29 July 2010

Francis of A Sissy

They were a little sheepish, the Cork contingent of ICB when the local brewery launched a pink beer. While new brews are always welcome, it's best not to get too excited in case someone thinks you're a bit... you know. Me I'm always ready to embrace my fruity side, so it was on with my most flamboyant outfit and off down to The Franciscan Well to see what all the excitement manly banter was about.

There's no doubting the pinkness of Raspberry Weisse, though my camera seems to have spared the head its blushes: in real life it's very very pink. However, I think it's unlikely that this has ever had a real raspberry near it. Raspberries ferment, and generally leave quite a dry beer, whereas this gives off a powerfully sweet artificial aroma that immediately activated one of my nostalgia sensors: if you weren't raised in Northern Ireland or Scotland around the same time I was this isn't going to mean much to you, but it smells exactly like Creamola Foam, and that carries through on tasting in the powdery effervescent mouthfeel.

My assumption was that they'd just added the raspberry flavour into the house weissbier Friar Weisse, but I'm not 100% sure of that. Friar Weisse (which changes quite a bit from batch to batch) is going through one of its more Bavarian phases at the moment, whereas the base beer of Raspberry Weisse is rather dry with quite a nice wheaty cereal finish. And so tacked-on is the fruit flavouring it's actually possible to ignore it and enjoy the real beer underneath, with only the screamingly pink colour to assault your senses (as well as your dress sense, hairstyle and proficiency on the dancefloor).

I'd go as far as to say it's worth drinking. Though with craft beer fans of a girly persuasion a bit thin on the ground on North Mall, it remains to be seen who actually will.

26 July 2010


My run-in with Dogfish Head's Raison D'Être a while back left me a little suspicious of the Delaware brewery's abilities to make nice beer with fruit. So it was with some trepidation that I opened the cap on Festina Pêche, a self-proclaimed "malt beverage brewed with peach concentrate" which doesn't claim to even be beer. Oo-er.

The pour gives lots of dramatic sparkle, champagne-like, subsiding quickly to a pale orange cloudy body with no head whatsoever. On the nose, subtle peaches and a bit of carbonic fizz. Flavourwise it's quite dry, with the peaches -- fresh and juicy -- having nothing more than fizzy water to bear them up. The lack of any real body or follow-through taste are a bit of a letdown. It could, in fairness, have been much worse. They could very easily have packed this with sugar and made an alcopop out of it. Instead, while much closer to a Bellini than a beer, it is at least drinkable.

Next up, the much more promising Indian Brown Ale. It boasts of being "well-hopped" which, from the makers of 120 Minute IPA, should really mean something. But there's not a whole lot of hops in evidence. Instead, this very dark ruby ale is loaded with smooth and creamy milk chocolate, accentuated by the light carbonation. If you pause a second after swallowing, the echo of hops makes itself felt: pithy and herbal, but not lasting long as the residual chocolate cream takes over the aftertaste. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for some sort of stale, oxidised bum note, but that never came. Overall, this is a simple but interesting beer. The velvety texture leaves no hint of the 7.2% ABV and it was only after slipping back half the glass that I started to feel a warming glow from it.

Conclusions of this research: one beer for frivilous summer chugging and one for warm autumnal comfort. Or whatever works for you.

22 July 2010

Oldies but goodies

There's an e-mail address from an ancient UK ISP on the label of Arundel's Old Knucker, one of those domain names that will forever be associated with dial-up modems and plain-text websites. It shows that when Arundel do an old ale, they do it properly archaic. Old ale is one of my consistent favourites among UK beer styles but it's almost impossible to get hold of here (Clotworthy Dobbin is probably the nearest approximation we have, though it's dubbed a "ruby porter" by its creators and has more of a hop character). So when I was in Brighton last month I grabbed what old ales they had on the shelves of Waitrose and made off, grinning manaically.

Old Knucker (no I don't know what the name means and I'm not going to look it up) doesn't disappoint either. It has that gorgeous limpid ruby colour topped with a loose off-white head derived from very gentle conditioning. The heady aroma promises chocolate covered raisins, but there's even more inside. The first pull (it's definitely a beer for taking pulls of) confirms that beautifully light cask-like sparkle revealing succulent damsons, milk chocolate and sweet pipe smoke. A rich and comforting beer that I really wish I had more of.

I was expecting something very similar from Hepworth Classic Old Ale, and sure, it poured the same lovely dark red hue. But the taste experience was quite different. Only traces of the fruit and chocolate are present, mostly in the aroma. The taste is startlingly dry and roasty, reminding me a little of the lovely red ale that Carlow make for Aldi. Additionally there's a sulphurous bite making it extra crisp and complex, and very drinkable. This is perhaps not an old ale as I would normally recognise it, but it's still very very tasty.

Hooray for old ale, and more of this kind of thing please.