It's quite a few months since Rye River announced they were making two new beers especially for Dunnes. "Easy," I thought, "I'll just swing by Dunnes and pick some up." And I did the first bit, several times, but on each occasion the cupboard was bare. Only just a few weeks ago, in Henry Street, did I finally succeed. Dunnes has got quite good in recent years at providing well-chosen Irish beers at highly competitive prices. How would they fare with a brand of their own? It's perhaps not surprising, given global beer trends and their application to Ireland, that both of these are hop-forward ales.
Grafters Pale Ale poured lazily into the glass with barely any fizz. I thought it might have been a dud but the head still formed perfectly, loose bubbled like an unsparklered pint of cask, and it has a similar gentle effervesence rather than full-on carbonation so I really don't care if it's not meant to be like this, it's perfect for a cheap 4.5% ABV sessioner. The colour is a clear dark copper and the caramel malt which caused it is very much present in the flavour as a light sort of toffee. But the hops aren't shy either, providing a waft of sweet satsuma in the aroma and while it doesn't taste fruity, or particularly bitter, there is a pleasant zesty lemon tart effect. Only a very slight soapy twang on the finish prevents this from being an astounding beer for the money, but you still won't get better under the €2 mark, even allowing for temporary deep-discount deals.
So what does trading up to €2.50 get you? Grafters IPA is here to tell us. A few extra ABV points is the immediate answer: at 6.5% ABV it's definitely leaning on the American style. It's nicely pale too, clear and golden. The aroma isn't especially strong but I do get a promise of heat and hop oils when I sniff. The texture is thick and the first taste I get is a very grown-up bitterness, quite waxy and metallic, and definitely more English than American to my mind. There's a bit of citrus pith after it and a lovely mouthwatering juicy finish which balances the weight nicely, making it both easy and satisfying to drink. Sure, there are better IPAs out there, but really not at this price point.
Well played Dunnes and Rye River, and let other brewers and commissioners take note: there's room for something tasty and even a little daring at the value end of the market.
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