02 September 2015

Mission creep

I'd only gone to DrinkStore for one specific beer but forgot it had been a few weeks since I was last in, so there was lots of new and previously untasted Irish beer to try. The purpose of my visit was Crossroads, an IPA from Kinnegar which rebadges a one-off called Roadtrip brewed exclusively for McHugh's off licences earlier this year. To my shame I've never been to either McHugh's branches, but was still kinda glad that the re-release has saved me an excursion to the northern suburbs. Crossroads pours an autumnal burnt ochre colour and smells quite caramelly, though there's definitely a citrus hop element to the aroma as well. The malt and hops blend rather well on tasting: it's smooth, heavy and warming with lots of toffee, and tasting every bit of its 6.2% ABV. But the hops sing out as well, sharply assertive with lemon and pine at the front and oily resins coating the lips. Then at the back of the palate there's a softer mango and papaya fruitiness melding playfully with that sweet toffee. It's a big beer for sure, but a rewarding one to take time over.

Little Fawn is a session IPA from White Hag, and properly session at 4.2% ABV. It's a lagery dark gold colour and gives up most of its aromatic secrets as it pours: grapefruit, pine and a juicier mango backing. A sniff once it's in the glass reveals a more serious dank, so this hits all the classic new world hop notes before it's even sipped. It's a little less complex on tasting, however. That low ABV results in a certain hollow and watery sensation that I found took the shine off it. The hops burn acidly and possibly a little harsh for me, but fans of roaringly fresh American IPA will definitely get their jollies here. There's even a bit of malt balance: a hint of Rich Tea biscuit behind the intensely perfumed flavour, quickly drowned by a long, long piney finish. In summary: hops; and a beer that I found more enjoyable to sniff than to taste.

The latest from Jack Cody's is Lunasa, badged as a "summer saison". It's 5.4% ABV and a cheery clear copper colour in the pint glass, the first time I think I've ever had to pour myself a half litre of saison. The classic saison crispness is a large part of what it does, and that suits me perfectly: no hot and fruity esters, but a gentle pepperiness and a fun wisp of smoke at the end. While it's as prickly as the next dry beer, the carbonation is low which makes it incredibly drinkable -- ideally suited to the casual summer drinking it's designed for.

I finally caught up with the second offering from Derry's Northbound: 08, a Kölschalike at 5% ABV. Perhaps it was a bit too warm when I drank it (hence all that foam) but I got a lot of greasy, esters and jangling sugar or even saccharine. The aroma has a kind of sickly syrupy thing, though the crisp graininess of proper Kölsch is lurking down there as well. It's not terrible, there is a proper spinachy noble hop bitterness and flavour, but the marker pen residue it leaves behind really spoils it. If you're going to drink 08, drink it damn cold. It was much better on keg at the RDS last weekend, for example.

Last one from the haul is Rowlock, a new IPA from Clearsky Brewing which uses Hilden's facilities. It's 4.5% ABV and pleasingly pale, the pour dispelling all fears of it being a heavy, sticky malt bomb as too many Northern Irish IPAs recently have been. There's a worrying haze but that doesn't seem to interfere with the flavour. My first impression on tasting is coconut, in the classic, oily, Sorachi Ace sense. The label gives us no more clue than "interesting hop flavours" so I don't know what's actually producing the effect. Behind it, some light and floral orange blossom and jasmine, oh and there's the yeast bite, but only a small one. In a reverse of the norm, it's more malt than hops in the aroma: a rather unpleasant musty grainsack thing, but again this is a mere peccadillo. Overall, it's an interesting and fun pale ale, designed to be accessible, but sufficiently interesting to keep any drinker entertained. More actual information on the label in place of the marketing nonsense about "simple pleasures" and "trading stories" would be helpful. Is anyone actually convinced by that stuff?

A quick dash to the pub before we go, and last month saw Roscommon's Black Donkey Brewery celebrating its first birthday in 57 The Headline with a tap takeover and a new addition to the line-up. Beyond is a rye ale, 4.8% ABV and dark red. Like the first edition of Buck-It, a neutral ale yeast has been used and also like the first edition of Buck-It it leaves the beer rather harsh: a dry-grass sharpness imbues the whole thing, with a weird strawberry jam sweetness on top. I feel it would benefit from having a few of the edges knocked off, but the brewery probably thinks the same about me. Scythe remains my favourite of the Black Donkey range.

And on the tap around the corner, a new one from Trouble: Ripcord red ale. It being Trouble I wasn't expecting a standard Irish red, but that's pretty much what this is, unfortunately. In the absence of bolder flavours a nasty yeasty bite opened it up and just sat on the watery texture refusing to move. As it warmed there was some lighter red fruit added but nothing to make the beer interesting. The spec says there's supposed to be a US twist here, Cascade and Centennial, but it completely passed me by.

I'll have to award this round to the bottled beers, but draught will be making a comeback when I get to writing about what I found at this year's Irish Craft Beer Festival last weekend. Coming soon. Ish.

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