Taking the opportunity to tick off the ones that were new to me, I began with Black Arches black IPA. It's a strong 'un at 6.7% ABV and packs in huge amounts of everything. Sweet caramel and treacle occupy the centre, flanked by harshly bitter citrus and oily hop resins. The malt comes back in the finish with a dry cocoa powder effect. There's a lot going on but I found it too discordant to be enjoyable: the dark malt and hops fight with each other and the drinker is left to deal with the resulting mess. Black Arches is a tiring beer that needs a time-out.
|Rapscallion (L), Faith (R)|
Faith is one of the brewery's core range: a US-style pale ale at 5.1%. It's fine: looking identical to Rapscallion with a slightly sweaty tone to its aroma. The flavour is sweet and heavy on the jaffa orange, which I found a little surprising given the brewery's assertion that Citra is the main hop. Like I say: passable, but not terribly exciting; you've tasted this style done better.
And having covered Northern Monk's pale ale I wasn't quite sure what True North was meant to be when I saw it on tap at another Galway Bay pub, The Beer Market. It was chalked up as another pale ale, though this time the strength is just 3.7% ABV. It's a clear gold with a sharply bitter waxy flavour and a surprisingly weighty caramel-sweet malt base. It took me a while to get my head around what I had: the small serving measure and keg dispense were distractions from the fact that this is a straight-up, ey-up, northern bitter, and a rather good one at that. Once I'd figured that out, the classic English orange pith and distinctly Yorkshire honey lacing were perceptible. This is not a beer for fancy glassware; this is one to settle into and quaff by the pint. I'm impressed by how close to a cask classic it tastes when served kegged.
Good beer is good beer, regardless of dispense. But you knew that already.