28 October 2005

Because I've not had enough German beer lately

Recently I picked up a bottle of Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050. For a beer that's only 5.5% alcohol it tastes very strong. It has that chewy, syrupy taste normally associated with special-brew-type lagers of 7-8%. This makes it quite difficult to drink and a bit of a let-down, really.

21 October 2005

Not crafty enough

Back in 1998 when the craft- and micro- brewing industry started to take off in Ireland, brewing megalith Guinness, possibly fearing some kind of challenge to their overwhelming dominance, test-marketed a series of craft-style beers. They labelled them the "St. James's Gate" beers, and there was a dark lager, a red ale, and what I think was Ireland's first wheat beer. Anyway, I guess they bombed because they disappeared shortly after. Later the same year Guinness mass-marketed a new weissbier, Breó, which has since gone the way of its predecessors (it wasn't a classic of the genre, but it was nice to have a wee bit more choice).

Anyway, it looks like the guys up at Guinness HQ are feeling a bit antsy about the whole diversity issue again, and a new Guinness stout has appeared in Dublin this week. They're calling it "Brew 39" and it is the first in the Guinness "Brewhouse Series", limited edition stouts which will each appear for six months at a time. So what's it like?

Well, it's very very like Guinness: smooth and easy drinking almost to the point of blandness. The only difference I detect is a slight sweetness at the back of the taste. In short, it is Murphy's, brewed by Guinness, only not as good.

The Diageo press release on the matter says:
"Guinness Brew 39 has the same alcohol content as Guinness Draught, uses the same gas mix, settles in the same way and has exactly the same creamy head as Guinness. It will cost the same as Guinness Draught."

Which begs the obvious question: well why did you bother, then?

I think the answer lies in the fact that this is a series, and they want to get the drinking public involved in it before they throw anything (shock horror!) interesting at them.

So, even though I recognise that this is a cynical ploy by a gigantic firm to make them look like your friendly neighbourhood brewer, I still welcome this growth in the variety of beers available in Ireland, and look forward to the next in the series.

However, if you want a flavoursome and individual stout, there are many places to go before ordering anything branded as Guinness.

16 October 2005

Nice one Banks's

A short note in praise of Banks's Barley Gold, a magnificent barley wine from the Wolverhampton brewery. It comes in a tiddly 275ml bottle but packs a lot into that. A whopping 9.1% ABV, but still very easy to drink with a very complex sweet spicy barley flavour.

14 October 2005

Another season[al], another Wies'n...

The Porterhouse in Dublin are staging their annual Oktoberfest at the moment, with a variety of bottled and draught German beers, and one seasonal German-style lager. They call it Kölsch, being in the style of Cologne. It is a phenomenally dry blonde with the crisp grainy character that infuses all of the Porterhouse lagers. But mostly it's dry. Beer that makes you thirsty: it's a wonder there isn't more of it.

Also on tap they have Andechs Dunkel, which tastes like no dunkel I've ever had before. Rather than the usual smooth caramel flavour, this has a rough smoky taste, like drinking cheap Turkish cigarettes. An odd one, for sure.