28 December 2015

Next year's beers

Chef Kevin Dundon and Head Brewer Kieran Bird
At the beginning of November I wrote of being charmed by the King's Bay beers from Arthurstown Brewing Company. The brewery's official launch happened a few weeks later with sequential events in Wexford and Dublin hosted by the brewery's co-owner and frontman Kevin Dundon.

I learned that the King's Bay brand was created specifically for SuperValu and represents a slightly toned-down version of the Arthurstown recipes, intended for mass appeal. This was my first time tasting the beers as the brewer intended, alongside a preview of two that are still in development. The event took place in Tap House in Ranelagh, there were canapés, there was an a cappella choir, and there was also:

Dunbrody Red Ale is yet another standard Irish red. It's clear but still manages to look a little dirty and tastes of caramel in the middle, then finishes sharply dry. It's decent, though to be brutally honest I think I preferred the King's Bay Red to it -- they're both the same strength at 4.7% ABV. One for Irish red fans only, I think.

Also at the same strength is Dunbrody Pale Ale and this has a lot more to say for itself. Though the texture is a little thin and watery there's a lovely big hit of hop resins right in your face from the first sip. Not much else, mind, but that doesn't matter: there's just enough of a malt base to counteract any possible harshness and I have no objection to a one-dimensional hoppy beer as long as it tastes good. This does.

Still under starters orders and not yet on general release is Dunbrody IPA. I think the disparaging comments about this from the Arthurstown men were a little unfair. It's maybe a little lighter of body and more attenuated than many like their IPAs to be, but I thought this worked in its favour. It opens with a refreshing lemony spritz which shades a little towards bath-bomb after a few seconds. But the hops keep on rolling, providing a dank buzz which leaves a lingering resinous quality. The ABV is a satisfactory 5.5% and I don't for a second miss the toffee or thickness that it might be tempting to add to the recipe. Maybe a little more malt to bounce the hops off, but please don't ruin the good points, guys.

In my piece about King's Bay, I suggested that the range could do with a strong and dark dessert beer. Dunbrody Stout isn't quite that, but is perhaps the next best thing. While only 5.4% ABV, it's very full-bodied and smoothly textured. The flavours are all luxuriously dark and sweet ones: treacle, molasses and a tang of high-quality high-cocoa dark chocolate. Perhaps the thing I like most about it is how different it is to other Irish stouts. Leann Folláin may be all things to all drinkers, but even it doesn't have the same dessertishness as this. And pleasingly it still works by the pint. Paired with a warm chocolate pudding and some quality vanilla ice cream: mwah!

This preview suggests they know what they're doing beerwise at Dunbrody House, even if they are sticking to safe and accessible styles to begin with. I look forward to seeing what else 2016 brings from them.