09 December 2015

Straight from the States

Halloween afternoon was spent at Brian's house, watching the Rugby World Cup final and filming an episode of the Irish Craft Beer Show. There was beer too: Brian had a haul from a recent trip to the States, and Reuben and I both brought interesting things. Time for a good old fashioned relaxed sit 'n' sip.

No review of Stone's Enjoy By... here -- try this post

Heretic Brewing is based in Fairfield, California and Evil Cousin is its double IPA: 8% ABV, 100 IBUs, and pale yellow: all the hallmarks of a classic west-coaster. Except the aroma is severely lacking and the flavour is full of toffee, not hops. There's a rasp of harsh bitterness but no grapefruit or similar citrus flavours. Not a good start, then.

Apocalypse by A-B InBev's 10 Barrel Brewing was rather better. A lower ABV at 6.8% and still quite harsh and heavy, but the bitterness is more stimulating than difficult, and while again there's little by way of fruit flavours, there's a pleasant pepperiness which substitutes adequately.

Staying in Oregon but going back up to 8% ABV, Tricerahops by Ninkasi. This one delivers the citrus, with a very serious bitter kick behind it. It's much more along the lines of what I'd expect this style to be and is highly enjoyable drinking, even in small quantities.

I've read a lot about the sour beer production at New Belgium in Colorado: they look to be taking it very seriously and investing in some pretty involved hardware to get it right. I mentioned the other week that Irish breweries are on a trajectory towards learning to do sour properly so I was intrigued to find out how a brewery further along the curve was getting on. As it happened there were two examples before us. Transatlantique is a kriek which started out at the Oud Beersel brewery in old Belgium, and was then shipped across to the US where, if I'm reading the official description correctly, they blended it with one of their own lagers. Why would they do that? The result is a pretty damn boring kriek. The cherry flavour is nice, and not at all sickly-sweet, but cherryade is your lot: almost no contribution comes forward from the base beer, and certainly nothing I'd call a gueuze character. Rather than making sour beers, New Belgium appears to be in the business of destroying them.

I had better luck with Wild2, described as a dubbel and fermented with trappist ale yeast, but with much more going on than that. There's brett, for one thing, which adds a good measure of funk, but I think it's adding it to a beer that was already plenty complex. The magic ingredient is schisandra, the "five flavour berry", alleged to bring salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter flavours. I didn't count all those off, but what I did find was a glorious, spicy and wholesome mix of rye bread, Rioja and dense piney retsina. I'm all about the schisandra beers now. Hook me up.

Last American of the night was a 15% ABV monster barley wine from Founder's called Bolt Cutter. The sherry aroma leaves the drinker in no doubt what to expect and the first hit on sipping is a disappointing blast of marker pen. But behind this there's a much better silky milk chocolate, flecked with gunpowder spicing. Yes it's boozy as hell, but still smooth enough to be enjoyable in small doses.

Something English to finish off on: a little tinny of Power of the Voodoo, Beavertown's 10% ABV triple IPA. This hazy orange chap is an absolute masterclass in balance. Though it's strong and heavy, the hops do all the talking, from the pure dank aroma to the soothing juicy peach-flesh flavour. There's no alcohol burn and no cloying sugary malt. I'd love the opportunity to drink loads of it, but I doubt that it's really designed for that.

With these preliminaries taken care of, there was nothing else to do but go to The Cock and Bull for pints. Thanks to Brian and Elisabeth for hosting.


  1. I'm curious - did the Heretic have a date on it? My recent experience of them has been similarly un-positive.

    1. Yep, it's juuuust about visible in the picture: 14th August 2015, so it was a little under seven weeks out at time of drinking.