29 September 2011

Alternative arrangements

I missed all the rí-rá agus ruaille-buaille of the first All-Ireland Craft Beerfest, held at the RDS last weekend. A shame because it was, by all accounts, a storming success. Big congratulations to the organisers and a hearty pat on the back to the Beoir volunteers who stepped up and helped out. Next year I will manage my calendar more carefully. (Details of what I did instead will feature in the coming weeks as I sift through my scrawly notes.)

Lots of specials and seasonals from the Irish breweries were on tap at the festival and I really hope I'll be able to find them elsewhere at some point. The first opportunity came yesterday, on the warmest afternoon of the year in Dublin, when I dropped in to the Bull & Castle for a quencher. Thankfully, Metalman have taken the unorthodox step of making a witbier their winter seasonal and it was on tap.

Alternator's pale and hazy shade of orange has me immediately thinking of German-style weissbier, but the aroma is definitely wit: lots of coriander leaping out of the glass. On first sip I found the texture a little thin and a bit gassy, but I can't really quibble about this since cold and fizzy was exactly what I was after. Thirst slaked, there was enough left to give the flavours a bit more considered analysis, and there's plenty to be analysed: big fresh and juicy jaffa oranges first, gently spiced around the edges with that coriander, some white pepper and a properly bitter, floral hop kick. Towards the end the weissbier vibe came back as clove notes started to make themselves felt.

Overall, a cut above most interpretations of the witbier style and perfect while the sun shines. Just the one keg in the Bull & Castle so get it while it's hot, er, outside.

26 September 2011

In it for the money

Odell again. This time another of their dark malt-driven beers: 90 Shilling. It's a darkish amber colour and shows little by way of aroma. The signature fruity Odell hops are there in the flavour, but they're muted under lots of milk chocolate and a heavy dose of caramel.

While warming, it's not especially thick or heavy and the fizz keeps it from being properly mellow. Like lots of the beer from this brewery, and the dark ones in particular, it just misses the mark. Some fine tuning and it could be fantastic. As it is there's nothing wrong with it, per se, but it's less than the sum of its parts.

Meanwhile, just 12 weeks from the brewery to my back garden comes Odell's double IPA Myrcenary. Keeping things fruity, I get masses of magic mandarins on pouring what proves to be quite a pale and hazy beer, showing very little gloop for a 9.3% ABV monster.

A proper sniff shows it's no hop-bomb either, giving off innocent sherbet notes. The texture is more full-on, however: heavy and a bit greasy in the mouth. The first taste brings a gorgeous hop burn, but not harsh at all, nor inappropriately alcoholic. Smooth, warming and flavourful are what it's all about. This is not an aggressive beer, but rather charming and fun to spend time with. I'd be interested to compare it with Sierra Nevada's Torpedo. It's more subtly flavoured but I couldn't say if that's a good thing or bad in double IPA.

That subtlety means Myrcenary is scarily drinkable. Remind yourself to sip it. It's an awful beer geek cliché to say the double IPA is the best beer in the brewery's range, but with Odell it really is.

22 September 2011

Come back Leffe, all is forgiven

I guess it was one of those "I'm leaving Sainsbury's and there's still a square inch of space in my trolley!" moments. I recall the items purchased on that excursion included a duvet, a toaster, a thing for poaching eggs in the microwave, and this: Sainsbury's Abbaye blonde. This was last October and the large bottle has languished in the back of my fridge ever since.

My enthusiasm for drinking it probably lasted less than the time it took me to wedge it in next to the tea towels, and as far as I can see it's no longer sold by Sainsbury's. The web tells me it's from the Saint Omer brewery in north east France which raises a question about the "Bière de Belgique" wording on the label. Can this be translated as "Belgian-style beer"? I dunno. Though it being French would explain the awfully clunky "Premium Continental Blonde" style designation. And does anyone still buy things because they're "Continental"?

Anyhoo, it's rubbish. Though a lovely shade of dark amber, its flavour is completely hollow, showing only the faintest hints of golden syrup right at the very back. I had been bracing for something horribly sticky, and its wateriness left me feeling somewhat short-changed. On the plus side it's very easy to put away, even at 5.6% ABV. The carbonation is low so it's actually quite refreshing.

But who wants a Belgian-style blonde that's refreshing?