What got me most excited in the run-up to Alltech Brews & Food 2015 was the large number of Hungarian brewing companies listed to attend. It's far too long since I was last in Hungary so the opportunity to taste my way around its beer scene only a few minutes from my front door was one I relished.
First port of call on arriving into the Convention Centre on the Friday evening was Budapest brewpub Legenda Sörfőzde who brought a very impressive collection of off-kilter beers. Brettania is a 5.3% ABV dark red ale. It claims sourness but isn't really sour, having instead a big bretty funk and the heady sweetness of cherry cough sweets. There's even a slightly unpleasant sugary burn in the finish. An interesting sipper but I couldn't see myself drinking lots of it. Their Bazooka was altogether more integrated. This is a rye smoked dark lager and has the exact meaty aroma of a Bavarian classic. The taste is absolutely clean and balanced with plenty of rich smoky flavours. This guy I could drink in quantity.
There's a similar deft simplicity exhibited in Bunny Hop, a lager which Legenda Sörfőzde brews for Csupor. There's a fantastic ultra-fresh mown grass aroma set atop a silkily sinkable body. Csupor ThermoStout was also excellent: 6.3% ABV, big roasty aromas and a flavour which mixes a little bit of quality chocolate with a generous floral perfume. The shine comes off the partnership a little with Csupor Tántorgó ParIPA, a very minerally IPA with an unshakeable copper tang. The hops bring classic grapefruit and the body is quite light and dry. I think I expected more at 6.5% ABV.
Hello My Name Is Sudan was another Csupor beer but I don't know if Legenda Sörfőzde brewed it. It had its world première at Alltech and is named in honour of a the last male white rhino in Africa. It's an 8.2% ABV double IPA and very easy drinking despite that. Dry sherbet notes are the centrepiece and the body is remarkably light given the strength. No wonder it's endangered.
Legenda Sörfőzde brews for several other brands too, including Zodiak who brought Zodiak Red Rye Pale Ale. Though the colour was spot-on (it's almost pink!) it tasted rather grainy and stale. Along similar lines but much better was Mi újság Wagner úr? brewed for Hara Punk. This one is an amber ale at 6% ABV and with lovely cherry and cake notes, plus a slightly more grown-up funky overtone. Hara Punk also gets beer brewed at Hopfanatic in Kiskunhalas, including their new saison Monkey Funky Yeah, a modest 5% ABV and brewed with added coriander and black pepper. The latter adds a lovely oiliness to the aroma and the beer is very sharp and dry overall, though invigorating with it.
Zip Technologies was at the trade show part of the festival to show off its ultra-shiny brewing kits. But it had a small bar down on the main floor as well and I stopped by to try a couple of their offerings. Neither were much cop. Pineapple Noir is a dark saison of 6.5% ABV, with masses of stouty roast in its aroma and a flavour packed with crunchy burnt grain. There's only a very slight fruit juice element, and nothing I would have identified as pineapple. Without a label I would have taken this for a dry stout, and a very plain one at that.
The black IPA from Zip's is called Hopiverzum and it's 6% ABV but could pass for a lot stronger, with a nose full of spinach and tar, plus the burn of cheap vodka. It's smoother on tasting but loses its complexities along with the weird stuff and I got very little hop character. Another one I'd be marking as a very ordinary porter if I didn't see the style in advance.
Still, mis-steps notwithstanding I was intrigued by what the Hungarians brought to the table. It looks like an exciting place to go beering right now.
One more international round-up to come before we head for the door.
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