpressed, but slightly confused. Dare I say, disappointed.
This is because in my mind's palate I'd built an expectation of this being a spicy, fruity number with perhaps some adventurous hopping. What I got, however, was a cloudy, earthy, malty beer that somehow managed to typify the best things about cask serving while falling in line with what I imagine to be a cask-virgin's greatest concerns; it's lack of carbonation and cellar temperature perfectly suited the beer's overall murkiness of both appearance and flavour.

Bottled N17 Rye Ale is much clearer to begin with, and a a few shades paler; this glass would be a dead ringer for Lucozade in any family pub. The nose doesn't find much outside of the husky, dry, sawdust graininess except for the slightest flash of some toffee malt depth. A million miles from the standard Irish red this isn't, yet the toffee malt that dominates the flavour does show some restraint in letting some of that grassy dryness through before falling away to reveal a lingering back of the mouth bitterness that seems to be the main play area for the rye and hops. It's here that, with time, the bitter, roasty, every so slightly peppery namesake makes itself known, but not quite enough to warrent a headline billing. At least, not for this palate.

Drinkable and enjoyable fare from N17 that I'd like to try from the keg, if not very exciting. 

A salute to the N17 crowd too for making granola bars and doggie treats with spent materials - why isn't everyone doing this and where can I buy the doggie treats!?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

#241: Up Kriek, With Paddle

This is a beer I've been waiting to have for over a year, since it was given to me by friend/reliable beer gifter Lachie for my 21st. At the time, he walked into the Abbott's and asked for a beer that his beer nerd friend probably won't have had, and was directed towards this, supposedly from the only case of such beer in the country. 
As it turns out, this was indeed sage advice.

Hanssens Artisinaal Oude Kriek pours a ruddy pink and attacks the nose with ridiculous amounts of juicy, sharp and tart cherry. There's sherbety sweet hints and some roundness underneath too; semi-sweet macerated fruit provides some aromatic balance for what is a mostly acidic nose, while, with time, some damp wood and sawdust develop to add to the generally enticing pungency. The palate too faces unrelenting attack, this time from a mouth puckering, eye watering, intensely satisfying sourness at the front akin to pure lemon juice, though here, the main player is still tart cherry. This is grounded by almondy roundness, sandalwood and a thirst-quenching wheat fullness, while the finish again produces lingering, refreshing sour notes. 

The overall effect here is of an acidic wash that fades in and out of potency, while allowing the more delicate flavours to shine in the middle.
Truly wonderful stuff, and the best of the style I've had so far.

Friday, 19 September 2014

#240: 888

Two weeks ago the Bierhaus celebrated their 8th birthday, and rather fittingly, they featured Eight Degrees heavily on their guest tap list to help things along. Sure enough, I was there.

The Irish Craft Beer and Cider Fest was going on in the RDS at the time, and two new beers the Mitchelstown outfit were exhibiting there were on tap here. First up was the third (and final) entry to the single hop series, this time with Nelson Sauvin in the starring role of a saison. It's pale, cloudy and orange and produces a gorgeous aroma of bitter lemon rind and curd, sweet pineapple and an acidic tang. I can't help but make comparisons with the Magic Stone Dog of the previous week, itself a hopped-up saison, and this beer comes out on top. Sharp, tangy acidity at the start, almost to the point of being cheesy, before abruptly switching to coriander and clove spiciness and a cool, herbal bitter finish that suggests flashes of mint. The ABV is an overshot 7.4%, but the beer remains far more drinkable than you'd think. Layered, refreshing and an outright success. 

The other beer on show was Alba Abú, a 'Scottish Independence ale' brewed with pine needle and heather, the effects of which are felt to varying degrees in the finished product, but that's not to say that it isn't delicious all the same. This dark red ale gives plenty of pine, grapefruit peel and sweet bubblegum on the nose while the flavour is propped up by a caramel backbone but supports a decently bitter, citrus fruit and piney hop presence; the piney-ness could be down to the addition of actual pine needle, but having never tasted a beer with pine needle added, I can't tell. Either way, there is pine. Of heather there's nary a whiff, but the 'green' leafy dryness at the finish may have something to do with it. A punchy opening peels off pretty early to feel a tad light, but never does the beer stop being delicious. Another success.

Pair these two with a silly amount of the phenomenally good Simcoe, and a good night was had by all. Eight cheers to the Bierhaus and Eight Degrees, two stalwart proponents of good beer in Cork.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

#239: Dogged

Four Corners recently had Jonny from Brewdog doing tasting sessions of new (at the time unreleased, apparently) Brewdog beers in both Bradley's and Bierhaus. I meant to attend both, but only made it to the Bierhaus. Here's how it went down.

