18 December 2008

Clear out

I'm looking forward to heading north next week and performing an epic raid on Sainsbury's in Armagh. The exchange rate means that beer in the UK is getting cheaper and cheaper by the minute for me.

To clear a bit of space for the haul, I thought I'd open a few from the last stash I picked up in October, aware that some of them wouldn't have been the freshest when I bought them. I recall being sorely disappointed that only one of the British Beer Competition winners was available, namely Scott's 1816 from Copper Dragon in Yorkshire. There was no sign of a date on the bottle so I figured I'd better get it into me quick, just to be safe.

This IPA pours a perfect, deep Lucozade orange. The head is of the big-bubbled real ale variety and disappears shortly after it arrives. I detected a touch of stale must on the aroma which confirmed that it was perhaps past its best. A sip revealed some simple but beautiful sticky toffee flavours followed up by quite a gentle hoppy tang. However, then the mustiness returned -- stale and woolly -- to upset the delicately balanced taste. And then I noticed the neck, where the date was written after all, in black ink, invisible against the dark beer before pouring. Turns out this is supposedly good for another eight months. Oh dear. I think perhaps 1816 is a delicate flower of an IPA which doesn't take to bottling at all, but needs to be served fresh from the cask, whence I'm sure it's superb. Still, with the lightness that comes of 4.4% ABV it didn't occupy my time and after just a few gulps I was back in the stash.

The next one was definitely knocking on a bit, with less than a week before it was due to reach pensionable age. It was bottle conditioned, however, making it more of an unknown quantity. Goldblade is a wheat beer from O'Hanlon's, a Devonshire brewery I still haven't made up my mind about. As one might expect, it's rather hazy. There's big bonus fizz and a thick head that stays put throughout -- not so much lacing as lining.

It's a close relation of Belgian wit, with lemons and coriander at the centre and a mild dry hoppiness. The aroma offers lemon sherbet and the texture is surprisingly smooth, given all that gas up top. What it lacks is legs: the fruit and spice just vanish after the first taste. At 4% ABV, this is a don't-think-just-drink quaffer. Not bad, but not great either.

I will definitely be looking for things heavier and darker when I land next at Sainsbury's.


  1. Clotworthy Dobbin works out to about 1.80 at the moment in northern off licenses. In the south you'd pay twice that for a similar beer. 2 Clotworthy or 1 Carlow?

  2. I sincerely hope that the day I'm faced with that choice never comes.

  3. Out of interest, why do you do so much drinking at home? I thought Dublin was a great city for pubs - that's what my mates from there tell me.

  4. I give that impression, Jeff, because this blog is based around exploring different beers. When I find a new beer in a pub, I do write about it (will be doing so on Monday, in fact), but the range of beers in the four or five Dublin pubs which serve beer worth drinking doesn't change much, so doesn't get written here.

    Writing weekly posts about how I went to the Bull & Castle and drank Galway Hooker would bore me before everyone else.

    Dublin is indeed a great city for pubs. But it's a terrible city for beer, and this blog covers the latter.

  5. I suppose I see pubs and beer as sides of the same coin. That's why I tend not to like beer festivals and don't see much attraction in drinking at home.

  6. And for me it's the exact opposite -- pubs and beer don't mix, by and large. It's a feature of our respective countries, and perhaps why I'm much more keen to get the hell out of mine and into yours to do my drinking.

    You would too if you lived here.