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.