Oldest among them, I think, is White Gypsy and the new one here was a Cream Ale. I'm very much a cream ale sceptic: I don't think I've ever tasted one I liked and the whole style smacks of something made deliberately on the cheap rather than by any brewer's design. But this one was designed, and wears its thick, slightly porridgey, texture and crisp cereal flavours with pride, on a pale body. There's a little bit of red fruit complexity, building to a slight sickliness as it warms, but all perfectly drinkable if not terribly exciting. I'm not ready to start waving the flag for cream ale just yet.
|Dungarvan October Ale|
Eight Degrees was an early port of call on the Thursday afternoon. They had a sequel to the star of the 2012 show in Ochtoberfest Bock, an amber lager of 6.4% ABV. It opens with lots of melanoidin biscuit flavours -- all the classic richness of those Mitteleuropa malts -- but takes a sudden turn for the hoppy in the finish, ending on a huge vegetal noble hop bitterness. It definitely kicks harder than its Märzen predecessor, but is still very balanced and pintable. Sharing bar space with it was Millennium, a double IPA to celebrate the firm's 1,000th brew. There's lots of pithy zest in here but it's as hot and heavy as you might expect a 10% ABV beer to be. My instinct is to throw it back cold, and let the mandarin and grapefruit finish warm my palate, but I also know I shouldn't.
Trouble was pouring a new IPA more to my taste: Hardwired. 7.4% ABV, a dark orangey-amber, bursting with ultra-fresh pine and pineapple American hops (El Dorado, Simcoe and Citra), and given a gorgeous extra glutinous texture from the inclusion of oatmeal. I never got the point of the oatmeal in Galway Bay's Goodbye Blue Monday (much as I love that beer) but I can see it here. Trouble left space at the edge of their bar for one of their contracting brewers: Two Sisters and their Brigid's Ale. It's a fairly down-the-line Irish red, perhaps a little heavier than most at 5.2% ABV.
It's a while since I've seen something new from Carrig and I grabbed a half of Jammin' from their stall on my way past. This is a 4.4% ABV pale ale, red gold in colour. There's kind of a sweaty malt thing going on and the finish is all metallic, which doesn't work at all well on the thin fizzy body. They already have a couple of beers along these lines: I don't know why they needed another.
Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne had brought two new additions. Blue Rose was available on both keg and cask and is a 5% ABV pale ale, all dry and summery: perfect for a sunny day on the Dingle peninsula (they do happen) and wonderfully thirst quenching, even at the higher than expected ABV. I also loved Black Elder, a 4.2% ABV dark ale they made with added elderflower. It's a combination that probably shouldn't work, but does, rather beautifully. The warming, chocolate and roast flavours contrast with the bucolic springtime flower notes: all the seasons in a single glass.
Two beers from the ugly tree to finish on today. Black's had a Jester-hopped brown ale which I didn't get to try, but I did have the soured version, called simply Black's Sour Brown. It's a murky red-brown and I found it tangy rather than sour, with that tamarind HP Sauce savoury flavour up front and finishing thin and watery. Fine as an experiment, I suppose, but in need of polishing. Brown Paper Bag Project's Peppercorn Rye Ale looked even worse: a horribly muddy ochre colour, pouring limp and headless from the cask engine. But much like the Summer Ale brewed on the same kit, its homely looks belie a heart of gold. Neither the peppercorn nor the rye are in control and both contribute their own brand of dry spiciness to the finished beer. I only had a sip -- and I'd say it's not a gulping beer -- but I was very impressed with how the recipe achieved its effect.
New breweries and fresh beers are coming up next.