30 April 2012

Let's get literal

"What shall we put on the label of our Moose Drool Brown Ale?"
"How about... a drooling moose?"

The beer is from Big Sky out of Montana and is a very dark brown, clear, and turning to deep deep ruby when held up to the light. There's quite an intense sparkle though not much by way of head. In the aroma I find dark and sweet fruit: sultanas and black cherries, plus hints at something more bitter as well. And there it is in the taste: liquorice perhaps, or the slightly metallic tang of heavy treacle. The beer itself isn't all that heavy: the strong sugar flavours are melded together and rendered less intense by the fizz. A simple pleasure and nice in small doses.

I wasn't sure what to expect from 21st Amendment Bitter American. The name suggests something powerful, though it's badged stylistically as a "Session Ale", whatever that means. A stiff heads tops a dark orange body which is very slightly misted with haze. I got a blast of grapefruit as I popped the ringpull but oddly no typically Californian citrus on tasting. The aroma offers sugary jaffa oranges rather than anything more zesty and the flavour gives me perfume and orange blossom: old world hop flavours rather than anything I'd associate with the US.

Is it literally a bitter American? With all the succulent fruit I'm going to have to say no. It is damn tasty though.

Both cans came courtesy of the non-bitter American Richard Lubell. Did you see his bit on Irish beer in Draft recently? Top.

28 April 2012

Phenolic felicitations

A little bit of off-the-cuff real-time bloggery this Saturday afternoon, the seventh birthday of this here blog. The something special picked from the stash is Nøgne Ø's Holy Smoke, one of those beers designed by a home brewer and picked by the pros for commercial scaling up. Ireland's equivalent  -- Trouble Brewing Spelt Saison -- is currently on cask in The Black Sheep in Dublin. I had a pint yesterday. It's lovely.

But back to Norway. This is a 6% ABV smoked dark lager. It pours thickly, with lazy ivory-coloured bubbles meandering upwards to form a pillowy head and then clinging tightly to the glass as it empties. The body is a dark chocolate brown and the texture is reminiscent of a doppelbock, though it's not quite in the same league strengthwise. The smoke is unmistakable, heading towards that medicinal, TCP, Laphroaig flavour, though it doesn't overpower. Unbelievably there's still a clean-tasting crisp lager underneath.

And perhaps that's its downfall: there's no real follow-through, no aftertaste. The smoke is gone from the palate as quickly as it arrived. I would have thought a full bodied, strong tasting beer would have left more of a lasting impression.

As phenolic smokebombs go, this is one of the more well-mannered ones.

26 April 2012

Canterbury stale

Three from Kiwiland today: Harrington's of Christchurch have been going since 1991. These bottles haven't been in my fridge since then, but I've held on to them for far too long, with the expiry dates for this lot having come and gone towards the end of last year. No matter. Here goes.

The Rogue Hop is first, an organic pilsner. The label claims Bohemian credentials for the recipe but I detect more than a little Kiwi influence. Off the dusty-looking pale gold beer I get hints of sweet tropical fruit, mangoes at first, turning sharper -- more towards satsuma -- on tasting. It's an aroma and flavour I associate strongly with New Zealand hops. The promise is a short-lived one, however, and it all fades away quite quickly leaving a slightly stale and hollow-tasting lager. Drink this when it's fresh, I guess, preferably at lattitudes below 30° south too.

I hoped the Classy Red would be a bit more robust. It's cloudy again, and while I'm not a subscriber to the importance of how a beer looks, red ales are always much more attractive when they're limpid and crystalline. Hazy reds just look unpleasantly swampy. There's an odd mix of flavours here, mostly over-ripe strawberries plus an added bitter yeast tang. It's OK as these things go, but I'm not detecting a whole lot of class in my glass.

The style designation "Porter Ale" will induce a shiver in anyone familiar with British brewing history, but that's what Wobbly Boot claims to be. It's an attractive dark red-brown and the cleanest tasting of the lot. I get a nice hit of smooth caramel, with some heavier burnt toffee behind it, shading up to full-on roast after a few sips. A little one-dimensional but not at all bad.

Nothing to travel 12,000 miles and write home about, then. But I have cleared three bottles of elderly beer out of my fridge, which counts as a win.