07 July 2014

Danger: Rascals at work

Dublin has been a little left behind in the Irish craft beer revolution. While breweries are sprouting from the topsoil across Ulster, Connacht and especially Munster, the big smoke still mostly has only the old guard of 20th century micros, the one exception being Five Lamps, itself heavily aided by funds from multinational macrobrewer C&C. It's a rent thing, I assume: there are lots of places far more economical to perch your new manufacturing business than in the re-bubblising Dublin property scene.

Bucking that trend, and a few others, comes Rascal's Brewing, the first new independent Dublin microbrewery since 1998, if I'm not mistaken. Award-winning former home brewers Cathal and Emma created the brand last year, with a superb Ginger Porter produced at Brú. Now they have a standalone brewkit, just inside the Dublin county boundary in Rathcoole. The range has expanded to include two more beers and the official launch was held in Rathmines a couple of weeks ago, showcasing all three with pairings by renegade caterers #BrewsWePlate (goat and kimchi sliders: yum).

Brian from the NHC pitches in
It was a warm summer's evening so I made a beeline for Wit Woo, a Belgian-style witbier. There's a generous hand on the orange peel in this, though it's not at all sweet like certain US-brewed witbiers I could name. Instead there's a fantastic crispness and a mineral, even sulphurous, quality. It's an extremely refreshing version of one of the top thirst-quenching beer styles and has a joyously low ABV of just 4%.

So, just a taste of the other new beer and then back to Wit Woo for the rest of the sweltering evening, then? Wrong. Big Hop Red is the other debutante, a 5% ABV American-style amber ale. The brewers admit they've missed a little of the intended aromatic effect, to be rectified in a later batch, and it's not meant to be a high-octane hop-bomb on tasting. Instead, it introduces itself to the palate with a pop of pine and follows it with a long beautiful tannic peach tea effect. The texture is light considering the strength which, combined with that flavour, makes for a supreme summer cooler. This is what I stuck with for the duration of the event.

Although it would have been rude not give the Ginger Porter a once over. I didn't notice any significant difference from the Brú-brewed version -- the same full smooth porter, allowed to do its own portery thing without too much interference from the ginger piquancy. This was a version aged on cacao nibs and did nothing to dispel my theory that cacao nibs have very little effect on flavour: I could distinguish no chocolate element other than what you'd normally find in a porter.

A solid bunch of beers, then. And while the styles might appear radically novel at first glance, it occurred to me afterwards that they're not all that different from the mainstream styles that Carlow Brewing produced for their first decade or so: a stout, a red and a wheat beer. Irish brewing is definitely evolving, but it's nice to see it's not losing the run of itself.

Thanks to Cathal and Emma, Eric and Flo, and all the Rascals-for-a-day who were so generous at the event. Look out for Rascal's beer around Dublin in 57 The Headline, Blackbird, The Norseman, The Bernard Shaw and probably a few places on the Northside as well, if you dare.

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