It goes without saying that there were pale ales aplenty at the Irish Craft Beer and Cider and Whiskey and Whatever You're Having Yourself Festival at the RDS last month. It's still the backbone of the Irish craft beer market and even firms with plenty of pale 'n' hoppy in the portfolio already were showing up with additional ones.
Mountain Man's Crazy Horse is their third beer and the third pale ale, this time a "San Diego IPA" at 7.5% ABV. It's certainly a reminder of how American IPAs came to world prominence: that massive citrus balanced against a huge and chewy caramel malt base. It tastes almost old-fashioned now, given the choice of ingredients generally available to small-scale brewers: charmingly retro, perhaps. It should still turn a few heads down Ballyvourney way.
And staying in Ballyvourney, I got my first proper taste of 9 White Deer Stag Bán pale ale. It's a magnificent refresher, bursting with pilsnerish grass notes plus mild lemony zest, all set on a dry and crisp hazy pale body. A beautifully put-together 4.5% ABV session beer. Stone Barrel are in similar territory with their new seasonal Day Trippin', though ramping the alcohol and the malt character a little higher, and turning up the bitterness too, to give it an invigorating sharp bite.
Trouble Brewing's latest IPA is called Chasing the Dragon: 8% ABV and very big on the golden syrup and oaty biscuit malt flavours. There's a decent bit of grapefruit and lemon pith from the hops, but they're more a seasoning than the core of the flavour. Lower strength, but similarly biscuity, was Black's of Kinsale's Rocketship IPA. This one's 100% Galaxy hops and shows a little of the mandarin juice and jaffa zest I associate most with the variety but it's sandwiched between lots of sweet grain, conjuring up the Jacob's Club Orange bars of my childhood.
Two festival specials were on offer from Bo Bristle: a 7% ABV Imperial Red, crisp with lots of melanoidin malt for a rich cleanness of flavour, enhanced by a gorgeous fresh and grassy hop aroma. The 7.7% ABV Double IPA was a single-hop Citra effort, remarkably light and drinkable at that strength.
Metalman used the festival to garner feedback on a couple of possible recipes for their upcoming canned range. Can Prototype #1 was the only one I got to try: a 5.6% ABV amber ale, with its roots in regular seasonal Windjammer, but utilising American rather than New Zealand hops. It's decent but unspectacular: some lovely chocolate notes but no hop fireworks. I found myself surprised to be enjoying Rubus more, a raspberry-infused blonde ale which manages to taste powerfully of the fruit without being either too tart or too sweet.
Finally for now, I didn't get much of a chance to explore the Canadian beers on offer, but did manage a slurp each of Side Launch Pale Ale and Great Lakes Canuck Pale Ale, both just under the 5.5% ABV mark, both hazy and somewhere on the yellow-gold colour spectrum. The Side Launch is lemony and tannic so wins on refreshment power, though I found the Canuck more interesting: piling spices and grass on a sauvignon dryness. I'd be perfectly happy with either, mind.
Just a bit of mopping up to do before we leave the RDS for another year.
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