29 January 2008

Smooth operators

The slow trickle of American beers into Ireland seems to be continuing. Redmond's had a couple of new ones on my last visit and I snapped them up. Samuel Adams Holiday Porter first. It's a magnificent beer from start to finish. Colourwise it's a deep black with ruby edges. The attractive sweet aroma will follow you round the room. A sharp prickly fizz starts the mouthfeel, but quickly subsides leaving a full and silky texture. Following the richness of the texture there's the richness of the flavour: milk chocolate and raisins first, dark chocolate and plums at the end. Very much in the same league as St Peter's magnificent Old Style Porter and a crime to sell in mere 355ml bottles.

Next up is one of those beers whose style I had no idea of until I opened it: Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale. The big hoppy aroma on uncapping the bottle was the first clue, and the orange amber colour was the second suggestion, that this is an American-style IPA. I rather like Sierra Nevada's own IPA for its rough and uncompromising bitterness. This is a much smoother affair, full bodied and lightly carbonated. The flavour is full of peaches: sumptuously bittersweet with a gorgeous sherbety quality. It is, in short, Goose Island IPA by Sierra Nevada. I had me a Goose Island last Friday night, but I've always room for another, whatever the label.

More American beer like this, please, Mr Importer, sir.

26 January 2008

...a place to sit and soak in sanit'ry conditions

The village inn, the dear old inn,
So ancient, clean and free from sin

wrote Betjeman in his pre-CAMRA rant about the loss of England's pub heritage. Well, my local village inn, Brady's in Terenure village, is usually pretty clean, but I doubt if it's ancient, and this post largely concerns one of its sins in particular. I'm in there every few weeks for the carvery lunch. From the macrobrews on offer I'd generally have a Guinness. Mrs Beer Nut, a lager drinker by default since she doesn't like stout, kegged ale or Erdinger, has been pitching around for a new regular and decided to give the Beck's Vier a go. Strange sort of beer this one: it appeared in the market a couple of years ago and is made by InBev in Germany exclusively for the British and Irish draught market. Presumably because of the varient "normal" beer strengths in both countries, it's an even 4% ABV in the UK, 4.3% over here. Concentration brewing is great, isn't it? Just add water...

Long story short, Beck's Vier is extremely dull. Yes, you can detect a hint of that maltiness which is the Beck's hallmark and which, I have to say, I quite like. But there's really nothing else going on: they've taken away the flavour and replaced it with water and gas. There's no doubt that Ireland's bars are oversupplied with lager taps. However, following events during the week, our Big Three brewers are now a Huge Two, and when the merger goes through Heineken in Cork will be paying people to make and market Heineken, Amstel, Coors Light, Miller, Foster's and Kronenbourg 1664. Something must give, but I'd say InBev Ireland, and Beck's Vier, will weather the storm.

To the other end of the pub spectrum, then, and the Bull & Castle. A shipment of Maredsous 10 arrived recently. Last year I complained about the tastelessness of Number 6 (be seeing you). Its big brother still lacks the bold flavours I'd expect from a tripel. However, it's smooth, honey-like and very very easy to drink so I think I can just about forgive it. It doesn't have the character of stablemate good old Duvel, however.

And that's me done with pubs for a while. Back to proper beer...

23 January 2008

Basque non-separatist

Tapas caught on in a big way in Celtic Tiger Dublin. Of course, it being Celtic Tiger Dublin -- the capital of Rip-Off Ireland -- prices are generally ridiculous (if you want to pay €6 for a dish of patatas bravas, Salamanca on Andrew Street is your only man) thus missing the point of tapas as quick, cheap, high-quality food.

Thankfully, The Porterhouse has come to the rescue. Not content with saving us from macrobrewed beer in the last decade, it's now tackling the Great Tapas Swindle. In 2006 it opened The Port House in a dark South William Street basement. There are pintxos at the bar and a full tapas menu in the main restaurant, with dishes in the €3-€5 range: hardly Spanish prices, but very good for Dublin. The quality of the food is excellent (particularly the churros with hot chocolate), and there's an extensive list of wines, sherries and ports. A second branch, called Pintxo, set up on Eustace Street in Temple Bar last year.

Even before these places opened, The Porterhouse was importing Pagoa beers from the Basque country for sale in its bars. Naturally, these constitute the beer list in the new tapas joints, though I think they have Birra Moretti for the lager-heads too. It was in Pintxo that I sampled the Pagoa Zunbeltz stout I reviewed for November's Session, and I was back to try another a few days ago. This time I went for the red ale, Gorri.

On first tasting I was disappointed: it's a very dry af