28 February 2008

End of the line

During the winter months I've been slowly working through the Unibroue range which has inexplicably shown up in one Dublin supermarket. I began in October with Trois Pistoles, and had a Maudite at the end of December. The evenings are starting to get a bit longer now and, while it's still chilly, the worst seems to be over, so it's time to conclude the series with La Fin du Monde.

Not being a fan of reading labels before drinking, I saw the word "triple" and assumed this to be in the tripel style. I was disabused of this by the pour: a very clear orange and a thick, snowy, long-lasting head. The mouthfeel is sparkly and full in the typically velvety Belgian way.

Closer attention to the label reveals that this is "triple fermented", which is one explanation given for the origin of the tripel name, but not the usual one. Anyway, this is no tripel. It's a much smoother, sweeter golden ale, more along the lines of Duvel or Piraat to my mind.

The dominant flavour is fruit. I was getting the sharpness of pears while Mrs Beer Nut detected bananas. This, of course, is our old friend 3-methyl-1-butyl acetate, generally known as isoamyl acetate to its friends. I had never associated it with pear flavours before, but Wikipedia tells me that pear essence is another name for this ester. Mrs Beer Nut has a degree in organic chemistry, but we don't talk about esters much for some reason.

The chemistry aside, this is a highly enjoyable beer: flavoursome, complex, yet easy going. 75cl doesn't last nearly long enough. The full-yet-effortless drinkability is something rarely found at 9% ABV, even in Belgium.

Of the three Unibroues, dark Trois Pistoles is the one I'll be running back to first. But I'd be happy with any of these whatever the season.

25 February 2008

Charity case

My ICB buddy Duncan -- carpenter, brewer and all-round good guy -- went to South Africa in November on the annual Niall Mellon Building Blitz, when over a thousand volunteers built 203 houses in a township outside Cape Town. Resourceful individual that he is, Duncan found the time to try a few beers and was kind enough to bring me back two bottles of Windhoek, a Namibian lager not commonly found in Dublin outlets.

As one would expect from a hot country, this is a light quaffing lager, but it's no vapid gassy yellow affair. Windhoek is dark gold and has a very tasty malty profile, similar to the north German style, but not overpowering or musty as this sort can sometimes be. Well-balanced, moreish and the sort of thing that, in Europe, would be considered unremarkable but passable, but is stand-out for Africa.

22 February 2008

Feel the strine

We do very badly for Aussie beer over here. I'm told that some of the Little Creatures range have been spotted in Dublin off licences, but other than that it's the usual yellow muck from the House of Foster, Toohey's, and the like. In general, the Cooper's range is the best we can manage, though I'm not keen on their stout and find their famous Sparkling Ale highly overrated. The last of their beers that we see in these parts is the Original Pale Ale.

Well, it's pale all right: a translucent light yellow with loads of gas creating a steady shallow head. There's not much on the first sip, just more gas and a crisp dry bitterness. After a while the malt profile begins to come through but it's hard to get a handle on it around all those bubbles.

In an effort to get a bit more flavour out of the beer I've just bunged the yeasty dregs into the glass. This turns it more of a lemony witbiery shade and adds a bit more body, but really does little for the overall taste.

An ice-cold six-pack by a barbecue supplying endless amounts of greasy meat: yes, I can understand that. Sitting in on a dark northern-hemisphere winter evening, however, I'll have something else, thanks.