The theme for March's Session is Up-and-Coming Beer Locations and it would be remiss of me not to stay close to home for this one. Ireland really genuinely is an up-and-coming place to drink beer and this post reflects just a few of the recent new additions to give you a flavour of what's going on right now.
Though the national beer scene has changed immeasurably, even in just the last two years, I'm still drawn back again and again to the place where I first discovered independent Irish beer in the mid-1990s: The Porterhouse in Temple Bar. It's currently doing a great job of tapping up what's new and interesting from all over the country.
It was, for example, the first place I found the new beer from Jack Cody's: Drogheda Cream Stout. Something didn't quite work out as planned with the colour of this one, arriving as it did a distinct ruby hue instead of properly black, but don't let that distract you. From the first pull this is most definitely a stout. A rich latte creaminess kicks it off followed by a smack of intense burnt dryness and then a big vegetal hop acid burn, possibly even more so than you get in bitter Porterhouse classic Wrassler's XXXX. That hop kick lasts long after swallowing, building gradually on the palate. The name suggests that this might be an innocent sort of introductory stout but it's far bolder than that and all the better for it.
Brewed down the other end of the country, but pouring beside it, was Gasman, another uncompromising hop bomb from Eight Degrees, their second with rye in the grain bill. It's a whopping 7.8% ABV but could easily pass for more, being thick and greasy. It's basically pure Aussie hop napalm, 68 IBUs of Topaz and Vic Secret burning into your palate in a slow, determined way. And despite the strength, all of that is down to the hopping: the beer itself is not harsh or hot in any way, even if the bitterness does get emphasised somewhat by the rye. After the initial shock, what are the flavours in here? I got semi-composted grass cuttings, top-shelf marmalade sold in very small jars to the Discerning Gentleman Who Knows What He Wants and chewing lime skins for a bet which you immediately regret. Did I say it's intense? It's intense. And on balance (if that word isn't complete anathema in this context) probably not one I'd go rushing back to. It's a little severe but there's no doubting the quality of the product.
When I'm not chasing new beers in The Porterhouse, there's a good chance of finding me doing the same in 57 The Headline. It was first on the southside to tap up another antipodean-hopped Irish beer: Kiwi Pale Ale from Dublin's own Rascal's. Wakatu, Waimea and Motueka are the chief performers in this otherwise quite simple 4.5% ABV clear dark gold beer. The sticky, sappy, resinous grass looms large, and there's a bit of a minty element too, particularly as it warms. It's a pretty stark reminder of the German heritage of these hops, and even reminds me of Germany's own Polaris variety in its effect. Don't expect much by way of juicy explosives, herbal dank or (thankfully) cat piss, but it's a fun, bold quencher and I was quite happy to follow up my first pint with a second.
So that's a fairly representative sample of a few days pub-hopping in Dublin. If it sounds like the sort of thing that interests you, you'll find us just to the left of Wales.
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...
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