07 May 2015

Lash it in, sure

Today is all about Irish brewers playing about with odd ingredients. Though some more unusual than others.

To begin with the more avant-garde offering, Jack Cody's Duxie is billed as a grapefruit tea pale ale. The smallprint further elaborates that pink grapefruit, lime and earl grey tea have been employed. I came to it on a warm afternoon after mowing the lawn, in need of quite serious refreshment. It's a dark gold amber colour and with the fill level a little low on the bottle I had to coax a head on it as I poured. And it's not as thirst-quenching as I'd hoped. The earl grey really stands out prominently as an almost harsh smoky quality and rather drying. The citrus behind this is again sharply bitter and there are no softer fruit or malt notes. My only other experience of earl grey in beer was the IPA that Marble and Emelisse made together and I wasn't a fan of that for similar reasons. Full marks for daring here but I think I'd prefer a trade down to Lyon's Gold Blend or the like.

Not a tea person? How about coffee instead? The Brown Paper Bag Project's latest bottle is a collab with Kompaan, brewed at Gadd's with input from Dublin coffee pioneers 3FE. It's called Black Coffee IPA but is really a coffee black IPA: 6% ABV, pouring like black silk and topped by a café crème head. There's the bathsalts aroma often found in black IPAs but a hint of just-walked-in-to-the-coffee-place too. And the coffee is even more up front on tasting: outstandingly fresh and smooth with the flavour-bearing oils really working their arses off on a molecular level. The bitter, vegetal hopping sits alongside this, not interfering but not really integrating either. I get a flashback to Arendsnest and some non-specific Dutch beer, possibly De Molen and possibly Mout & Mocha. But that was pitched as a stout and I think there's the right level of bitterness and roast for this also to be viewed as a stout, albeit a very assertive old-fashioned one. All style witterings aside, this is a fine beer which gets great mileage from its ingredients.

And from possible stout to actual stout. I've had a couple of examples of home brewed chocolate orange stout, all highly enjoyable, but James Brown Brews' Chocolate Orange Stout is the first commercial one in Ireland. It's also the company's first beer and was brewed at Brú Brewery. All is normal at the outset: 5% ABV, pouring a dense opaque black with a pale beige head. The aroma is mostly dry roast with a bit of extra sweetness but nothing that hints at the unusual ingredients. You have to wait and taste it before they come through, and they're only barely there. The chocolate is smooth and not overly sweet while the orange is little more than a suggestion, a fleeting tang at the back of the palate. Of the three beers tasted, this one makes the least use of the additives, but I don't know that that's necessarily a criticism. What you're left with is a damn decent Irish stout, balanced between dry roasted grain crunch and a softer chocolate quality. The whole thing slips down very neatly without too much fuss.

I'm a little surprised to find Duxie is the one that suited me least out of these three. Perhaps the robustness of darker beers offers a better canvas for recipe playfulness.

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