Galway Hooker isn't the only brewery I've been getting in the way at lately. I attended the brew day for Beoir#2 at Trouble Brewing last month, nosing around the sizeable facility they now have in Kill. As well as their own beer, Trouble does a bit of contract brewing and a look at their whiteboard reminded me of a few available in Dublin that I had yet to try.
And so on coming back from Galway the other week I dragged Séan and Ronan into Pantibar on Capel Street. As I'm sure is usual on a Saturday night it was heaving and there was just about space to stand at the bar. Panti's Pale Ale is the one Trouble produces for the place, on sale for just €4 a pint. On the dark side for a pale ale, shading towards amber, it's not exactly as flamboyant as its patroness. There's a solid malt core and then a vegetal green bitterness on top for an English bitter effect, though much tastier than bitter tends to be on keg. Overall it's easy drinking and not a beer that's going to interrupt the conversation. Coupled with the price, that's pretty much exactly what you want from a house beer.
Trouble has been brewing the revived Revolution Red Ale for Big Hand since 2010 but I only recently became aware that it has a stablemate now too: Augustine Dublin Steam Lager.
I dropped by the shabby-chic bohemian hangout that is Dice Bar, Big Hand's only outlet these days, to give it a go. It's 4.7% ABV, a bright pale gold and has a strange corn husk sort of flavour. This grows into a buttered popcorn effect which may perhaps be typical of the steam beer style but just didn't work for me. The overall impression was of a wonky, adjunct-laden mass-market industrial lager, even though that's not what it is. Revolution is a much better bet if drinking at Dice Bar.
There's also a new one in the O'Shea's range of budget ales that Carlow produces for Aldi: O'Shea's Traditional Irish Golden Ale. You know, like all those other golden ales Ireland is traditionally known for. It's 4.1% ABV and yes, definitely golden, so at least they got that right. The aroma is rather dry and husky with sweet golden syrup overtones which isn't very promising. But - surprise! - there's a lovely spiciness in the flavour, really taking the edge off the sugar. The grain husk remains, so we end up with a rather dry and serious golden ale, with a little marmalade shred bitterness, and I liked it for that: none of your bubblegum or fabric softener here. Very nicely put together for something that costs buttons.
Five Lamps is also at the contract game now, producing a house beer for the Pitt Bros barbecue joint on South Great George's Street. House Brew is a very straightforward Irish red ale of 4.7% ABV, comedically overpriced at €5.80 for a 33cl bottle. Of course it makes sense to have this kind of thing in this sort of place: the toffee and caramel really do complement the roast meats, and pulled pork in particular, but a big trayful of barbecue delights requires, I think, at least a pint of beery backing. They should have this on draught. Sipping it to try and make my €5.80 last to the end of the meal wasn't a fun experience. A fun experience was going straight to The Beer House afterwards where they had pints of Five Lamps Blackpitts Porter for €4 a throw: same brewery, nicer beer, well under half the price.
I was back at The Beer House on Friday at the end of Saturday's cross-town bimble in the company of Wayne, Janice, Ian, Sarah and Steve. It was a pleasant surprise to find the newest Five Lamps beer, a late winter seasonal called Phoenix Dark. It's a rich dark brown and tastes as luxurious as it looks, full of sumptuously smooth chocolate and caramel with a roast edge to prevent it from getting sickly or cloying. There's no sign of the strength either so I definitely could handle this a litre at a time, Munich-style.
Two more beers released under their maker's mark to finish with and the latest in a sequence of strong special edition beers from Offaly's finest is Bo Bristle Milk Chocolate Stout. It's all of 7% ABV but hides that well, especially when arriving cold from the keg. I had to leave it perched on one of 57 The Headline's radiators while I soaked up the atmosphere. Even with the flavours masked, the texture is appropriately rich with a real creamy feel of milk chocolate. And while this is present in the flavour (eventually), it's understated -- a light sweetness rather than, say, the full-on Dairy Milk effect of Porterhouse Chocolate Truffle Stout. There's a distinctly stouty dry bitterness too so don't expect a candified sugarbomb. In short, a damn decent strong Irish stout with a lacing of chocolate that may not be strictly necessary.
Wild Irish is something of a curveball. A modest 4% ABV, red-gold in colour and quite thin, which isn't surprising given the strength. The flavour opens with a firm bitter bite and finishes on a long, slow acidic burn. Rumours abounded that it's unhopped, but Dave the brewer has cleared that up: a bittering addition of hops was added, but the rest is all locally foraged elderberry, hawthornberry, ginger and rowanberry shrub. These are all active at the centre of the profile as a tartness and light meadowy herbal notes, no ginger heat though. The low gravity means it doesn't taste full of residual sugar as can sometimes happen with low-to-no hop beers. Wild Irish is an absolutely solid beer in its own right and not just a gimmick.
Bo Bristle seems to be having fun while everyone else is playing things pretty straight, by the looks of it.
Black Damnation II: Mocha Bomb - *Origin: Belgium/Netherlands | Date: 2011 | ABV: 12% | On The Beer Nut: September 2011* This imperial stout had me thinking about the role of coffee in bee...
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