28 July 2014

Tinkering sans frontières

The newest pair of beers from Dublin-based Brown Paper Bag Project arrived a couple of weeks ago, heralded by a barbecue and garden party out the back of L. Mulligan Grocer where projecteers Colin and Brian introduced the débutantes.

Look at that lovely head
Vlad the Baker is a lager, lagered the proper way in Vyškov, in central Moravia. American hops have been used extensively, leading its creators to badge it as an "India Pale Lager", immediately drawing a comparison with Williams Brothers Caesar Augustus. Vlad is the better of the two: the hops don't just provide a whiff of citrus on a clean lager base, they're the main act, as you would expect in an IPA. There's an almost sticky orange pith quality, aided by a generously heavy US-IPA-style toffee malt base. The aroma melds the West Coast grapefruit sharpness with a classic Czech fresh-cut-grass character: there's Columbus, Simcoe, and Summit in here, but not so much that they bury the Saaz. I'm amazed that such a weighty beer is a mere 4.8% ABV, and the bonus good news is that it comes in half litre bottles, the first Brown Paper Bag beer to do so.

The companion piece is a similar strength but couldn't be more different. Shmoake is a grätzer created at regular Brown Paper Bag haunt Hofbrouwerijke. I'd say that this smoky wheat beer is a difficult style to get right: the iodine intensity of the one Jopen brewed a few years back, which I'm sure was totally authentic, was just a bit too much for me, and it's probably very easy to go the other way and lose the whole point of the style: a refreshing summer quencher given an extra dimension by the assertive smoke. This one is lightly textured for easy drinking, and pleasantly dry, with the smoke flavours right at the centre where they should be, striking the palate immediately and lingering all the way through. But... there's something else. Something I've never encountered in my admittedly limited grätzer experience. It's a sweet fruit juiciness, like honeydew melon, utterly out of place but absolutely beautiful. Sadly, it almost disappears when the beer's lees are added to the glass, but on a clean first pour it adds a wonderful refreshing new dimension to the flavour.

An American twist on real světlý ležák and a hop-driven grätzer: that sounds like what the 'Project would be up to all right.

No comments:

Post a Comment