06 December 2013

Tall tales

Steve is hosting The Session this month and has picked Beery Yarns as the topic. I'm by no means averse to a long and rambling anecdote and could easily qualify for the national Pub Bores team, but it's not just back-packing, pint-swilling transcontinental scoopers like me who get a kick out of being the centre of attention, whether anyone's paying attention or not: there are more than a few beer makers who like spinning yarns as well, sometimes with a distinct whiff of brett aroma about them too.

As Exhibit A, I present a new range of beers recently arrived in Ireland: McGargle's. Behind the ubertweeness is the more prosaic Rye River Brewing Company of Kilcock, Co. Kildare, who appear to have eschewed all the troublesome mashtun and fermenter business for now in favour of a licence to distribute San Miguel, an energy drink, and these three beers -- commissioned from the Thomas Hardy contract brewery in the UK, pending the alleged construction of a real live brewery in Ireland.

The McGargle's website is long on story and short on content. Each of the three beers is associated with a cartoon character, though we're not told trivia like where they're made or from what. There's barely even any tasting notes. Whatever they teach at beer marketing college these days, I guess it's not about customers like me. Geoff at 57 The Headline was kind enough to provide me with a tasting tray of all three a couple of weeks ago and this is what I found in it:

I started with the lager, called Gravy Maevey's Pilsner, and pilsner it is not. The brewer definitely had the book open at the right page when picking and adding the hops -- there's a solidly big grassy bitterness in the middle of it -- but they must have been looking somewhere else later in the process: it smells buttery, the texture is thick and slick, and the finish is 100% Kerrygold. On the plus side it puts paid to any suggestion that this is a big industrial brewery's lager re-badged, since most of them would have process controls to prevent lager coming out packed with diacetyl. Drinkers who choose lager because it's bland may be pleasantly surprised by this, but it's not likely to win over any Urquell fans any time soon.

Moving right, to Granny Mary's Red: a dark chestnut red with just a thin skim of foam. It arrived very cold from the tap so it first tasted of nothing, but as it warmed it began tasting of... something very very slightly more than nothing. It's another heavy one, but while it feels like it should be abundant with caramel flavours, there's only the merest hint of caramel and a very slight suggestion of coffee too, but no more than that. Even by Irish red standards, this is all-out full-spectrum high-calibre boring.

And so to the inevitable pale ale, which Rye River have called Knock Knock Ned's India Pale Ale, though I doubt anyone else ever will. The theme of under-attenuation continues -- heavy, sticky -- in a pleasant-looking clear red-gold package. It tastes bizarre, with a kind of accidentally-tasted-aftershave chemical intensity. The big sweetness grinds up against a big artificial-tasting bitterness in a way that's probably supposed to be balanced but is all wrong. One of those beers that makes you want to sit the brewer down and ask what they were trying to achieve, out of sheer morbid curiosity.

I genuinely would love to know more about these beers, what the specification was and what's going on in them. Conversely, I am not on the edge of my seat waiting to meet the newest kerrr-azy member of the McGargle family.

Please, brewers: concentrate on the product quality and leave the beery yarns to the drinkers.

8 comments:

  1. Cheers for the contribution john...had a feeling these may surface on your blog...i almost did the same for my session post but thought that might me stealing your sneak reviews into a session post thunder ;)
    I thought the same about the two I tried, sounds like I haven't missed much with the "IPA" but the completest in me still wants to get hold of it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should. Never mind me and drink all the beers.

      Delete
  2. Great post and solid advice

    ReplyDelete
  3. An Irish brewery (well, an Irish company, anyway), selling in Ireland, and they're calling themselves McGargle's? Something really staggeringly lazy about this (and about the beers, apparently, although Thomas Hardy can take at least some of the blame). And they're not even doing a stout.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, lazy. "This 'craft beer' thing seems to be a growing niche, but what it's missing is a brightly coloured Flash website and some zany cartoon characters. The braindead pricks we're targeting will lap it up."

      Delete
  4. Great read but er... meow...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

      Delete