On arrival, the guest Brewdog draught beers were revealed to be Dead Pony Club, Jackhammer (which was deliciously juicy) and spanking new Magic Stone Dog, billed as a saison-IPA hybrid and hopped with citra and amarillo.

Magic Stone Dog (a collaboration with Magic Rock and Stone, duh) smells ever so slightly sour in an acidic, citrusy sort of way. There's lemongrass and coriander from the off and as it warms it starts to produce more fruity, herbal notes, as well as some background bubblegum sweetness. For this nose, there's not much to suggest any IPA hybridization. The same can be said about the taste; there's more sharp sourness than you'd expect from a saison, but nothing wobbly. Wheaty and biscuity at its core, with lingering white pepper spiciness. The citra and amarillo seem unwilling to participate, but the beer is better off for it, leaving us with a ridiculously drinkable and refreshing beer. Definitely one to try.

While I had plenty of this beer and Jackhammer, I also strayed from the headliners, indulging first in some Cutthroat Porter from Odell. Just a half of this smoky sweet beauty was enough to convince me that I should have opted for the pint - especially at €5.30. It's silky milk chocoloate throughout with slightly rubbery, smoky stuff hiding here and there, and all delivered on a body reminiscent of Founders Porter. Lovely stuff.

Since having Stonewell on cask at last year's Easterfest, I've vowed never to pass up cask cider again. This time it was Tempted's Summer Sweet, and it was incredibly delicious. Sweet, vinous, slightly tart and eminently drinkable. The other non-Brewdog beer I indulged was the magnificent Hurricane. This year's version seems altogether more delicious than the initial bottled release here, showing trucks of pine needle, grapefruit pith and lime peel on a candied pineapple and biscuity sweet backbone. A perfect go-to IPA.

Since the other new Brewdog beers were only available in bottled form I picked them up the next day in Bradley's.

Another collaboration is U-Boat (above), this time with Victory Brewing, makers of the godlike Storm King. I like my porters drinkable but robust, so an ABV of 8.4% raised my eyebrow a bit; many brewers would be happy to slap the word 'imperial' onto the label with a number like that. Unsurprisingly it pours very dark with a nice tan head that fizzles away before long. The aroma is intense chocolate and dark fruits, while the smoke is a sting rather than a pungent burst. On first sipping the beer you get a coating, oily wash packed with salted caramel, chocolate, raisiny sweetness and, again, just a tickle of woodsmoke. Carbonation is very light, which only adds to the slick, stickiness of the beer. Nice as it was at first, finishing the bottle was a bit more work than I'd like; that texture coupled with a predominant sweetness does no favours for the beer's drinkability.

From there, we get to the 2014 edition of Mashtag; a beer cobbled together with ideas and suggestions from the online public; the style, hops and special ingredients were decided in this way, which is a great idea. The resulting beer is an imperial red ale with 'global hops', citrus zest and blood orange. Bring it on. The aroma is a beautiful punchy, juicy, bitter and fruity treat, with discernible blood orange, citrus peel and grapefruit atop thick slabs of toffee chocolate. The palate is gorgeous, opening first with chocolate orange peel and pithy bitterness, building to a hefty caramel and marmalade finish. A much more layered and enjoyable experience than the U-Boat, and well worth trying.

Hats off to Jonny, Four Corners and the Bierhaus, as well as the ever-reliable Bradley's for doing the event (s). Always nice to leave a pub with free swag.
If you see a man wearing a Brewdog hat and t-shirt around Cork, tell him to get a grip.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

#238: Beavering Away

The steadily increasing flow of good UK craft beer into Ireland is to me the one most exciting aspects of the Irish beer scene (obviously outside of the growing number of homegrown breweries making beer that gets better by the year).

One of the latest British imports is from Beavertown, and Bradley's has the range.

My first was Gamma Ray, a slightly hazy and very effervescent pale ale. Juicy and ripe citrus fruit hits first and hits hardest on the nose. Bitter lime skins are balanced by sweet candied fruit that leans towards strawberries, while the main impression is made by American citrus hops. more citrus reaches the palate, with a faint grapefruit pithiness and lemony bitterness on a medium. This is American pale ale by the numbers in the best possible way.

