28 September 2015

On the downlow

Careful what you wish for. I complained about how palate-clogging the beers were at The Irish Craft Beer Festival and then the next two Irish ones to come my way were, well, not exactly flavour powerhouses.

The Thursday after the festival saw the launch of JW Sweetman's latest: Indian Summer. It came with zero explanation of its style or strength, but that's always fun. If I had to guess I'd be calling it an English-style bitter: clear copper in colour, light of texture and of flavour. There's a hint of strawberry, as is often found in decent Irish red, and more English tannins and metallic hop notes. Nothing else really distinguishes it and it ends up rather forgettable. There's nothing wrong with this beer, it just doesn't sit at all comfortably next to Sweetman's excellent Porter and Pale Ale.

This freebie bottle of 9 White Deer's Saor was handed to me by the brewer with a warning that it's not for the likes of me. It's Ireland's first purpose-brewed gluten-free beer and designed to be accessible, for those who just want a beer and not be challenged by it. And non-challenging it is: dry, fizzy, with a Ryvita graininess and just a slight bubblegum fruitiness by way of balance. The haze is probably its most interesting feature. Nothing wrong with it, but not one to choose if your intestinal villi are fully functional.

The Drumlin series by Brehon Brewhouse has been confusing me since it appeared. At first I thought it was a straight re-branding of the red and blonde and left them alone, but the originals haven't gone away and now there's Drumlin Irish Pale Ale which doesn't have a parallel in the main range, as far as I know. This is an approachable 4.6% ABV and a slightly murky pale copper colour. The aroma is interesting: sharp orange zest, leafy green bitterness, but also a worrying stale burr. There's a certain juiciness in the taste, but not a lot, and not enough to cover a stuffy, dry, cotton-wool fuzz from oxidation, and a substantial yeast bite too. There's a good beer in here, but the drinker doesn't get to see it. Brehon has made some excellent strong beers but I don't think they've quite got the quality under control for the session-strength ones.

And finally a look-in for the macros. C&C quietly launched the second beer from their new Clonmel brewery, a red ale called Roundstone. I found it on tap when I visited Bodytonic's new sports and games pub, The Square Ball, on Grand Canal Street where it was the cheapest pint on the blackboard at €4.80 a throw. For some reason I was expecting nitrokeg, but it's served on CO2 and it was immediately obvious from the first look and taste that they're chasing the Smithwick's market here. There's the same slightly sweet red fruit with a mild toastiness, the same thin body and a very similar metallic hop tang in the finish. And, like Smithwick's, it's not really good enough to even be a distress purchase. Oddly enough, the last beer to really remind me of Smithwick's was Heineken's Cute Hoor. It seems very strange that the Big Three are slugging it out on this minority-interest style. And with precisely zero marketing being done for C&C and Heineken's offerings, you have to wonder how they hope to gain any market traction.

Anyway, enough blandness. I'll cover some more interesting Irish beers on Thursday.

24 September 2015

Weird Spain

Or perhaps "Creative Spain" would have been a better title. Two beers from the east of the country today, both making use of out-of-the-ordinary ingredients.

You have to know how most of the world pronounces IPA to get the pun in Espiga's Papr'IPA. It's 7% ABV and I found it on tap in Alfie Byrne's. The colour is a clear red, atypical for an IPA perhaps, but there's no mistaking the paprika in the aroma, all smoky and earthy. And, unsurprisingly, this is very prominent in the flavour. There's a slightly plasticky element to it but it's not artificial, with a genuine green chilli skin character. And eepa? Yes! There's a proper grapefruit bite underneath the pepperiness. It's a fun beer with big flavours and delivers everything it promises.

This bottle of Er Boquerón I've had sitting at the back of the fridge for a long time. I wasn't expecting much of it, which is probably how it got forgotten. The gimmick here is the use of seawater in the brew, for health reasons, apparently, but it turned out to be nothing like the salty beer style of the moment, Leipzig gose. It's more subtle than that, maybe even boring. The salt is little more than a mild spritz in the aroma and a tang at the back of the flavour. Otherwise for the most part it's a simple and refreshing blonde ale, with some slight yeast-derived spices leaning it towards witbier. At 4.8% ABV it's a perfectly decent sunny day thirst-quencher, but no more than that.

Connoisseurs of beery weirdness won't find much to impress them in Er Boquerón, but smoked chilli IPA is something to look out for if the whole concept isn't too scary in the first place.

21 September 2015

Lowering the veil

I've written