29 June 2015

Next to godliness

This was intended to be a general round-up of some recently-released Irish beers, but as I've put the notes together I've noticed an unfortunate theme linking them. Folks, we need to talk about yeast bite.

The first offender was the much-anticipated new one from N17, Summer Ale, brewed at Reel Deel in Mayo. Oddly, the dark-amber beer was perfectly clear but the yeast twang was unmistakeable: a big savoury earthy thing spreading itself indecently over everything else. There are hops just about perceptible inside, tiny sparks of citrus, but really it's a weighty, flabby beast of a beer, not the light summer refresher I was expecting. Oh well, these things happen, I thought. I'm sure the next beer will suit me better.

And I was hugely looking forward to the third in Trouble Brewing's series of SMASH beers: the first two having been among my favourite offerings of the year to date. Vic Secret SMASH (co-starring Vienna malt) could only be a hit. But no. Now, maybe it's the bitterness that's bothering me most here: it is very sharply acidic, to the point of acridity. There's some pleasant spicy oranges in the aroma, but seconds after the first sip I found the harsh yeast flavour rising to dominate everything else, killing the nuances and leaving just the savoury fuzz and acid burn. I brought these observations to the attention of my peers in the pub last week and the consensus was that I'm talking through my hole as regards yeast bite in this beer. Seemingly it's a veritable hoppy delight as far as everyone else concerned. Yeast bitten or not, it's not a beer for me.

Until this theme emerged I wasn't planning to even write about Voyager US, a new IPA from Galway Bay. I didn't enjoy the glass of it I had and I thought I'd let it pass as I've written about the original Voyager before. And the fault, once again, was that gritty yeast effect. I see that a dissenting opinion was offered by the Destrier who found perfumey tropical fruit in there, but I didn't.

Buttinski yeast was something I also found in Kinnegar's Hilly Head Belgian-inspired "Farmhouse Red Ale". I guess I was expecting something clean, sharp and Rodenbach-like, even at 6.5% ABV, but what I got instead was a dense, warming beer closer to a dubbel with its plums and blackcurrants, but with interference from the earthy yeast as well. I like the aroma, though: an autumnal waft of damp orchards and ripe red berries, but you just don't get the same delicacy and nuance on tasting and I blame the yeast for that. Centrifuges for all!

I'm seeking redemption, finally, in a new Irish beer that tastes of yeast and means it: RadikAles's second offering Rubenesque Dubbel, bottle kindly supplied by the real-life Belgian Alain who brewed it at 9 White Deer. It's pale for the style, a clear garnet rather than brown, and the head doesn't hang about long. But visuals aside, this is bang-on perfect. There's a veritable old-fashioned sweetshop in the flavour, all liquorice, butterscotch and kola nut with a pinch of menthol, then liberally coated in unctuous yeast esters adding mushy banana and similar heady ripe fruit. I was skeptical of the decision to package it in a half litre bottle but the lightness of the body and perfectly balanced flavours make it surprisingly pintable, even if the carbonation is a tad high. Fans of the figgier, plummier sort of dubbel may be disappointed but it still hits plenty of classic abbey notes.

Returning to the main gripe of this post, am I wrong that too many Irish breweries are letting yeast get in the way of their beers' better features? Is it just a sensitivity of mine, or perhaps an over-sensitivity caused by too many Lilt-a-like juicy pale ales? I'm definitely not one of the Death To Murk brigade, but if you're going release your beer au naturel I'd prefer something to cover up that yeasty soupiness.

26 June 2015

Another look

It's three and half hours on the train from Dublin to Killarney. For the journey I brought some beers that had been sitting neglected in my fridge, to combine leisurely train-drinking with putting a dent in my review backlog. Win-win. All three are from the range Marston's produces for Tesco.

First up, Revisionist Pacific Hop Red Ale, 4.2% ABV and promising Waimea and Pacific Gem hops. It's more copper than gold. Maybe rose gold if you're feeling charitable. There's a waft of vegetal hops on the nose suggesting the Kiwi varieties are a bit of a token effort but really this is an English ale to the bone. My theory is borne up by the flavour too. An assertive metallic bitterness opens its account, seguing swiftly to a dry tannic finish. I wasn't expecting a brown bitter but having been presented with one I quite enjoyed it, though I'll admit I shed a tear for what those New Zealand hops could have been in a different recipe.

To follow, Revisionist American Hop Rye Pale Ale. This time the claim is that Amarillo and Citra are the signature aroma hops but there's more of an earthy Cascade smell I reckon. Not that that's a bad thing. Crystal malt toffee looms large in the flavour though the body is light and it stays drinkable, which is appropriate at 4.3% ABV. But the hops are right at the centre of the taste, albeit in an understated, mannerly way. There's more of that metallic bitterness but some brighter peach and mandarin notes too. Overall a rather simple, fun and undemanding session pale ale.

Transferring at Mallow and on to Revisionist Dark India Pale Ale. It's not quite pure black, but close, with just a reddish cast to it. The aroma isn't up to much but there's a nice balance in the flavour between mild grapefruit hops (Chinook and Citra, says the label) and chocolate and caramel dark malt. The bitterness is low, but no harm. Simple, smooth, sweet and rather tasty. Full bodied too, for just 4.8% ABV.

I liked these. There are no flaws in their construction and a definite effort has been made both at offering something different to the supermarket shopper and explaining to them what makes it different. Dark IPAs and rye pale ales suggest that gateway beers are coming along in leaps and bounds.