Smog Rocket is a smoked porter and I got mine in a can, because I can. It pours dark brown and gives off a sort of blue woodsmoke aroma, hiding beneath which there's some plummy fruit and dark berry sweetness. It's actually quite strange to taste, with round and fleshy dark fruits opening for sweet milk chocolate before things take a savoury twist at the end, producing the only hint of smoke proper at the very finish. Not a bad porter, but it is not quite robust or smoky enough for my liking.

A step back brings us to Neck Oil, a session pale ale, something everyone needs all of a sudden. Looking quite a lot like the Gamma Ray, the aroma is actually rather different; punchty pine needle and tropical fruit with some grapefruit peel. Again, this is textbook American pale ale, and again that's perfect. Equally astringent and zesty is the flavour, with an eager hop attack whose plentiful fruit notes fade fast under the weight of the potent bitterness. After that, there's not a whole lot going on to balance things out and make it an enjoyable session. If you just want a decent rush of American hops and nothing else, and you want it all day long, then... then you have a problem. 

Otherwise you might find joy in a beer like this. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

#237: Sour Power

It's a difficult decision, picking out beer you want somebody else to buy you for your birthday, but then, I do lead a slovenly downward slope of a life. For this year I picked two from Cantillon, having craved something from them since my last fix in the brewery last year.

First is the Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, a name that truly gets the message across. Utterly predictable is the pissy, straw appearance and gentle farmy sourness on the nose. It's sharp and acidic with a little flash of citrus, but otherwise does nothing to shock the nostrils. Similarly controlled is the taste, which opens with the same wheaty, bready sourness but fadrs quickly to a lingering near-sweetness and a waxy bitterness. It's grainy and gutsy and refreshing, and is eminently drinkable. This is the beer I wish I had when approaching sour beer styles for the first time, as opposed to the balsamic shock that is Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Rosé de Gambrinus, with its quite weird and slightly disturbing label, is just as round and approachable as the above - perhaps even more so thanks to the addition of raspberries which show themselves right from the beginning. Softly sweet fruit can be found amid the sour grainy smack, as well a distinct vinous quality that suggests a more pertinent sourness to taste. In truth, it's not going to shock the palate any more than the gueuze in terms of its sour impact, but what you get is an incredibly intense - and utterly delicious - symphony of sour berries, nutty malts and prickly wheat fullness. Fantastic.

That's two recommendations, as if you needed them for Cantillon.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

#236: Monstrous

I learned when writing about Blast! a few days ago that I hadn't reported on Monster, the English-style barleywine from the same brewer.
Mine is the 2012 release, and that's likely to be the only you'll find in the shops today; the beer has since been retired after its namesake (the brewery cat) passed away in 2012. That said, there seem to be plenty of these 2012 bottles still knocking around the shops for interested buyers.

Monster Ale pours amber and headless and gives forth heady, honeyed sweet fruits on the aroma. There's some dark toffee and caramel malts with a definite brown sugar presence; at this stage I'm anticipating a sticky sweet mess to taste. the palate gets raisins and orange rind all over, as well as a touch of alcohol heat and a dollop of residual toffeeish sweetness. 

Brooklyn have stayed their hand with the hops, and as such have kind of forgotten to balance this beer out. As it stands, it's not as soupy and disappointing as the likes of Porterhouse's Louder (or The Devil's Halfacre for that matter), but it does lack any real complexity, remaining just about enjoyable for the duration of the 355ml bottle.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

#235: Having a Blast!

A 'decidedly robust IPA' is my sort of thing. And coming from a brewer I've been enamoured with ever since Black Chocolate Stout it seemed a sure-fire winner.

Brooklyn Blast! is an IPA of 8.4% and a cursory glance at the beer's webpage reveals a hefty hop bill of Willamette, Magnum, Cascade, Fuggle, Aurora, Zythos, Bravo, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, Amarillo and Experiment 6300. That's eleven, if you weren't paying attention. Such are the fruits of an effort to produce something of an Anglo-American IPA. 

Things start strangely with an aroma of fruity stickiness that suggests seriously overripe grapefruit, banana and sweet lemon spongecake. The hazy golden fluid washes the palate with orange marmalade and sweet toffee notes, before strains of lime, grapefruit and mango come into play. There's even a little bit of tropical fruit and despite the overall warmth and sweetness to the beer, as well as the lack of any real attack at the front, there's quite a long lingering citrusy bitterness.

Alcohol heat is there in flashes, but is nowhere near as hot as the Black Chocolate Stout or Monster, and the beer drinks a great deal easier than it ought to. 

