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.

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.