Among the first of the new Irish breweries to release beer into the wild in 2014 was the Independent Brewing Company, based in the Connemara Gaeltacht village of Carraroe, running a 10hL kit with all brewing and bottling -- refreshingly -- happening on site. The plan is for three beers, of which two had emerged at time of writing.
I opened Independent Gold Ale first: 4.5% ABV and, according to the nicely informative label brewed with Magnum, Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, and Chinook. An odd combination, but there's nothing wrong with any of those hops per se. It presents as a very dark gold, heading towards amber even, with enthusiastic carbonation forming a pile of loose white bubbles on top. The aroma offers a kind of spiced golden syrup effect, as often found in the heavier sort of Czech lager, with some sweeter perfume behind it. This perfume dominates the taste: intense floweriness at first then a jolt of metallic tang, a bitter bite and finally an astringent (oxidised?) grainy finish. As they unfolded I found myself making a series of faces and resembling a page from Juffage's blog as a result. I'm not sure what to make of this beer: it's technically proficient, full-flavoured, but there's something just not right about the flavour, or maybe it's just not to my taste. There's not much like it already brewed in Ireland, that's for sure.
With curiosity and a little trepidation I approached the Independent Pale Ale. This is a stonking 6% ABV and a shade or two darker, bringing it into more orange-amber territory. Same busy carbonation, mind. Magnum, Columbus and Chinook hops this time, and nicely fresh if the aroma is anything to go by: there's a piercing note of grapefruit juice and pine there, but a staleness too, which leaves me increasingly wondering about the possibility of oxidation. It tastes solidly, unapologetically bitter: waxy, mouthwatering and perhaps even a little harsh, but not too harsh. There's just a flash of citrus fruit at the end as a nod to the lighter side of C-hops, but mostly this is a businesslike and serious strong ale.
Independent has definitely not chosen the safe path for its first beers, though I think there may be a bit of tweaking required in the bottling process to get rid of that slightly stale note.
More posts from the new new wave of Irish brewing are on their way.
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