A big win by Brooklyn.

Friday, 15 August 2014

#234: Divine Inspiration

When I heard that there was an Irish brewery starting up with a mission to commercially brew Belgian beer styles - with dedication to the point of using classic Belgian Duvel style stubby bottles - I was very excited. That brewery was Holy Mountain in Mayo. Much hard work in the neat farmhouse brewery (documented here) as well as a name change to Mescan, and beers are finally flowing. Distribution is low, so it took a trip to Mayo by what must be a very dedicated Bierhaus team for me to get my hands on a trio of bottles.

I started with the Stout, which pours suspiciously pale for the style, showing plenty of light through its red/brown depths. There's nothing iffy about the nose though; slightly smoky dark fruit and a hint of tobacco, which much of the same on the palate. Blackberries and roasty malts fight to be heard over a very effervescent delivery but just about get the job done. While hinting towards the darker, more savoury aspects of Foreign Extra, it remains resolutely conservative, and more drinkable for it. Not bad at all.

The White followed, and just like the stout, it proved incredibly drinkable fare. Despite not listing any spice among the ingredients, this white delivers a heavy handed hit of coriander and clove atop the light, citrusy wheatiness. This perfectly offsets the sweetness of said malts, avoiding flirtation with cloying over-sweetness in a way that Olé Olé couldn't. A solid wit to add to Ireland's roster.

I finished on the Blond, which, despite once again being a quite sinkable affair, failed to produce as much notable characteristics as the other two. Sure, there's the background of caramel biscuit, a whiff of citrus fruitiness, and a finish that pines towards a spiciness that is just unwilling to attend, but this beer passes by too easily for my liking. Unlike the other two, which managed to be eminently drinkable while asserting their own character, the Blond fails to perform for me.

All in all, a good showing from Mescan who, despite all the hard work to date, are still at very early stage. I look forward to seeing what they do with the bigger Belgian styles.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

#233: Singled Out

Eight Degrees. You can't help but love them. At least, I can't. When trying to think of an Eight Degrees beer that I didn't at least find 'great', I am brought back to their Aztec Stout. This is actually a decent, chocolatey, drinkable stout in that close-to-bland sort of way that springs a prickle of chilli heat upon the back of the throat at the finish, making for a weird experience, and in my eyes, killing the beer's drinkability. I also consider the Winter's Ale, with it's lightness and nutmeg-y oddness failing to strike a chord with me. But even these two beers have merit and are worthy of experiencing; both have unorthodox extra ingredients, both are limited in release.

Since inception the Mitchelstown outfit has only gone from strength to strength. Kindred Spirit. Ochtoberfest (please come back). Hurricane. Cyclone. Amber Ella. Russian Imperial Stout. Zeus Black IPA. The Full Irish (please stay forever). Horn8's Nest. Amber-Ella again. And now these two beauties. 

Vic Secret seemed a questionable name to me before I found out that Vic Secret is indeed an Australian hop varietal, and this is the first in a range of single hop beers. Rather than brew a handful of blank canvas pale ales, there's some stylistic experimentation going on here too. This one is a black IPA, and it's the best I've had so far. As should be the case with any single hop beer, the hops are up front about their business; a veritable market's worth of tropical fruit and strawberry Hubba Bubba (I know right?) hit the nose hard. Things are rounder when it gets to the palate. Dark, silky coffee and liquorice caress the the inside of the mouth while never subduing the intensity of the grapefruit and mango highlights that burn bright and leave a trailing bitterness. There's a familiar burnt rubber twinge that interrupts the blackberry jam malts, as I find in many beers where thick, dark malts are forced to do battle with bright and bitter hops. Overall a truly scrumptious beer.

The next hop to get VIP treatment is Simcoe, residing in the comfortable and delicious accommodation of a rye ale. The nose finds notes of sweet Jesus. Razor-sharp lemon skin and pith bitterness slices your olfaction in twain, before onrushing orange marmalade - with bits, of course - does its level best to soothe you. Unsurprisingly, and rather like the Vic Secret, there's a bitter fruit attack on the palate. Grapefruit and yet more orange are the big players; pine needle and resiny stuff provides background harmonics. I don't get much grassiness or peppery spice from the rye, as it all seems rather pedestrian compared to the long-lasting coppery bitterness that dominates proceedings. At the very end (if you're careless with your pour) a muddy homebrew quality becomes part of the malt profile, but that doesn't take away from the beer's performance. 

Two more stunning brews from Mitchelstown. Hon Cork.

