I'm aware of the risk that this blog may turn into What I Drank At 57 The Headline but, for better or worse, that's where I encounter a lot of new beers these days, and often ones that aren't even on the pub's stock list.
For example, I spent an enjoyable afternoon recently, chatting beer with fellow enthusiasts Dorothy, Simon and Andrew for a radio documentary Andrew's missus Laura is making. At the end, the guys produced a bottle of Allagash Curieux for the table. It's a looong time since I last drank any Allagash beer so I was keen to find out how they'd been getting along while my attention has been elsewhere.
In keeping with the name, it's something you don't see very often: a bourbon-aged tripel. Tripels, in this writer's opinion, are all about the freshness and spices. I was a bit sceptical as to whether wood-ageing might improve one. It started pleasantly enough with bitter yet juicy melon rind and orange pith. "Coconut" is one of the descriptors on the label and yes, I get that too. But after these initial treats from the base beer, in sweeps the blaring raw oak from the barrel, coating everything in a thick layer of whisky and vanilla. The bourbon doesn't spoil things completely but it does dirty up what I suspect is quite a decent Belgian-style beer underneath. Still, it's always nice to try something different -- thanks Laura and Andrew!
Meanwhile, proprietor Geoff has been collecting beer from all over, including this sample bottle of Celtic Warrior from Cavan-based Hyland Brewing, though the beer itself is brewed at the Craftworks brewery in Dublin. Like a lot of the pale ales coming from Irish start-ups these days, it's designed to be accessible: a sessionable 4.5% ABV, copper orange in colour and balancing a bitterness that's no more than marmalade level with a lightly sugary malt stickiness.
The recipe designer seems to have aimed for -- and succeeded at -- something inoffensive, though personally I don't see how anyone could be offended by the gorgeous hoppy high notes you find in the next-level Irish pale ales like Eight Degrees Grand Stretch, Trouble Graffiti and White Hag Little Fawn: I think I speak for the entirety of Ireland's drinking public when I say that the nation's basic pale ales should be more like these. If you're in Cavan, though, I reckon Celtic Warrior is still a lifesaver. Baby steps. For now.