Tuesday, 31 March 2015

#262: At The Fathomless Depths

At last, it is time for me to dissect this beer, a wax-topped, hyped-up, black-as-Deaths-cloak imperial stout from Galway Bay Brewery, aged in Teelings Whiskey barrels no less.

The beer is of course Two Hundred Fathoms, and it is of course inky black with a gorgeous dark brown head. At 10% and with a whiskey barrel in its genealogical background, there's no keeping this one in the glass; bold and pungent the aroma reaches you fast, all deep dark chocolate, roasty and sweet coffee, a touch of booze and even a slightly savoury, saline thing going on. Appetising and appropriate to style. There's a touch of burnt chocolate and a suggestion of vanilla is the sole signifier of a whiskey cask pedigree.
The palate gets much the same treatment, with deep and full chocolate mousse and rich dark fruit opening for a really roasty middle section and a bittersweet dark chocolate finish. As suggested in the nose, there's a bit of savoury maltiness tucked into the folds, with the whole thing helped along by velvety smooth carbonation. 

Overall, it's an indulgent, decadent, yet deftly put together imperial stout, showing more subtlety than I was expecting. There's nary a smidge of booze on the palate, and while there doesn't seem to be any overbearing whiskey barrel influence, this can only be a good thing; many a good beer can be totally hijacked this way. At €8.50 a bottle, you'll be surprised to learn this actually represents a good value for money beer purchase, though with so much beer to get around to, it's unlikely I'll be buying more of this particular batch anytime soon.

Try it, Bradley's still have some left.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

#261: Old School

While I've been awash with IPA and pale ale of late (figuratively speaking of course) and busily hunting the latest and greatest of the Irish craft beer scene at large it has been easy to forget about the styles of beer that first got me interested in beer and brewing. 
For me, and I would guess for many, good German and Belgian beer started me on a journey that would lead to this unforeseeable state of affairs in which I spend too much time thinking about beer, writing about beer and not nearly enough time drinking it.

With that in mind, and with my quest for a decent Munich-style dunkel still unresolved, I was intrigued to see Weltenburger Dunkel in the Bradley's Fridge.
Big German mug compulsory

At 4.7% and pouring clear mahogany, the Barock Dunkel certainly looks the part of a drinkable dark lager. The nose gets a gentle treatment of raisin and apple and a general sense of malty toffeeish roundness. The palate is clean but does get a nice fist of dark mark flavours, with toffee and raisins again headlining among syrup, roast chestnut and a slightly smoky finish. All of this manages not only to avoid becoming oversweet, but actually remain quite dry. Refreshing, sessionable yet supplying all that dark malt; this is the beer I've been looking for. Sure, it's no Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, at least not to my rose-tinted glasses, but it does its job very well.

On the back of that I decided to return for the helles and the doppelbock, two more of my favourite styles (there may be a pattern in there).

At 5.9%, the Barock Hell packs a bit of a punch that manifests itself in a slight golden syrup character on the palate, while the rest is all the biscuity, grainy, almost husky stuff you expect from a Helles while remaining, again, clean and exceptionally easy drinking. Gentle flowery highlights suggest a sober and functional hopping. A great, uncomplicated but satisfying helles for those interested, and I certainly am. This Biergarten quaffer stuff, but then, almost anything is for the willing quaffer.

The last of the three was the Asam Bock, a doppelbock of 6.9%. Chestnut brown with big dark head, this looks the part too. What makes a good Munich dunkel so good is that, to me, it offers the same flavour profile as a doppelbock, subdued to a session strength without sacrificing too much the body. This appears to be the case with the Weltenburger range, because the Asam Bock is choc-a-block with burnt toffee, tobacco leaf, more raisins than you'd know what to do with and an underlying woody base note. Like the dunkel, I detect just a flash of something more savoury at the finish, and again I liken it to some slightly smoky (not smoked) malts. Despite being fuller, thicker and more chocolatey than the dunkel, the Asam Bock too manages to refrain from too much sweetness and is more drinkable than you'd expect. 