Friday, 25 July 2014

#232: Some New Kind of Kick

I don't think I've ever had a German beer that wasn't a lager or a wheat beer, which, when considering the vast variety of styles and flavours achieved within those two base types, is testament to the brewing prowess of the people.
As such, it's very exciting to pick up a beer from Munich that is not only neither a lager or wheat beer, but a craft beer in a style very much adopted as craft; an imperial stout.

Crew Republic's Roundhouse Kick is that beer, and it pours opaque black with a thick cream head. the aroma is a gorgeous blend of blackberries, bitter burnt coffee beans, sweet toffee, honeycomb and a bit of booze. Unsurprisingly it sticks to inside of the mouth like nothing else, plastering the walls with dark roast coffee, malty biscuit, black and forest fruits and berries and at the death, some spirity heat. 

A good imperial stout that manages to have enough going on to please a discerning stout fan while remaining quite accessible, which, by consequence, prevents it from reaching the lofty heights of imperial stout godliness.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

#231: Beer Geek Breakfast

Mikkeller and their ilk comprise the trendiest circle of the craft beer Venn diagram; gypsy brewing big stouts, lambics and hop monsters and dressing them in the artsiest of labels, these beers tend to fan the flames of enthusiasm among drinkers of craft beer and cost a pretty penny.

Such is the case with Beer Geek Breakfast, at least in part. Though it isn't extortionately expensive, it has quite the reputation with beer geeks worldwide, so I expected quite a lot, especially from a 7.5% stout brewed with oatmeal and coffee.

Things start pretty well, as I've never seen such a thick looking beer, pouring a thick, oily black with a dark brown head. Impressed by this, I was further impressed upon nosing, where I was greeted with a mighty shock of coffee beans, cocoa butter, dark chocolate mousse and a herbal hoppiness. The palate gets treated to thick chocolate and toffee malts, a tiny presence of some cool, green herbal hops and a ridiculously assertive afters of coffee ganache. And that's it. It's not bad, I enjoyed the bottle, but for me it lacks the subtlety and richness that make a great, complex beer of this strength and type. 

You can do better for fewer pieces of gold and silver elsewhere.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

#230: Amber Mine

Two new Irish craft beers today, something I haven't done in a while. Something I also hadn't done in a while is revisit Amber Ella, and once that glorious procedure was done my thirst for sweet amber only grew. Luckily, Carlow Brewing Co. have a new beer of just such a style on the market right now.

Amber Adventure is much clearer than Amber Ella, and makes quite a photogenic beer. The aroma is a million miles from the 8 Degrees offering, giving plenty of deep toffee, chocolate and caramel ahead of anything that could be considered a hop character. This is rectified in part upon the palate, where flowery hops come into play with orange marmalade, but ultimately the slow, unctuous killer tide of toffee malt overpowers. Like the Double IPA, this beer (at least in its bottled form, because draught DIPA was fantastic) doesn't hit the mark of its billed style and leaves me unsatisfied, even though the beer is objectively enjoyable.

Another of Irish craft brewing's leading lights released Mine Head, an American Pale Ale, which is a very interesting proposition indeed from Dungarvan. Helvick Gold is a beer that took its sweet ass time in impressing me, and when it did it was only to the point of being a rather good session blonde, something I rarely need or want. Since then, I've found myself much more pleased with the likes of Mahon Falls and Comeragh Challenger, both of which contain noticeable strands of Helvick and which led me to rediscovering my love for Helvick as an effortlessly quaffable blonde with that unique Dungarvan yeast character. As such, I was very interested to see would Mine Head be a step into the unknown for this brewery, with sweeter malts and more assertive hops. It looks like a Dungarvan beer; cloudy orange with a soapy head. It smells like a Dungarvan beer; citrus, lime marmalade and an alondy roundness with a yeasty, sandalwood thing going on the background. It tastes like a Dungarvan beer; at first it's not unlike Helvick, with citrus and earthy, flowery hops leading the charge. With time it gets more lemony with some mouth-watering peach notes, and only a hint of trailing bitterness to suggest a heightened hop bill. 

As usual, a delicious beer from Dungarvan, but not quite like any American or American-style pale ale I've had, more in the regions of an Irish or British version. 

And we don't mind that, do we.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

#229: The Big Guns

The only Dutch beer to make it back from Amsterdam was a big one; De Molen's Bommen & Granaten, a barleywine in what must surely be the truest sense of the word.

