14 March 2016

What's new with you?

St. Patrick's week is upon us, the next Beer & Whiskey Festival is opening at the RDS on Wednesday, so time to catch up on some of the new Irish beers I've found around the place lately. Well, when I say "around the place" I mostly mean in 57 The Headline.

To wit: Little Warrior, a pale and sessionable number from Dublin's Postcard Brewing. Just 3.8% ABV but tastily hop-forward, offering a juicy triumvirate of mango, mandarin and watermelon. It lacks the punch found in Trouble's Grafitti but the more soft-spoken approach is its own thing. More than an American-style citrus bomb it reminded me of good pale 'n' hoppy modern English bitter, and is every bit as drinkable, even on keg. Only a slight soapy tang lets it down slightly but I found that this faded the further into my pint I went and probably wouldn't even be noticeable in a second. That's sessionability, that is.

The Headline scored a bit of a coup in securing some Donegal Dry Hop IPA recently. Aside from the blonde ale, we don't see many Donegal Brewing Company beers and especially not the keg specials done mainly for its home pub, Dicey Reilly's in Ballyshannon. Though a bright and innocent pale yellow, this has a bit of momentum behind it at 5.7% ABV. With dry-hopping I expected the aroma to be a big feature but it's not really. But what it lacks in smell it makes up for in flavour: a fantastic punchy and sharp bitterness, all fresh spinach and nettles, backed by a smooth yet light honey and golden syrup malt base. It simultaneously reminded me of invigorating north German pilsners and the sharper sort of north English bitter: Landlord, Marble Manchester Bitter or that sort. Whichever way you look at it, it's tasty stuff, classically flavoured and every bit as sessionable as the Little Warrior, despite the strength.

These days, IPAs come in colours other than gold and a couple of weeks ago The Headline staged the world premiere of Rising Sons Uprising black IPA, before it even went on tap at the Cork brewpub where it was born. It's my first time experiencing a black IPA loaded with Sorachi Ace and it certainly shows the hop off: massive coconut and a blast of grapefruit pith. Brewer Shane said he was happy with the amount of balancing roast he got into it but to be honest I couldn't taste any of that, just hops all the way, and the better for it. A certain fullness of texture is the only nod towards other types of black beer that I noticed.

A week later it was the turn of a brewery from the other end of the country to introduce a new beer: White Hag and their Red Doe red IPA. I'd grumble a bit at the style designation here as it tasted much more like an amber ale to me, albeit a particularly thick and dark one. The bitterness is quite low and a fudge-like rich sweetness is at the centre. Cascade is the main player among the hops and it's working incredibly hard, turning out dank resins and herbal spiciness of the sort I associate with the more expensive American varieties. I confess I was not wowed by this beer, however. It's decent but seems to lack the White Hag magic, typified by Little Fawn to which I immediately switched.

And being in broadly the same style, Little Fawn makes things very difficult for Max, the new "session ale" by O Brother. This is the same louche hazy gold colour and seems to be going for the same juicy-fruit middle with an edgier bitter trim. Here, though, the bitterness is dominating: a loud, waxy, lemon-skin effect that all but shouts down the fluffier nectarine and pineapple centre. It also feels unreasonably watery for something at 4.4% ABV. Could be it's another one that you need to take a bit of a run at to get properly, but it tasted to me like a recipe pitching for the light and juicy segment but missing it by overdoing the bitterness.

Finally, a slightly out-of-season pick from the taps at The Black Sheep: Beoir Chorca Duibhne's Winter Ale. This is an appropriate deep dark brown-red and even though it was served ice-cold from the keg it retained a beautiful cask-like smoothness. There's a lactic spicy sourness to the flavour, accompanied by a red fruit tang which gives it something of the air of a Belgian framboise. Behind this tartness, and becoming more prominent as the beer warms, there's a stout-like dry roastedness. The red fruit provides the aroma: redcurrant and cranberry. It's an immensely complex beer and very enjoyable sipping. I just had a half because I was waiting for another beer to come on, of which more in the next post.

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