29 May 2015

Varietal performance

Single-hopped beers are what we're about today, and two recent Irish releases which utilise American breeds.

Radik Ale is a brand new gypsy brewing company run by Alain, a displaced Belgian in Cork. The first beer out is called Hopster, brewed at Black's of Kinsale. Alain kindly dropped me a couple of sample bottles to try.

It's single-hopped with Chinook, a hop which perhaps unfairly is more associated with bittering than flavour. 5.2% ABV and with a sizeable quantity of crystal malt it pours a dark amber shade with a loose-bubbled head and an aroma rich in biscuit sweetness but with a spicy citrus edge too. And it's the spiciness of Chinook that's the centrepiece of the flavour, given an extra warmth by the roasted malt. It fades to quite a sharp metallic tang which I guess is why this tends not to get used as a late hop, but it doesn't spoil the party here. The light carbonation ensures that the beer stays drinkable, and while it's not especially complex it is substantial enough to hold the drinker's attention all the way to the end. Or if you want to just throw it back, that works too.

Trouble Brewing also has a single-hop beer out: Equinox SMASH, a sequel to the Centennial one they released during the spring and this time using Maris Otter malt. I found it on keg amidst the Victorian charm of The Swan on Aungier Street earlier in the week.

The hazy pale blonde colour makes it look almost like a witbier and it's light of body too, as might be expected at 4.8% ABV. The flavour opens with a huge pine and grapefruit pith sharpness, fading only gradually to reveal more delicate peach and pineapple underneath. The Maris Otter isn't saying much: this beer is all hop and I think unashamedly so. It was served very cold which, while boosting its refreshment power, meant that there was almost no aroma to begin with. But I persisted and eventually found subtle wet honeydew and tart lime notes coming off it. One could perhaps criticise it for being one-dimensional, but if you're on board for a session-strength hoppy sledgehammer then it gets the job done, much like its stablemate Graffiti.

I guess it's tough to build flavour complexity into a single-hop recipe but both of these show that this need not be seen as a barrier to brewing something enjoyable. You don't have to be a forensic brewing nerd to get value out of them.

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