29 February 2012

Low hopping on leap day

My first post with this datestamp, and a couple of bottles from West Yorkshire's Saltaire brewery.

The chocolate one was my primary target but Saltaire Blonde was on the shelf next to it to I figured I may as well give it a go while I'm at it. It's good, if a little bit solidly by-the-numbers: balanced between the bubblegum malt and the gentle, very slightly metallic, hop bitterness with the hops announcing their presence as soon as the cap came off. It uses Saaz and shows off a little of the golden syrup flavour I always enjoy in Budvar and have met in another Yorkshire blonde: Black Sheep's Golden Sheep. Mostly, however, it's understated and sessionable summer drinking.

The main event was Triple Chocoholic and they're cheating a bit here in trying to get one over on those southern jessies at Wells & Young and their merely Double Chocolate Stout. In fact they're both made with cocoa and chocolate syrup, with Sataire cheekily claiming a chocolate bonus point for the chocolate malt, which Wells & Young also use and which, of course, involves no actual chocolate.

It's a fizzy beer, giving the candy sweetness a dry carbonic bite. There's also a considerable bitterness on the finish as well. While the chocolate provides a gooey candybar middle, the bitter tang and the dry fizz predominate. I don't think I'd take this over Young's Double Chocolate, if given a choice.

Hopefully there's more impressive beer than these in the Saltaire line-up.

27 February 2012

Responsible retailing

Pierre of Delice & Caprice in Brussels knew nothing about Giesbaargs Muurken, nor had he even tasted it yet as it was brand new on his shelves. And like any responsible shopkeep he therefore could not bring himself to ask for money in exchange for it. I mean, what if it wasn't any good? That would be embarrassing. So for the fourth blog post in a row I'm drinking a freebie. This doesn't happen very often.

Some research tells me the beer was launched last summer and is contract brewed at Proef. It's 7% ABV and squarely in the Belgian blonde ale category, pouring a pale gold with an enthusiastic fizz which settles to a rocky white head. The aroma is intense and almost witbier-like with its citrus and coriander piquancy, promising sweet bubblegum underneath. So I was surprised to find on tasting it's actually shockingly bitter: I get a kind of raw greenness that shades towards washing-up liquid and lingers in the back of my throat. It's a beer I enjoyed smelling far more than drinking: even adding the lees to the glass did nothing to soften the harshness.

With a bit more late-hopping we could have zingy marvel on our hands. As-is, I'm quite glad not to be out of pocket.

23 February 2012

The backpacker factor

It's a few years since I last went beering in Asia. I must confess, however, that I've never come home hankering after any particular beer I've tried there, even though there's some great stuff to be had if you put the effort in to look for it. Nevertheless, the company who have just begun importing Beer Lao to Ireland are going all-out for the recognition factor among people returned from south-east Asia (somewhere I've never been), in the hope it will stir fond memories of whatever it is people get up to on holidays down that way.

It's a fair target market. I've been told quite consistently that Beer Lao is close to the only thing worth drinking around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The region's top beer blogger has it as his benchmark, although he tends not to be shy about pointing out this is only because everything else available is utter crap. Not so much a diamond in the rough as, umm, an OK beer among lots of very-not-OK beers.

You want a bit more detail than that? Fortunately the importers kindly supplied me with some samples (and -- for full disclosure -- a sandwich [ham]) and I got to take the measure of the beer at first hand. My initial impression is that it's non-descript, which is probably a good thing for an Asian lager. Nothing really jumps out: no off flavours but little by way of hops or malt either. Although rice is an ingredient it's not the wan yellow colour you often get with adjunct lager, but rather a properly full rich gold. 5% ABV should provide a big enough base to propel some lovely lagery flavours, but they're just not there.

Full marks, then, for being what it is no doubt supposed to be. But points off for dullness. We make better lager than this in Europe and buying a bottle in Dublin in February will not bring you back to that, loike, amaaazing week in Phuket.