A thick and oily pour gives us a hazy red/orange beer with nothing in the head department. It seems to have traded all its bubbles for huge sticky sweet malts. If you feel like getting your nose dirty you can dig and find some grapefruit and toffee syrup in there, but the best course of action is to get this one on the tongue. Despite it's heady aroma, this beer is actually nice. It's virtually uncarbonated and still has plenty of those sticky sweet toffee malts but there's also a good expression of fruit; peach, apricot and raisins, as well a hint of residual brown sugar. There's alcohol warmth in there too, but for all its muscle, Bommen & Granaten avoids being a harsh beer, à la Louder. My only problem is that there's just not enough complexity in the flavour to justify a whopping 15.2% ABV.

The rest of the bunch are easier-to-find Belgians, but at their relatively cheap price (and lack of much else on the shelves in this particular shop) I decided to let them help fill the suitcase. 

Gulden Draak is a beer I've been enamoured with for some time now. It's a strange tripel/quadrupel hybrid that works wonders with its 10% ABV, much like its fantastic stablemate Piraat, whose style is also a bit of a discrepancy. However, this Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple wears its style on its sleeve, so there should be no misunderstandings, right?
Wrong. Because the messers at Van Steenberge are not satisfied with simply delighting our tastebuds, they also want to mess with our heads. For a quad, it pours suspiciously pale, paler than the regular Gulden Draak in fact. Still though, there's not much to worry about, seeing as this beer is absolutely gorgeous. Loads of fruit wash over the palate; candied citrus, dark forest fruits, apricot and a soft prickly tripel-like spice sit atop chewy dark toffee and chocolate malts, delivered with warming spirity heat.
This may be the best beer I've yet to have from Van Steenberge.

The last beer isn't so big at all, but it's still worth dissection.

Saison Dupont Biologique appears to just be an unfiltered, organic version of Dupont's flagship saison (Q: Is the regular version unfiltered?), so I wasn't expecting much of anything new or different in the taste. It's a cloudy yellow beer, just like the regular saison, and produces a lovely aroma of bright, herbal stuff with a malted biscuit and wet grain backbone. I loved the suggestion of farmyardy stuff in the original saison, but there's none of that here. The palate is beautiful. A wheaty body is interspersed with lemon zest, coriander, mint and a waxy bitterness. 

Probably one of the most refreshing beers on the planet.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

#228: Dambust

A trip to Amsterdam is always a welcome excursion, not least because of the city's beery treasure. Unfortunately, this particular visit wasn't as jam-packed with beer activity as previous ones which, coupled with the disastrous closing of the Bierkoning on the last day, had a tragic effect on the return leg's suitcase.

Thankfully I'd picked up a few bottles in the Bierkoning for the stay itself, so all was not lost.
First up is Bierkoning special Vlo. This is a typical IJ beer in that it delivers a generous amount of coriander and lemongrass on the nose to introduce what seems to me to be a bitter, spicy blonde. There are some sugary malts underneath, mainly expressed through candied apricot and peach, but the beer remains largely in the arena of IJ's special, spiced and fruity way of doing things. Delicious.

There wasn't much Motueka Pale Ale left on the shelf which suggested to me that this limited edition beer, also from IJ, had something special going on. The first sniff verified this; a gorgeous shedload of oily pine needle and bitter tropical fruit attacks the nose in the nicest way possible, showing flashes of grapefruit pith and mango atop orange and lemon marmalade. The palate is equally spoiled by a bright and bitter hop attack to the fore delivering citrus peel, pine needle and some lingering tutti-frutti, balanced by some light marmaladey sweetness and carried on a pillowy, medium-full body. Noticeably absent is the IJ's classic spice/yeast profile, making this a clean-cut hop forward pale ale of Howling Gale proportions.

Yet another IJ special next, this time a collaboration with De Molen. This 9% DIPA is not wholly unlike the Motueka in that there's plenty of punchy tropical fruit on the nose. Lemon sherbert and a soft, earthy roundness is the difference. It's beautiful to taste too, being quite smooth and balanced with plenty of round toffee malt beneath some US-style pine and peel stuff. Unlike the Motueka, this beer does have the IJ's characteristic herbal, spicy-sweet fruitiness, making it a highly complex and enjoyable drinking experience.

My timing was atrocious for this particular trip, so I ended up being pretty lucky to stop by the Beer Temple at opening time on the last day. 

I just had two halves, the first of which was Fort Point Villager. This Californian IPA tastes very much like an IPA from California; grapefruit skins and the typical pine/peel profile is perfectly executed, balanced beautifully by mango, apricot and candied pineapple. A gorgeous IPA at a reasonable 6.5%.

