30 April 2015

Hop swap

Work sent me to Cork for the day last Thursday. I was determined to make the most of it, which meant pizza in the back yard of Franciscan Well for lunch and after-office pints and chat in The Bierhaus, where I happened on Alain from Radik Ale. More on what he's up to soon. I stopped in at No. 21 on the way to the station for some transit beers, including the latest from Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne: Bitter Sable.

I'll say from the start it wasn't cheap: €4.49 for a half litre. My last pint in The Bierhaus cost a fair bit less than that. It's a black IPA and part of a recipe exchange with Weasel Boy brewery of Ohio. There was barely a hiss as the cap came off and indeed the carbonation proved pleasantly low. There's a lot of olde sweete shoppe about the aroma: humbugs and liquorice. It doesn't taste like an American black IPA. It tastes like a jolly nice porter, all tart dark fruit, Christmas cake and high-cocoa chocolate. There's a bitter tang from the hops but it rushes in late to the flavour, looking harried and blaming the bus driver. The party goes on regardless and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Discovering half way down that something this suppable is SEVEN per cent ABV was a shock, but I'm not complaining: a US black IPA that happens to have convergently evolved into a 19th century British stout is absolutely fine with me. It's all good.

There was a bit of buzz in The Bierhaus about the imminent release of Eight Degrees's latest beer, Oxymoron, a Kiwi wit, and a name which demonstrates that, frankly, Hiberno-Australian wit has little to feel superior about. Happily it was on its way from Cork to Dublin before I was and I managed to grab a pint early on Friday afternoon, while blending in with the youngsters at the bar of the Generator hostel in Smithfield.

Oxymoron is opaque, even by witbier standards, and is rather stronger than you'd expect for the style at 6.2% ABV. But it's definitely a wit: look there's that punchy lemon zest in the aroma and the foretaste. It takes some funny turns right after that, however. For one thing, the ABV is very apparent from the texture: much heavier than a witbier normally is, and missing the refreshment power as a result. The New Zealand hops aren't shy either, starting with a little peach and mango, but then growing into a powerful bitterness: hard, harsh and acidic, adding a raw and resinous grass flavour that lasts long into the finish, though softened slightly by some granny's-bathroom talc and lavender. I know the hops are meant to be the main act here, and they certainly live up to their billing, but Oxymoron is just another one of those beers that hits my delicate palate with its bitterness just a little harder than I like.

In summary: not enough hops in the IPA; too many in the witbier. There's just no pleasing some people.

28 April 2015

The clock turns over

At 2.25pm on Thursday 28th April 2005 I was sitting at my desk in the basement of Leinster House. Mindful that I'd be beering in Birmingham in a few weeks' time, and that Oktoberfest was on the horizon for the autumn, I figured it was time to stop putting off starting a beer blog. Having satisfied myself that all the good names were already taken I picked a rubbish one, wrote an introductory post and clicked "Publish".

And here we are now: ten years, 1100 posts and some 4000 beers later. I suppose some sort of celebration is called for. I bought some Rodenbach Caractère Rouge, special like. Rodenbach has been my drinking buddy for longer than 10 years, so it seemed an appropriate choice.

This is a 7% ABV special edition given two years in oak and then six months ageing on raspberries, cherries and cranberries. I don't know if six months is a lot or a little as these things go, but the fruit certainly leaps out, with an immediate burst of tart fresh raspberries on the first sip, and then luscious juicy cherries coming in after and the dry tang of cranberry juice putting an edge on the finish. And the mature sour base beer is also present, subtle wood and just the light, refreshing acetic quality that I love about standard Rodenbach but is overdone in the Grand Cru. I'm glad it comes in 75cl bottles because it's very easy drinking. Well, it is my birthday, after all.

27 April 2015

On the rebound

It has been a while since a new Sierra Nevada beer has impressed me. I suppose that's not something the brewers of Torpedo need worry about: I'll continue to be impressed by Torpedo for a long as they make it.

Auditioning today is Boomerang, an IPA brewed using -- yes, you're ahead of me -- Australian hops. It's a very pale chap, the perfectly clear light gold of many a nondescript eurolager. The aroma is quite lagery too, giving off a strong green nettle effect reminiscent of German hop culture, though there's a bittersweet cloudy lemonade character lurking cheekily under the surface.

There's nothing merely cheeky about the flavour though. In fact, it's downright impertinent. A blast of waxy bitterness leads the charge, and keeps running, lasting on the lips long after everything else has happened. "Everything else" is a combination of lime flesh, grapefruit pith, and a thin spread of sweeter mango and passionfruit. There's not much room for the malt to say anything in all that, but it does contribute to the body: a lovely smooth texture that makes what could be a very harsh beer surprisingly easy drinking.

Am I impressed by it? Yes, I think so. It's certainly not the sort of American IPA you meet every day. But I just have a minor niggle over the length of that bitterness. A little more of the tropical fruit and I'd have been singing its praises more.