31 August 2009

Rathmines, CA

The busy beery weekend kicked off on Friday evening in the Bull & Castle and a pint of O'Hara's Stout from the cask. From there I made my way out to Rathmines where Colin and Jonathan of CWI were running a tasting in Deveney's off licence of some new beers they've brought in.

SommerBrau is Gordon Biersch's summer Kölschalike, not a genre I particularly enjoyed when I tried Sierra Nevada's version, and I've not been in any rush to give Goose Island's a go. Biersch SommerBrau is fruitier than I expected, and with only a hint of grainy crispness at the end. Decent, inoffensive drinking. I'd imagine a six-pack would go great with a barbecue or similar sunny day activity, but that'll only really work in places where there's actual sunshine and the six-pack isn't costing €13. Places that aren't here, basically.

A much better proposition was Blonde Frog, by Blue Frog -- a company whose Red Frog and (now sadly discontinued) Big DIPA I've enjoyed in the past. Blonde Frog takes that full-bodied blonde ale base and injects it with a healthy dose of characterful American hops. 6.75% ABV in a 22oz bottle makes it one to be careful with, but it's well worth a bit of considered drinking.

Welcome return visits to Red Frog and Blue Frog IPA followed, which might be why I enjoyed the Butte Creek Pale Ale so much. Last time I tried it I was quite shocked by the intensity of its bitterness, but here I found it lovely and smooth and sherbety. I can only guess that the hoppy beers which preceded it helped knock the sharp edges off. Butte Creek IPA, however, tasted quite charmlessly bitter -- with a big vegetal harshness. But perhaps I'll become attuned to that eventually too. Odd things, hops.

Quite a few of the usual suspects had shown up by 7.30, so we decamped to the pub. More on that next.

27 August 2009

Turn up the heat

I know of only one Indian take-away in Dublin that has phall on its menu. It's a stupidly hot curry, invented in England to give macho arseholes something else to be obnoxious about, and though I lack a peer group made up of braying idiots, I'm not above a bit of chilli-based machismo. So phall it was.

This prompted a bit of a crisis: curry requires beer, and it was exceedingly unlikely I'd be able to taste much of what I was drinking. With no expendable beers in the house, I needed a curry lager, one where I wouldn't mind not tasting much of it, which is to say: cheap. I came up with a couple of cans of Pražský, a Czech lager by A-B InBev and one which is very popular in Ireland among less discerning drinkers. I recall someone (Evan? Al? Max?) saying this is one of the Staropramen range re-badged -- at 4.2% ABV I'd assume the světlý.

There's really not a whole lot going on with it -- it's watery and with a big hollow where the flavour is supposed to go. The one distinguishing feature is a slight sickliness, presumably caused by the use of corn syrup. And yet, when put next to a curry onslaught, all those problems go away and it just becomes a boring lager like any other.

Here's to the transformative power of the chilli.

24 August 2009

More puker than pukka

I like writing. Even more, I like having written. I like the discipline of writing to order and on schedule. But I could never have been a journalist because I am a painfully slow reader. Digesting press releases on the hoof, ahead of press conferences and deadlines, would just not have been my forte, and I take months getting through even the shortest of books. Which is why it was only yesterday that I published my review of the excellent Hops & Glory by Pete Brown, despite having been sent a copy shortly after it was published.

I had an English IPA sitting in my beer fridge and I reckoned I may as well crack it open to mark the end of my own two month voyage (of the armchair variety) to India with Pete. It's Fuller's India Pale Ale and comes in a bottle with a breathtakingly classy royal purple label. 5.3% ABV and bottle conditioned: this is a beer going all-out for the IPA purist -- the people who'll buy it based on the words "faithfully recreated" on the back label. Close your eyes, imagine a balmy tropical evening on the veranda, and try to ignore the way your beer smells of vomit.

It does smell of vomit, though, and this acidic harshness carries through into the flavour. There's a good body under it, and a hint of caramel sweetness, but those utterly unfruity bitter hops are very hard to get past and make the end beer really quite unpleasant to drink.

Prior to cracking the bottle open I had been drinking Big Daddy IPA by Speakeasy in California, recently on tap in the Bull and Castle as a limited-time guest beer. Here, there are firm and fruity mandarin and grapefruit notes in super-smooth harmony with the caramel malts. Mrs Beer Nut suggests that the Fuller's beer is just suffering by comparison, but I disagree: whatever way it's looked at, I think it's simply a poor quality beer. Crank up the alphas, throw in more crystal, then we'll talk.