Beertography by The Sober Destrier
After all this pale hoppiness (not to mention a delicious ongoing flood of Westmalle Tripel in the background) I needed something dark, think and heavy. I got it with B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher from Hoppin' Frog. It pours inky black with a dark tan head and smells immediately of mocha. The espresso coffee and Christmas plum pudding aroma is rich but remains just the tip of the iceberg. Chocolate mousse, malted biscuit, honeycomb and liquorice are all served on a creamy, silky texture. Even the teeny tiny serving satisfied my bud lust.

I brought a few bottles home, but thanks to my leaving the beer-shopping to the last hour of the last day, only one of them was Dutch. The rest were readily available Belgian beers for whose cheapness I couldn't leave behind. I'll get to those bottles next.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

#227: Bierhaus Miscellany #3

It's high time I post something. My notebook is getting fatter. Really, every few days the little bookmark seems to be further behind the most recent tasting note. What's more, the trusty cupboard is completely empty. Well, one of the trusty cupboards is completely empty. As for the others... well, obviously I'm not going to start chucking the imperial stouts, barleywines and lambics around, I'm not that desperate. Not yet.
For what will without a doubt be your immense reading pleasure, here us a smattering of beers from the Bierhaus over the past few weeks.

Graffiti
We start with Trouble Brewing, and what a year they are having so far. They're currently undergoing a trendy re-brand but more importantly they've upped their brewing game a huge deal. This was already evident from the saison I had at this year's Fran Well Easterfest, but I must admit I didn't expect much mind-blowing stuff to come from Graffiti, a session pale/IPA at 3.6%. However, a metric shitload of bitter zest and citrus pith leads the charge on my unsuspecting palate, balanced by a good not-watery biscuit malt base. It's clean enough at the finish but still allows plenty of the tropical and grapefruit hops to shine, while still managing to feel like beer in the mouth. To me, this compares overwhelmingly favourably to Founder's beloved All Day IPA, achieving more punch to the flavour and body despite being over an entire % weaker in ABV, though I concede freshness may be a factor where flavour is concerned. 

Horn8's Nest
Schlenkerla's Märzen is still a beer that I champion and recommend to all who will listen, yet that one time I had it remains the only time I've ever had one of their beers. So, a drop of their Lagerbier von faß seemed in order. I was informed by Bierhaus Dave (I think) that this beer isn't actually smoked at all; rather, it is brewed in the same vessels as the brewery's other smoked-malt beers. As such it collects echoes of their smokiness without ever reaching the famed smoky bacon notes. It's got plenty of body with its grainy, malty profile and light, blue smoke character, but not really much else. Perhaps if I was thirstier I would have enjoyed this cool and quaffable lager more, but between beers with much more assertive flavour profiles it seemed a tad tedious. 

On cask this particular day was King Cormac, a medieval dark ale from White Gypsy. No, I don't know what that is either. I don't know if anyone knows. I don't think anyone cares. It's acceptably medieval though, in that it's strange and archaic yet quite nice. At once sweet and savoury, slightly smoky and with a good dollop of raisiny malts. Chewy toffee and dark fruit, and only a light tingling bitterness. I suppose if your beer doesn't really fit into any particular established style you can name it what you like. If that's what's happened here, I'm OK with that. Definitely worthy of investigation, especially on cask.

Finally we get to Eight Degrees, a brewery I can now officially dub my favourite; consistent quality across a portfolio of exciting beers covering a number of different styles is exactly what you want from a local(ish) craft brewery. So, when they released a collaboration white IPA with By The Horns of London I was eager to see with my tongue-eye what they'd come up with, not least because of the unconventional style billing. Horn8's Nest is delicious. Bitter lemon and orange peel with a candied fruit backing is the guts of this beer. There's depth and complexity to be enjoyed between the astringent, waxy hops and quite sweet malts, but the beer never feels too heavy, staying on the right side of a medium body and remaining fairly drinkable for its punch.


The other Eight Degrees special of late is Olé Olé, a wit beer brewed to coincide with the World Cup. I missed the beer they brewed for Euro 2012, which appeared not to fall too far from the tree in terms of style, but this beer, by contrast, adds a whole new style to the brewery's list. Being labelled as a wit, you would be forgiven for expecting a Belgian style wheat beer, but what I perceived was a wheat beer that somewhat straddled a line between Belgium and Bavaria. It's soft, fruity and softly fruity in a lemon curd sort of way, pointing me towards Belgium. There's just a little touch of spice and green herbal stuff here though, and the body lacks the full, mouth-filling wheatiness of a good Bavarian hefe. It's incredibly light and drinkable, though I find a glass is just about enough. A pint, and I fear the lingering sweetness would overpower the lovely refreshing nature of this beer.

