Some recent bottled additions to the Irish craft beer scene today, starting with two from Mayo brewery Mescan. I'd had their blonde previously but so far missed its companion beer until now. It's a red tripel. In fact, it's probably the Red Tripel as I don't think I've seen the style designation before, in Belgium or beyond. It's a bit of a misnomer, though, pouring more of a garnet-amber than the bright red I was half-expecting. Lots of very typical Belgian fruity esters in the nose, plummy like a dubbel rather than spicy like a tripel. All of the 8% ABV can be tasted: it's hot and fruity, in a sherryish kind of way. The darker malt really does bend its flavour profile more towards the darker Belgian monastic styles and there's none of the spice or honey of tripel to redress the balance. I like it; it's warming and very flavourful, but I'm not sure I'd put the T-word on the label.
The previous two Mescan beers are unmistakably Belgian-influenced in their taste and style. So I was highly curious when it came to Westporter Stout: a more Irish than Belgian 5% ABV. There's a slight yeast whiff, and lots of foam, which add to its Belgian credentials, but underneath it's all Irish. The texture is light and very sessionable and the flavour is dry, with the little sparks of gunpowder spice you sometimes get from roasted barley or black malt. Some lovely coffee and caramel finishes it off, and I'm reminded of both Dungarvan's Black Rock and Carlow's Leann Folláin, which is to say a thumbs-up from me. Those Belgian beehive bottles are very pretty and all, but I'd appreciate a pint of this.
Dungarvan's summer seasonal for 2014 is Mine Head, a 5.5% ABV American-style pale ale. It has been dry hopped with Cascade and there's loads of lovely juicy peach and passionfruit in the flavours, complemented by a sweet, but not sugary, nectarine aroma and finishing on a sharper bite of lime zest and orange pith. Where I think it falls down, however, is in the bottle-conditioning. For one thing it's very fizzy, and the carbonic bite is one element interfering with those delicate hops. The yeast is another: I poured as carefully as I could and left a couple of fingers in the bottle but still got a hazy glassful and a definite earthy cheese-rind tang right in the middle of the taste. It's a good effort, but you'd need to be a sucker for natural conditioning to rank it above most of the other beers of its style sold in Ireland.
To Kerry next, and the spring and summer specials from Beoir Chorca Duibhne, which I drank in reverse chronological order. Riasc Gold is very much a rose-gold colour rather than yellow, deriving its colour, I'm guessing, from the addition of rosehips. There's an earthy, yeasty aroma plus an underlying promise of fruity bubblegum malt. The first hit on tasting, however, is a lovely peppery spice, like fresh rocket. This is followed by mild floral notes and a crisp, wholesome grain husk character. It's very much not the wan, insipid golden summer quaffer I was expecting. At 5.5% it's an ale to take a bit of time over. There's maybe a hint of oxidation, but not enough to spoil the experience.
If the Gold is nearly red, Riasc Red is almost brown. This spring seasonal is also 5.5% ABV and has yet more rosehips in the mix. A comforting waft of milk chocolate and Turkish delight comes from the aroma. Despite busy fizz at the beginning, it settles down into a smooth weighty red with lots of cuddly caramel, more milk chocolate, and a more assertive herbal bitterness. While technically an Irish red I suppose, if a little strong for the style, there are lovely elements of porter and brown ale in the flavour profile. All-in-all a class act from the guys in Dingle.
I've just noticed that all of this week's bottles have been bottle-conditioned. While I appreciate the wholesome, down home qualities it imparts, I think all that fizz and that yeast does have a tendency to cover the more subtle elements of the flavour. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
1 week ago