23 May 2016

Black hops

There's a bit of a buzz going round about the "Discovery IPA Series" recently released by Black's of Kinsale. You'll find glowing reviews from Simon, Reuben and Wayne, so I was sufficiently convinced to go and get some myself.

It did help that there's a Mosaic IPA in the set. Mosaic can do no wrong. This is 6.5% ABV and slightly hazy. There is a bee-yootiful juicy aroma, all satsuma, tangerine, mango and possibly a variety of other good things. It's hoppy. It smells hoppy. The flavour is a bit more savory: there's a touch of spring onion and spiced red cabbage, but the juice is there in the finish, albeit in a slightly muted form. This is a superbly complex number, firmly giving the lie to notions of single hop beers being one-dimensional. There's something in here for everyone, assuming they aren't averse to lovely hops.

A notch down from there is Exp 439 IPA, a light 4.3% ABV job, looking lovely and clear and warmly golden, like a beautiful classic lager. Lacking even a proper name, it's hard to know what to expect from hop variety Exp 439, but dank appears to be a big part of it: this smells thickly resinous with lots of herbal grassy tones. It's not so interesting to taste, however. There's a wateriness at the core of this beer which suggests Black's hasn't quite got the hang of the session IPA thing. It's like the hops are present but there's nothing for them latch on to and they just slide sideways off the palate as a result. I get what this beer is trying to be, but more substance is required.

So just as well I get to follow it with Overkill, a 9.5% ABV imperial black IPA. It's certainly black, with a healthy layer of white bubbles on top. The aroma is muted, to the point of being barely-there, just a little mild roastiness. And, a bit like the main Black's Black IPA, this tastes much more stout-like than IPA-ish. The flavour is very smooth and has a lovely gentle citric tang which lasts long into the finish overlaid with dark roast and a slightly metallic aspirin bitterness. I was expecting a much more aggressive beer -- I guess it's the name -- so it's an odd mix of disappointment and relief that it isn't that. Overkill is relaxing drinking and you need a lot of reminders that it's as strong as it is: there's absolutely no sign of all that alcohol in either the flavour or the texture.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it looks like Mosaic wins again.


  1. where did you pick these ones up? wonder if the overkill is a rebrew of the indiegogo special?

    1. They all came from Fresh, on Smithfield Square.