28 October 2010

Écosse we want to

From the same chemistry lab that brought us Desperados, Heineken France present Adelscott. The tagline "Bière aromatisée au Malt à Whisky" might lead one to believe that this is an innocent affair, made using a whisky malt. Marston's produce something similar brewed with Golden Promise and it's quite harmless. Except there's more to the aromatisée here than just malt. The next ingredients listed are maize, sugar, flavouring, colouring and, lastly, hops. It's not looking good.

The colouring does its job well, giving it an attractive russet shade. The first hint of the sugar comes on the nose, and spreads on tasting. Maybe not as intensely sweet as Desperados, but not far off.

Then there's the "flavouring". It's a sickly sort of artificial wood thing, with a hint of smokiness. Perhaps close enough to remind the drinker of whisky, while not actually tasting of it.

Despite claiming both beer and whisky as its ancestry, we're very much in alcopop territory here. If you thought Desperados was an interesting way of presenting tequila as beer then you might be fooled by this as well. If you actually enjoy the taste of beer, however, steer clear.

25 October 2010


"Needs more Dog" seems to be DrinkStore's opinion of the Irish beer market, which is why they're now dealing directly with the European importer Bier & Co and have increased the range of Flying Dog beers available. (A side-effect of the new arrangement is the arrival of half a dozen De Molen beers, but sure you wouldn't be interested in that kind of thing at all.)

I realised I'd never tasted some of the core Flying Dog beers so took the opportunity of their sudden availability in Ireland to give them the once-over.

Tire Bite first: a 5.1% ABV golden ale which, frankly, is a bit too strong. It's quite lagery and I can understand why the American rating sites have classified it as a Kölsch, though it's maybe a little too sweet for that: there's a touch of golden syrup, the sort of thing I'd associate more with hefty Czech lagers or even British golden ale. That's about all the description I could muster, though. It was getting unpleasantly warm as I turned it over and this is a beer very much designed to be sunk cold. A percentage point or so lower on the alcohol and I'd be more inclined to do so. Strong and bland just doesn't float my boat.

I followed it with the basic porter, Road Dog. It's another simply designed beer but even more of a thumper at 6% ABV. An attractive dark ruby hue, it delivers the juicy fresh hops up front, following them with a crisp roasted dryness. The whole experience reminds me a lot of their powerhouse Gonzo Imperial Porter, only in miniature and with balance. Overall, I reckon this is just complex enough to pass as a strong beer for taking time over, though can't help thinking that as a low-strength sessioner it would have been a real winner.

So, it turns out that the bigger, heavier Flying Dogs are my preference over the everyday ones. I suppose that has a lot to do with these everyday beers being flogged for the guts of €3 a pop. At $10 for six I'd be a lot more forgiving.

21 October 2010

Cheap Shep set sesh

For as long as Lidl keep bringing out cheap Shepherd Neame specials, I'll keep buying them. Some day they'll produce something as good as Bishop's Finger or 1698. But that day is yet to come. There were three in the latest round, labelled as the "Master Brewer's Choice", all 4% ABV and on sale for the totally-worth-a-punt sum of €1.49 each.

The most promising of the three was called Tapping the Admiral but the anticipation was short-lived: when the cap came off there wafted out an unmerciful stench of lightstruck hops. Open a window and don't nobody smoke: something's crawled into this beer and died. Of dysentry. Ignoring the stink, the beer is an attractive gold colour, but that's it's best feature. Amazingly there's no trace of those pungent hops in the flavour. Instead there's a woeful sickly cheap-chocolate sweetness. This is apparently supposed to evoke brandy, but offers no heat, no wood and no fruit; just a box of Milk Tray from three Christmases ago you found at the back of a cupboard. Avoid.

Autumn Blaze was next. It looks the part, all auburn and russet and the other adjectives from that shelf in the hair dye section. There's no assault on the olfactory nerve, though up close it has a sort of maple syrup woody stickiness. Nothing really jumps out in the flavour: a little bit of roastiness but there's nothing more than fizzy water behind it. Put it on cask to bring out the malt more and this would perform adequately as a workhouse brown bitter. As-is it's perfectly drinkable, but so laid back flavourwise as to be comatose. Your granddad will like it.

Palest of the lot is 4-4-2, with its daft claim to use ten different hop varieties. Using up leftovers, were we? This made its first appearance during the World Cup and my first impressions on tasting it is that they've gone straight for the lager-swilling demographic. Rather than the cascade (see what I did there?) of multitudinous hop flavours it has a vaguely grassy Germanic feel to it. Beneath that there's slight toasty malt and lots of fizz. If the aim was to produce a clone of Beck's or Carlsberg then they've done a bang-up job. But as a tasty pale ale it's a poor show.

And there you have it: two beers that are so-so in their own way and one absolute (literal) stinker. In all honestly I can't say if there's better beer going for €1.50 a half litre in Dublin. Maybe the Franziskaner next to it in Lidl. I'm actually slightly intrigued as to what the Shep-Lidl Alliance is going to throw at us next. I dub this game "Kentish Roulette".