Sorachi Ace IPA earlier this summer, two new beers produced in collaboration with brewers from abroad invited to the international crossroads that is Bagenalstown.
I met both beers at an event in 57 The Headline, to celebrate the visit of Virginia's Starr Hill brewery, but before those proceedings commenced I had a pint of Lublin to Dublin Milk Stout, the second in a series with Poland's Browar Pinta. Anyone expecting a janglingly sweet milk stout is in for a surprise. At 6% ABV this is serious business, and while the lactose sugar is certainly present, it combines with the dark malt to create a sumptuously smooth milk chocolate effect yet still maintaining a roast bite on the end. It pulls a surprise special move with the hop additions, bringing at first a floral Turkish-delight element which then builds into a proper hoppy juiciness as it goes down. This is all stout, but I really liked how it touches on a few amber ale buttons too.
Wayne "Irish Beer Snob" Dunne hosted a panel discussion between Seamus and Conor from Carlow and Brian and Robbie of Starr Hill, comparing notes on their respective breweries and beer scenes. The visitors had brought a couple of examples of their work to taste, so I got to try Little Red Roostarr, Starr Hill's "coffee cream stout". The coffee isn't mucking about in the aroma here: a massive waft of fresh-brewed hits the nostrils straight away. Underneath, it's a very sweet and creamy beer. There's a proper roasted-grain edge to it but overall I found it just a little too sweet to be enjoyable.
And also floating around there was Starr Hill Reviver, which is a red IPA with a huge grapefruit aroma. The flavour is more malt-driven, with a sweet and almost meaty caramelised crystal malt character, but plenty of citric bitterness as well. Brewer Robbie says that when he brews established beer styles he does it by the book, but I don't know if red IPA is in the book yet. Something a bit like American amber ale, only a little bitterer is possibly how it would be described, and this certainly meets that specification.
The guys also brought along a pitcher of their collaboration brew, then just a couple of days in the fermenter but already showing promise.
A little over a week later the beer was finished, and Carlow Brewing's PR folk kindly sent me a couple of bottles. Foreign Affair is also badged as a red IPA and is a modest 4.8% ABV. It's a perfect clear shade of copper, topped by a loose-bubbled head from what proved to be pleasantly low carbonation. The aroma doesn't exactly leap out, but there's good stuff present: peaches, shading to grapefruit, and just touching on heavier piney dank, all done using the Falconer's Flight hop blend. These are joined by a generous dose of coffee in the flavour, but that's really all the malt does: there's none of the toffee or marzipan one often finds in American-style amber ale and the texture is light. I like it. That dry and citric hop bitterness is complemented nicely by the dry coffee roast, and while it's assertively bitter it remains quite easy and refreshing drinking. One to enjoy young, I'd say: the 14-month best-before date printed on the neck is perhaps ill-advised.
Conor and the guys at Carlow Brewing certainly seem to be on top of their game at the moment. How generous of them to share their acumen with others.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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