30 May 2005

Dubbel Scots

Those Scots and their Belgian-style dubbels. Who'd've thought they'd be so damn good at it? I've long been a huge fan of the Heather Ale Company's Alba, which is made from Scots pine trees and is fantastically sweet and smooth. I used to get it from the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin, but they've tragically cut back on their beer selection, probably because I was the only one buying the stuff.

They have kept a few things beyond the cans of Guinness for the tourists, however, and on a recent visit I picked up a bottle of Skullsplitter from the Orkney Brewery. I guess I was expecting some class of extra-strength stout (the label was big on history, short on description). It turned out to be a rich brown barley wine and a great excuse to use my Westmalle glass which doesn't get as much use as I'd like. Skullsplitter has a woody-smoky kind of taste, though not in the least overpowering. Damn good stuff, though I think I'd marginally prefer an Alba, given the choice.

And long live Scottish craft brewing.

24 May 2005

Maguire's Weiss update

The Weiss recipe has changed again at Maguire's. The new version is an improvement on the last, the overwhelming flavour this time being oranges.

23 May 2005

Sedimental journey

I hadn't intended for my weekend's drinking to have a theme, it just turned out that way.

On the roster were three beers I'd been meaning to try for ages but hadn't got round to, and all with their gritty little secrets.

First up was Hen's Tooth. I'm a big fan of Old Speckled Hen, so I thought it only just to give the reserve beer a go. I wasn't disappointed: it's incredibly smooth and delicately flavoured, very similar to the best pints of draught cask ale I've had in Britain. And it has a hefty 6.5% strength, so much more satisfying than the 3-4.5% that ales tend to hover around. And surprisingly, the sediment didn't get in the way. I did my best to keep it out of the glass, but some of it ended up suspended in my pint. Didn't affect the flavour though, or at least not unpleasantly.

Continuing on the enhanced editions theme, I tried a bottle of Aventinus Eisbock. Schneider Weisse is my favourite German beer, and their Aventinus is great too, so I figured the concentrated Aventinus was definitely worth a go, despite the €5.50 price tag. No strength on the label was the first black mark. I read, however, that it's around 12%. This is the same as Bush, Belgium's strongest beer, and the taste was similar too: ultra-heavy and very cloying. After a few sips I managed to get into it, but it's hard, chewy work. A 330ml bottle and a considerable quantity of sediment meant that at least the experience was curtailed slightly. This stuff is an acquired taste for sure, and given the price I'm not sure it's wholly worth the effort.

Last up was a beer I've seen many times but hadn't considered buying because it looks so unassuming: Cooper's Sparkling Ale. Australian beer for me is limited to Toohey's Extra Dry and Carlton Cold, and even then only when I'm actually in Australia and have limited choice (though I do recall a great Carlton Cold drinks promtion in an Irish bar in Hong Kong some years back). Recently while trawling the Internet for beer suggestions I happened across a review of Cooper's Sparkling that made enormous claims for it -- a true connoisseur's beer, a proper ale from a country where beer terminology is badly abused. However, while it does stand above its compatriots, this stuff just can't cut it in a European context. The taste just isn't bold enough, leaving it watery and having an annoying fine sediment. I can completely understand why one would turn to this if VB or Toohey's New was your only other option, but otherwise I don't get it. One for the ex-pats only, methinks.

18 May 2005

Beck's XL

While getting my Bateman's fix in Aldi, I discovered Breda Royal Lager among the varied weird-and-cheap beer selection. It's Dutch, it does a very good impression of Beck's, and it comes in a wonderfully swiggable 660ml bottle for just €1.99. For those parties when you just can't be arsed fighting your way back to the kitchen.