And scene.



Sunday, 8 June 2014

#226: Canned Laughter

One of my favourite recent trends is that of canned craft beer, and it seems I'm far from alone; more and more US craft is appearing in cans on our shores. 
The latest of these are from Ska Brewing, and the ever-reliable Bradley's is where I picked mine up. 

Much praise is lavished upon Modus Hoperandi so it had to be investigated first. The dark, reddened orange hue suggests there's plenty of shtuff to this beer, and this is only reinforced by the aroma. Thick swathes of grapefruit pith and peel, packing punch aplenty. Lime marmalade and tropical fruit smoothie feature as the beers sweeter notes. On the palate there's much of the same astringent pithiness, with added pine needle bitterness. After this you get a hefty sweetness; there's much residual sugar here, manifesting itself as syrupy honey and caramel. 

Undeniably good, but the Founders Centennial IPA that followed was even better, with slightly more going on and all delivered with more gusto.

The world of beer snobbery can be ridiculously prejudiced towards lagers, even though the relatively cheap and mass produced Czech or German lagers put much high-brow 'real beer' to shame. Just imagine a world without lager, with the category of 'cheap, popular, everyday beer' occupied by farty Bishop's fucking Finger and the like.

As such, it's nice to see hip trendy folk like Ska Oskar Blues canning a craft pilsner, in the form of Mama's Little Yella. They've done a good job too, as it looks very much like a pils. Indeed, it smells very much like pils. Golden syrup, wet grain and digestive biscuit are the big players here, but there's balance to be found in the form of nice lemongrass highlights.
Overall, a malty, grainy, grassy affair and a commendable effort, though it struggles to impress like Dale's Pale Ale.

Keep the cans coming.

EDIT: Eagle-eyed readers (or just eyed readers) will know that Mama's Little Yella is in fact Oskar Blues, not Ska, so I've corrected that. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

#225: Kriek & Sun, A Perfect Marriage

I've been saving this Easter gift for a sunny day where I'm not driving to work, and a couple of weeks ago one of those finally happened. 
I know, that's incredibly sad, but this is Ireland. We thrive upon this sort of thing.

This Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait dates from 2011, so has been treated to three years of age and, presumably, flavour development. My limited understanding leads me to believe that the fruit will by now be playing a lesser part than at the time of bottling, with more sourness to the fore. This was certainly the case with the aroma, with plenty of spiky farmhouse stuff hitting the nose first, followed by a damp earthiness and just the slightest touch of tart fruit hiding underneath. I was therefore surprised that the flavour was a slow starter; even though the palate is washed with sour graininess, there's no aggression to the attack, and eventually there appears tangy and sour cherry, without any of the sweet backing I expected I might find from a beer with so much fruit. Also surprising is the way in which the sharp sourness of the flavour rounds out with herbal, almondy notes at the finish. As such, the beer remains refreshing and drinkable despite its age and character.

Overall a relatively approachable yet boldly-flavoured beer, if that even makes sense. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

#224: Looking Ahead

My last post saw some year-old Orval come out of the cupboard, and to continue the theme of slightly more matured beers I pulled a Rasputin from that very same cupboard of late. It is also appropriate that I would post a beer from De Molen on the day I travel once again to Amsterdam for much beering. Much beering.

Hopefully, such beering will involve plenty more De Molen of this calibre. An imperial stout of 10.7%, I was surprised to see this pour ruby red in the light, before settling to form a foamy cream head. Another pleasant surprise is the immediate lack of booze on the nose, allowing the complexity to shine through; savoury, slightly smokey malts, wood chips, toffee and maple syrup, chocolate and dark fruits are all part of the roll-call, the effect being pungent and intense with just a hint of alcohol heat. 

This can be copied more or less word for word to the palate, with those same oily, raisiny, chocolatey malts coating the mouth. There isn't much in the way of hop character here, not even a sprig of herbal, green stuff, but that's not to say the beer is imbalanced; rather, the hops are doing all their good work behind closed doors, allowing that malted, honeyed biscuit base to drive the beer.

Fantastic stuff from De Molen, and one for the Return Leg Suitcase Shortlist.