All three of the Weltenburger beers scratch an itch for me, so much so that I even bought a bottle in the Bierhaus (a bottle in a bar, who would have thought?).

Friday, 20 March 2015

#260: Kilter

Working in an off licence sometimes comes with a perk or two, and among these is the occasional free beer for tasting.

This is one of those times, and the beer is Fulcrum.

Fulcrum is brewed by Clear Sky, a contract brand brewing their beer at on Hilden's kit. Described only as a wheat beer, the drinker is left to decide exactly what that means. For me it's Bavarian more than it's Belgian, pouring an opaque yellowy orange and giving plenty of citrus, particularly lemon, banana and simple pleasant wheaty stuff. That simple pleasantness is how the palate works too, being exceptionally light but not watery, and again showing off lemon, banana, wheaty biscuit and a hint of bubblegum sweetness, as well as the faintest flash of waxy bitterness at the finish, but nothing for a hophead to get excited about.

It's definitely German in its aspirations, and while it may not hold a candle to the likes of Schneider, Weihenstephaner or Ayinger, it would compare favourably with the more ubiquitous of the style (at least in Ireland), namely Erdinger, Paulaner and Franziskaner. The main downfall of the beer is twofold; first, the price, which will typically be above any of the aforementioned German masters, and second, the sheer dominating carbonation, which severely damages drinkability for a style of beer that should be so effortless.

Regardless, we got a few bottles for tasting and if you call in to O'Donovan's in Bishopstown (the one on Looney's Cross) you can have a taste for yourself. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

#259: Next Degree

The release of a new Eight Degrees beer has become a very exciting prospect for the Destrier, so when I sauntered in to Bradley's on a mission to find rye IPA Gasman I audibly gasped to see, alongside it, another new beer. Hurray!

The Gasman first. I'd already had it and taken notes on the draught version in the Bierhaus, so that's what I'm talking about, contrary to the picture here. 
Pouring bright orange, it's positively pungent on the nose, with orange rind, sorbet and marmalade forming an expectation of bitter-sweetness to come. What came was more bitter, less sweet. My notes eloquently state that Gasman is 'off its tits with hops', and while that doesn't make any actual sense it is an accurate description of the experience yielded. It's abrasive in its hop-forwardness, with an explosive burst of pithy citrus fruit the curtain-opener for a rather grating bitter orange and spike of malt that somehow doesn't provide much sugary sweetness. Waxy citrus bitterness lasts forever and the thing can happily be described as a fruit bomb, even if the fruit in question is namely those of the more orangey branch of the citrus family. It's good, it's tasty, it's wonderfully hoppy, but the ABV of 7.8% and intense bitterness damages drinkability to such a degree that I find my pint a tad laborious towards the finish. Still, there's plenty to enjoy in the Gasman, preferably in *gasp* smaller measures. The bottle, then went down easier.

Polar Vortex is the second new beer from Mitchelstown in 2015, and it's an IPA of 5.8%. Instantly, it is far more approachable than the Gasman, though I can't attribute that to the alcohol level; the Gasman wasn't particularly boozy, nor is this particularly flimsy. Rather, Polar Vortex is just a far more rounded drink. Billed to showcase Cascade with Simcoe and Citra in supporting roles, it can't come as a surprise that it exhibits all the lovely pine needle, citrus pith and peel that a typical US west-coast IPA tends to have, but it does so with such aplomb that I couldn't help but only half-jokingly nominate it as my beer of the year. Grapefruit and orange peel are the other star players on the nose. To taste, it's both balanced and bold, with plenty of those bright, zesty, mandarin skin and pine needle stuff bouncing off an underlying layer of sweet candied lemon skins, pineapple and tropical fruit juice. The overall effect is of a punchy, sharp, wholly hop-forward beer that remains remarkably gulpable throughout, something that can be very difficult to achieve (as seen right now, with the Gasman).

Hats off Eight Degrees, master proponents of Irish hoppiness.