31 May 2010

Sweets of sin

At a piddling 9.5% ABV I was half expecting Dieu du Ciel's Péché Mortel to be a bit of a light affair. On pouring from the 341ml screwtop I got gentle whiffs of café crème, though a proper sniff reveals a distinct hoppiness to the aroma as well. On tasting, all illusions of this being the more vapid sort of imperial stout disappear.

The body is huge and treacle-thick, with just a gentle prickle running through it making the flavours dance. Sweetened coffee is definitely still at the front, as might be expected since coffee is an ingredient, though it's not allowed dominate the taste. After it, there's a hoppy bitterness which isn't citric, nor in the least metallic: very unusual in the imperial stouts I've had, unfortunately. Rather, the hoppiness is green and a little brassica-esque: anyone who knows the pleasure of a perfectly-cooked Brussels sprout -- firm and squeaky -- will know what I mean.

You may think you're done when the rich, slightly dry, roasted flavours come in, but they're followed by a wonderful warming sensation down in the lower regions. Not that low, you perv; merely an extra duvet on your stomach lining. Perfect for tucking in your dinner.

This Canadian definitely punches above its weight. I've had stouts in the 12-15% ABV range that weren't nearly as complex or tasty. Or as boozily comforting. A class act all the way.

27 May 2010

Slide one over

New from California's Sierra Nevada is Glissade, a golden bock which follows their Kellerweis in being an attempt at recreating a German style, only in smaller bottles. It's similarly successful too, in that it has all the elements you'd expect from the real thing, but doesn't quite do enough with them.

So, at 6.4% ABV it's the right strength for a German bock and has the same relatively heavy, sticky, nearly syrupy, body. The nose and foretaste have the slightly herby, nettle-like character of noble hops, and the finish is sugary malt. I'm not much of a fan of the style in general, but even I can tell that they haven't put the elements together in quite the right way. I found it inoffensive, as did my bock-loving wife.

Far be it from me to say breweries should stick to what they're good it, and making the styles appropriate to their region, but I will say that if I do want a pale German bock I'll be getting some Einbecker or the like; and when I recommend Sierra Nevada to people, it'll be for Torpedo, not this.

24 May 2010

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

My poor beer fridge was neglected while I was writing all about Copenhagen this last couple of weeks. It's time now to get a few of the beers that have been languishing in there into a pint glass and down the red lane to immortality.

Top of the list is Black Rock Stout from Dungarvan Brewing Company. They didn't have this at the Franciscan Well festival last month, but I subsequently had a sneaky sample from a rogue bottle that wandered to Dublin all on its ownio. I didn't write it up at the time because I was, quite simply, stunned by what I tasted and needed to double check. As a session-strength stout, Black Rock should be unremarkable. Bottled stouts at the 4.3% ABV mark aren't exactly rare in Ireland -- I can think of six others straight off -- so a new one shouldn't be making much of a splash. Black Rock's USP is being the only one which is entirely unfiltered and 100% bottle conditioned, but so what?

So an awful lot, as it turns out. I had been waiting for a bottle to myself to confirm this, but this is dry Irish stout with the volume turned up to 11. Following directions to have it south-eastern style ("from the shelf", ie at room temperature) the nose is fresh coffee and a herbal complexity which the label describes as aniseed, and I concur. The body is light, with a fairly gentle fizz. It wears its hops up front -- fresh, green and definitely bitter rather than any way fruity -- then a quick burst of chocolate and a long long dry roasted finish, with those bitter herby hops running alongside.

I have a nasty, pessimisitic suspicion that what I've been drinking will some day be regarded as the "classic" Black Rock, back when Dungarvan were a six-barrel plant and still bottle-conditioning everything. It would be a crying shame if they changed the specs on this to make the sort that's just acceptable as an Irish stout, like everyone else. Filtering and pasteurising really do suck much of the life out of bottled session stout. Black Rock, I hope, will lead to a few palates being awakened down Waterford way.

More about the brewery, and the unique beer culture of south-eastern Ireland, from Séan here.