It's Saturday, the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival is on at the RDS, everyone is either anticipating going or trying desperately to forget they were there. The point is this: nobody is reading beer blogs. But I felt I should round off the series of Irish Craft Beer Week posts with a couple of late additions. Both, as it happens, are brewed with grain du jour, rye.
Kinnegar are past masters of putting hops with rye and their Rustbucket IPA is one of the best of its kind. It has been extensively tweaked and starkly re-coloured to make Black Bucket, Ireland's first black rye IPA. This is 6.5% ABV, a strength that's very apparent in the heavy, almost sticky, texture. It shows the same huge grassy flavours as Rustbucket but in a different way. I'm not sure if the dark malts make much of a contribution -- it can be hard to tell because the visual clues are so powerful -- but perhaps there's a light dusting of milk chocolate. Or perhaps there isn't. There's definitely an extra floral intensity, a kind of hop perfume effect which is quite fun. Overall a very drinkable beer at the strength and one which I think meets my gimmicky requirement that black IPAs should taste indistinguishable from their pale equivalents.
Galway Bay Brewery have coupled the grain of the moment with the style of the moment to produce Holocene, a rye saison. A red rye saison, in fact, and a beautiful dark red-amber colour at that. The darker malt most definitely makes its presence felt here with a slightly sickly aroma and lots of smooth candy sweetness up front in the flavour. Fortunately this is quickly countered by the fruity saison tartness for an effect I can best describe as "toffee apple". A smack of dry grass enters the picture in what I thought was the finish of the flavour, but the tartness won't quit and that mouthwatering sharpness is the beer's valediction. No complaints about complexity here: this beer has a lot going on in it, and there's even a touch of that pepperiness so often missing from modern Irish saison. But at the heel of the hunt it left me wanting something simpler and cleaner. The toffee redness just gets in the way a bit, I think.
It'll be a while before I have a chance to compile my notes from this year's festival. But suffice it to say for this week anyway, Irish beer is all go.
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