The Irish Craft Beer Village is still going on at Dublin's IFSC. I was down a few evenings late last week, mainly to see what's new and interesting in the line-up. It's probably not the best environment to get to grips with an unfamiliar beer, what with the persistent chilliness of the liquid, not helped at all by the flimsy plastic receptacles. But howanever: the headliners were two strong beers, both ideal for counteracting the mid-March chill.
First up, Kindred Spirit, a 7% ABV whiskey-aged stout by Eight Degrees. Yes, I know, another whiskey-aged beer. I'm always a bit apprehensive approaching these as it seems to be a very easy style to make a mess of. The lads in Mitchelstown have done a great job, however, combining the best elements of whiskey and stout without any of the unpleasant side effects.
So you get a layer of rich milk chocolate to begin with and this is complemented by a subtle honey flavour, a taste which is the main reason I enjoy Irish whiskey but is so rarely present in beers that are whiskey-aged. There's some lovely vanilla oak as well, but again: just enough to add an extra dimension to the taste. The strength is well hidden with no hot alcohol flavours coming out. All-in-all a welcome addition to the range of stouts produced by Irish brewers.
While stouts may be ten a penny (plus excise and VAT) round these parts, double IPAs are somewhat rarer. The hophead lobby at Beoir has been getting quite vocal on the subject, so Carlow Brewing have stepped in to try and shut them up with O'Hara's Double IPA. For this type of beer, 7.5% ABV seems rather modest and the style Blueshirts at the festival had some forthright opinions on how justified the D-word is here. But none of that bothers me: if Carlow want to call it a Double IPA then that's what it is.
Of much greater importance than the badge is the beer itself. It presents as an enticing dark amber, not at all surprisingly, given the full body and smooth texture. I didn't get much of an aroma from it, less perfume than the brewery's 5.2% ABV pale ale. I don't know if this has been dry-hopped like the pale ale but I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't. The real action kicks in on tasting. While not extremely bitter and citric like many a DIPA from the US, it makes up for any lack of unsubtle wallop with complexity. There's a sizable amount of orange pith in the mix, as well as some lighter peach and satsuma. The malt element lends a toffee base which harmonises beautifully with the hop fruit and makes for a smooth, dangerously drinkable experience. I don't give out "This Tastes Like Odell IPA" plaudits lightly, but this tastes like Odell IPA.
Before we leave, just a quick note about Bo Bristle IPA. This was launched at the Irish Craft Beer Festival last September and received a fairly unenthusiastic reception. Heavy, brownish and muted it had nothing wrong with it, but was hard to like. It's a reformulated version on sale at the festival now and it's much improved: crisp, golden and with a striking bitter grapefruit punch to it. A beer that's well worth taking another look at, and at 5% ABV a handy one to trade down to after the big-hitters.
The Irish Craft Beer Village is open today from noon and closes at 10pm this evening for another year.