28 March 2016

Summoned to the flag

Several years ago I was browsing through the trademarks directory of the Irish Patents Office and noticed that the Dingle Brewing Company, of Tom Crean's Lager fame, had trademarked "1916 Centenary Beer" back in 2010. "That's a good idea," I thought, "thinking ahead." Almost six years later, however, Dingle Brewing has yet to produce a second beer but three other breweries have leapt on the marketing opportunity so thoughtfully provided by the lads in the GPO almost a century ago.

Brehon Brewhouse's barrel-aged special has only just been released, but you can get an impression of it in this video from the brewery. The first to actually come my way was Children of the Revolution, an IPA by Wicklow Wolf. With appropriate reverence, they've assembled an elite hop line-up, gallant allies including Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus, all packed into a dark gold beer of 5.7% ABV. The aroma suggests that maybe they've overdone the balance a little with this: there's a lot of biscuit coming through with the zesty citrus. The first sip brings a kind of oily grapefruit essence, easing itself over the palate, aided by quite a weighty texture. From this rise piney fumes and a little bit of sweeter citrus fruit flesh, before it lapses back to a long tangily bitter finish. It's a bit of a workout to drink but I found its assertiveness quite refreshing. You deal with this beer on its own terms, and I respect that.

Before starting in on the second beer I have to say thanks to Arthurstown Brewing Company: I was having trouble locating a bottle of their Proclamation Porter and they met my request for a list of stockists with a freebie bottle. Much appreciated. I'd been especially looking forward to it because their stout was the highlight of the range they previewed late last year. I was hoping this would have something in common with that unctuous beauty. It certainly seems dense when held up to the light: barely a trace of any colour other than black. The aroma is a blend of flowers and chocolate -- think Fry's Turkish Delight -- but on tasting all is changed, changed utterly. There's a raw, old fashioned hop bitterness right at the front, reminding me a little of another patriot-inspired dark beer, Wrassler's XXXX. You get a flash of milk chocolate in the middle, but then it's back to bitterness in the finish: both the hop kind and black roast kind as well. And the texture? Surprisingly light, actually. It's probably for the best as well, good that the acid bitterness scrubs the palate and leaves quickly instead of hanging around. In fact I'm a little surprised that the ABV is as high as 5%: what it does could probably be achieved lower down the scale. All in all, a nicely complex beer and one that does take its callback to early 20th century Irish brewing seriously.

Though quite different from each other, both do have a bold, possibly even rebellious, streak to them. Brewing the marketing gimmick into the liquid is an impressive feat.