26 March 2015

States of mind

For a festival organised by a US-based company, we weren't exactly drowning in American beer at Alltech Brews & Food 2015. It took a bit of hunting to find what was there. Obviously, Alltech's own beer was front and centre, including the new Kentucky Honey Barrel Ale. This is mahogany red and has a very woody bourbon nose. Vanilla is massively dominant in the flavour and, coupled with a huge sugary sweetness and a high level of carbonation, the overall effect is very like a bourbon and coke. Not something I'm looking for in a beer.

Meanwhile, at the Grand Cru stand, they had tapped up Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. The coffee flavour isn't too overdone here and at its heart it's a simple middle-of-the-road dry stout. Lagunitas DayTime was much more fun, all bright sherbet lemons and more serious heavy resins finishing perfectly cleanly for bonus drinkability. And all at 4.6% ABV, making it a session IPA truly worthy of the style.

DayTime, like the remaining American beers in this post, came from the Dublin Cup bar, where leftover beers from the international competition go to be disposed of. It's a wonderful idea and I took full advantage. Where else would you get to try Schlafly Oatmeal Stout, a marvellously smooth and sweet number, using its 5.7% ABV to give it extra welly but staying soft and approachable at the same time. The same can't be said for New Holland's Dragon's Milk, a 10% ABV imperial stout given far too long in bourbon barrels coming out the other side dripping with vanillins and only a late rush of milk chocolate offering any kind of complexity.

Back to simple and subtle again, and Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat by Fort Collins brewery is light on fruit but makes good use of the dry flavour from the pomegranate for a very refreshing end result. Dark Horse's Crooked Tree IPA is also nicely refreshing, though perhaps darker and a little sweeter than many of its contemporaries. There's a lovely hard orange candy flavour but nothing blaringly bitter or citric. It's one that's worth taking time over, not that I did.

Two rather plain sweet dark ales to finish on. I've been very impressed with Great Lakes beers in the past but Conway's Irish Ale didn't do it for me. It offers only a few crumbs of biscuit and a dry mineral edge but otherwise failed to hold my attention. Similarly, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog is dark red and mostly tastes of caramel. This time the extra dimension comes from a few wisps of roasted grain but there's not really enough to make it interesting.

Some quality beers here, but nothing too daring or different in this selection. I've saved the more thrilling beers for the last couple of posts.