09 November 2015

While I was away

In between my excursions to Lithuania and the Netherlands which have been occupying this blog of late (and the one to Belgium on the way) the Irish beer scene has been chugging along as usual. I've long since given up trying to get hold of every new Irish beer, but I have managed to get my hands on...

Rascal's Rugby World Cup special was a pale ale called Holy Schmidt. At 4.5% ABV it's clearly designed to accompany big-screen sports though it's not lacking in substance: the inclusion of oatmeal in the grist lends it a nice weight and a certain pleasant stickiness. Pleasant because of the lovely fresh candied orange imparted by the El Dorado hops, alongside the earthy bitterness of Cascade. Classic flavours and a very enjoyable, sessionable pint.

In other pale ale news, the second beer in Carlow Brewing's single hop IPA series, O'Hara's Hop Adventure Galaxy, arrived last month and a couple of samples were kindly sent over by the PR squad. They've stuck to the 5% ABV spec, brewed pale to get the maximum impact from the hop. It bears a striking resemblance to the Irish Pale Ale from the core range: a similar lemon biscuit aroma and a crisp dry flavour, with maybe a little juicier passionfruit where the other has grapefruit but this is still plenty bitter, a refreshing acidic bite that lingers long. I can't help feeling that a bit more balancing malt would have enhanced the juice-giving properties of Galaxy, and this certainly isn't the hop showcase that the Sorachi Ace one was, but then Sorachi Ace is a very showcaseable hop. Still, a decent beer but if you can't find it, an O'Hara's Pale Ale will do just as nicely.

Galway Bay's sour beer project produced two new ones in recent months. The first is Godspeed, 5% ABV and with added peach and mango. Like its predecessor Maybe Next Monday, there's an unsettling fruit yoghurt aroma but the fruit almost disappears in the flavour. Instead, the foretaste is all about the funk: a gritty spiciness that almost resembles the saltpetre effect found in proper geueze, with  a pinch of added pepper. The tropical fruit floods in after this but doesn't really add anything useful to the overall flavour and then it finishes on a really quite nasty oxidised cardboard twang. It's a cut above Maybe Next Monday in terms of complexity, but it's not a beer I'd choose to drink again. I think I'm pretty much done with these sorts of fruited sour beers.

Then with much fanfare the next Galway Bay sour beer arrived in bottles. The Eternalist was created under the direction of Enda Cleary who was a home brewer when the beer was brewed but has since gone on to found Wild Bat Brewery. 24 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, pediococcus and raspberries are all part of the vital statistics here and the end result is 5.5% ABV. While I was expecting something pink it's more of a murky orange-brown. The aroma is the first indication that this supergroup is being fronted by the fruit and the brett: tart and funky. The body is thin and fizzy and the raspberries jump in first but there's not a whole lot behind them. There's a kind of savoury rye bread flavour which I think is masking the sourness, a dirty yeast effect which I'm used to interfering with hoppy beer but it's the first time I've met a sour beer that could do with cleaning up. It has a lot going for it, but like the other sour Galway Bay beers it's merely a point in the journey towards making these styles as good as the Belgians do. I'm not at all convinced that the complicated biochemistry involved here, with its attendant price tag, was worth the effort. If you have an unopened one, I suggest leaving it to settle for a winter or two.

Last but by no means least, the second release from young James Brown, a follow-up to his award-winning Chocolate Orange Stout, and brewed once again at Brú. This time it's American-style IPA that gets the fruit treatment and, by his account, Rhubarb Tart IPA has a lot of fresh rhubarb added to it. By way of beery balance it's a big 7% ABV and hopped with Cascade and Chinook. It's a dark orange colour with maybe a slight pinkish cast and the aroma is all about the hops: classic American grapefruit. The texture is very light for such a strong beer and there's a lot of fizz to begin, though it actually becomes quite smooth when that fades. The hops dominate the flavour too, at least when the beer is cold. As it warms, however, the rhubarb acidity builds, adding a gentle refreshing green sharpness to the finish as well as a slight metallic aspirin tang. The fruit and hops work surprisingly well together with neither dominating the other. At its heart it remains a US-style IPA, but with just that slight twist making it more interesting than most. I've certainly never encountered anything like it before.

That's all for the moment, but I can already feel the next backlog starting to build.