20 December 2007

High Plains snifter

Right, I'll skip the usual bit about American beers and irritating tiddly bottles. We'll take that as read.

This post is about three beers which have just appeared on the Irish market, hailing from breweries headquartered in Colorado (though yes, I'm aware that one of them has recently moved all production to the east coast, but it took me ages to come up with the title of this post and I'm not changing it now). I'm told they're being imported in minuscule quantities for strictly limited periods, and will be replaced by other American craft brews supplied on the same basis. Sounds fun, for as long as it's kept up. To business, then:

Flying Dog's Old Scratch is an amber lager and, as such, I was expecting something from the same general gene pool as Samuel Adams's Boston Lager. While the taste is some way similar, this beer is a darker, redder affair. I was disappointed by a lack of body, but then I guess you're supposed to be drinking this by the six-pack. At the end of the flavour there's a strange, but not at all unpleasant, estery taste with a hint of raspberries and similar summer fruit. Not a bad beer, but I won't be hankering after it when it disappears from the shelves.

American IPAs being what they are, I was expecting a hop attack from the bottle of Snake Dog. Instead I got a rather easy-going beer, paler than most IPAs, and with strangely sweet bubblegum and toffee notes. Approachable and eager to please, this is my sort of IPA, though probably a hophead's worst nightmare.

At the other end of that spectrum is the rather less accommodating Hercules Double IPA from Great Divide. I served this at cellar temperature and was immediately struck by how harsh and alcoholic the aftertaste was, with very little up front. Those big hops flavours just didn't sit well with the other notes and the end result was quite discordant and unappealing. I thought perhaps I should have been drinking it colder, to take some of that blunt edge off, but as it warmed I found it became smoother, rounder and infinitely more drinkable. The bottom line, however, is that this is more effort than I'm willing to put into drinking a beer. Hercules lacks the interesting and complex flavours to justify the exertion required on my part.

So, the next batch is supposed to include Anchor Christmas ale, but the next batch was also supposed to have arrived last week. This is me not holding my breath.


  1. We have just had our socks knocked off by Great Divide "Yeti" Imperial Stout. Absolutely fabulous. Really, mind-blowingly good. Possibly the amount I've had to drink beforehand increases the amount I'm prepared to rave about this beer but it's still dammmmmmnnnn good.

  2. First off, excellent title, I must say. After reading Boak and Bailey's assessment of the Yeti, and then seeing your reviews of other US beers, it makes me glad to know you're able to get a better sampling of what we've got to offer, albeit a very small percentage.

    Personally, I think Hercules is one of the better Imperial IPAs out there, and with a considerable balance to it. Perhaps it's just me being used to all those other palate-killing IPAs, but I like it a lot.

    To each his own, though. It's good to hear what other beer lovers around the world have to say. Hopefully there'll be more for you to sample in the future. And don't hesitate to send some good stuff our way either.


  3. Chris Rippe4:46 pm

    Chris from Flying Dog here. I can't speak for Great Divide but as far as the limited availability goes, we now have a permanent importer in Bier and Co., Amsterdam. Our brews should now be available year-round, it's just a matter of getting the retailer to stock them. Old Scratch is the most "user-friendly" of the beers. We also have our Snake Dog IPA, Doggie Style Pale Ale and Gonzo Imperial Porter available with our Horn Dog Barley Wine and Double Dog Double Pale Ale set to arrive in a few weeks. Keep drinking the good stuff. I glad you stuck with your title.


  4. Cheers Eric. It's sort of a swings and roundabouts situation: before these beers arrived we had to loose our national supply of Brooklyn Lager, for instance. But, as a try-everything-once kinda guy, I'm not too bothered about the lack of consistency.

    Chris, I noticed the Bier and Co. text on the label, and enjoyed a Gonzo from De Bierkoning in Amsterdam recently. However, it's unfortunately not simply a matter of getting the retailer to stock them, as almost no willing retailer is big enough to organise the import by themselves. The only people taking a chance on this sort of product are small independent stores and a handful of bars. We're at the mercy of the middlemen here, at least until the Irish beer market has undergone some fundamental changes.

  5. Your mention of Christmas beer reminds me of the Palm brewery's Christmas beer. I lived in Belgium for a while and always enjoyed the rich, dark, almost warming beer.
    If you have not tried it yet, and get the opportunity, I recommend it.

    Happy Christmas Beer Nut

  6. Palm's pretty much part of the scenery in Belgium, and easily missed. I do really like their beers, though. High quality and unfussy.