26 August 2010

Kippers and Canucks

It has been interesting times up at the Bull & Castle lately. As the supply of Goods Store IPA wanes, we've had the first pints of its replacement -- O'Hara's IPA -- making its cask debut. I've made my peace with the bottled version of this now, having found the keg just too severely bitter to enjoy. On cask, however, those head-kicking US hops are back in palate-burning force. Drinking this monster is like mainlining marmalade (the sort with the bits in). I reckon it takes a second pint to appreciate it properly, but I've not yet built up the courage to try.

For a couple of days last week, one alternative for the hopped-out tippler was Sierra Nevada's Unrivaled, a one-off smoked ale with added rye. I loved the smell of it: that sherbety balance of fruity hops and sweet malt that you get in the most delicious medium-strength pale and amber ales from the US. Surprisingly it doesn't taste like this at all. The foretaste is quite harsh and rather kippery: the smokiness made extra sharp by the grassy rye. This doesn't last long, though, fading quickly to let the lightly citric hops make a more mellow finish. An odd beer, but one I kept coming back to, for the aroma more than anything.

Last Thursday's meeting of Irish Craft Brewer in the pub featured some canned beers left to us by ex-pat member Garthicus, now stationed in Toronto. First open was the Creemore Springs Kellerbier, a cloudy orange affair. It tastes, as I believe Mark observed, like kit beer gone wrong. Even though it was only slightly past the best-before there was a marked stale and musty vibe to it, with very little sign of the quality lager it purports to be.

We fared better with Denison's Weissbier: properly cloudy, though remarkably pale. It lacked the big soft fluffy body and full-on bananas of good weissbier, but substituted with lightness and drinkability, plus a strangely pleasant acetone/pear sort of flavour. I could drink this happily, though was aware that it probably contains chemicals which, if ingested in sufficient quantity, are likely to make one's head feel like it's full of hyperactive racoons the next day. But half a litre between eight or nine of us did no harm at all.

The last can divided the table. The balance of opinion held that Hockley Dark is foul muck, another poorly constructed beer, oxidised and overly sweet. Me, I've had worse, as has Brian. It's thick and caramelly, and quite bitter with it. I've tasted homebrew, and the odd bottle of Whitewater's Belfast Ale, that have been along similar lines. It won't win too many awards (though the can claims at least one), but it's perfectly palatable to me.

Still, after the commercial stuff it was nice to get stuck into the homebrew next. It always is.