It's incredibly heartening to see a more eclectic range of styles coming from Ireland's breweries. On the one hand we don't really have any native beer styles of our own (isn't it high time someone made a commercial Irish gruit ale?) but up until relatively recently it was nearly all stouts, pale lagers and red ales, seldom venturing much above or below 4.5% ABV. 2012, however, has seen Ireland's first Oktoberfestbier, a rye-based pale ale and something which may or may not be a black IPA, depending on how you feel about such matters.
Latest in this celebration of beery diversity is Dr. Rudi, a Belgian-style ale, single-hopped with the eponymous New Zealand variety, and launched in Dublin just last Saturday. It's 7.4% ABV and a middling amber shade, where orange turns to russet, so on the pale side for a dubbel which is the style it most resembles. Its Belgian credentials are to the fore in the aroma, with a heady warming alcohol vapour drifting off, heavily laden with fruit esters. These crystalise on tasting into dark fig and raisin notes, though the texture is quite light, not at all suggesting the beer's full strength. Not long after that first sip the hops kick in and remind the drinker why Dr. Rudi hops were originally sold under the label "Super Alpha": a huge, tongue-stripping bitterness initially melding with the fruit but eventually dominating the palate with grassy resinous flavours. The sweet malts just manage to hold it in check. It's an unsteady sort of balance and quite interesting to observe.
The people behind the beer are the crew of L. Mulligan Grocer and W.J. Kavanagh's, utilising the brewing facilities at Eight Degrees in Mitchelstown. It's the first of a gypsy-brewing series they've titled The Brown Paper Bag Project, presumably targeting vagrants as the primary demographic. It's a particularly tough market segment and already well catered for, so with thanks for the freebie bottle I wish them every success and look forward to the next in the series.
Meanwhile, I've managed to get my mitts on another from White Gypsy's series of thoroughly unIrish large-format strong beers. This is the White Gypsy American Pale Ale, a beer which rapidly achieved legendary status in 2011 under its original name of Mustang. This was my first time tasting it after well over a year of believing the hype. It's a mite stronger than Dr. Rudi, but while the former's label is effusive on the philosophy and production details, this White Gypsy is downright taciturn, giving you fair warning that the beer is bitter, tastes a bit like grapefruit and goes well with grilled chicken and that's all you need to know.
Colourwise it's the wholesome brown of strong black tea. Perhaps this is why I detected tannic elements in it, but I hope I'm not imagining it because it's lovely. The hops aren't laid on too heavy and the beer is neither over-perfumed nor harshly bitter. Instead it has much more of a floral, English vibe. I get elderflower and lilacs rather than grapefruit and mandarin: more a soft-spoken lady than a brash tatoo'd metalhead. And like the best English pale ales, it's extremely easy to put away, the balanced flavours conspiring with light carbonation resulting in 75cl of 7.5% ABV disappearing with indecent haste. Get the chicken out of your George Foreman before you pop the cap.
You probably won't find anything like Dr. Rudi in Belgium, and I've never encountered an actual American beer like White Gypsy American Pale Ale. Perhaps this whole nationalisation of styles is overstated in the first place.