Lately I've been all over the southside, looking for Trouble. It started with the grand re-opening of Ranelagh's The Hill as a craft beer bar. I lived around the corner when I first moved to Dublin so remember this as a dark and slightly down-at-heel football pub. Darragh (pictured, right) and Derek from Ugly Duckling have taken it on, brightened it up, and installed a wide selection of good draught beers.
Opening night saw the début of the first of this set of new Trouble offerings: Stakeout, described as an "American Wheat Ale". I was sceptical: in my head, that combination of words means a wheat beer fermented with a neutral ale yeast and sorely lacking in character. Early American craft brewing seemed to be awash with them but you don't see them as much any more. In 2016, "American" seems to have become a signal that we are to expect citric hops, and so it goes with this. The wheat is still a big part of what it does: the haze is that of a wheat beer, as is the soft pillowy weissbier texture. Then there's a quenching tropical juiciness from the hops, guava and papaya flavours assertively refreshing, though perhaps turning a little too bitter on the finish. At 5.4% ABV it's substantial without being unsessionable. Another welcome addition to the Trouble pantheon of hop-forward delights.
To The Beer Market a week later, and a pint of Last Crash, a passionfruit lager, of all things. This had been pouring in a few places around the country -- cheers to Liam for the heads-up that it had made it to Dublin at last. And it's hard to think of anything to write, beyond the brewery's own description. It's got passionfruit and it's a lager. The former is a huge and rather sickly hit, on both the aroma and right through the flavour. It smells and tastes pink, with a fleshy fruit softness up front and then a harder twangy bitterness at the end. There's a certain syrupyness to the effect, as though the passionfruit were the tinned variety rather than fresh. Behind this sits the lager itself, and I got the impression it's a rather good one: crisp and husky, while the post-gulp burps brought a waft of grassy Saaz to the palate, as well as the fruit flavour add-on. I drank this quickly but couldn't help wondering how it would have turned out without being, erm, "enhanced".
Last Crash is fun for one, but the novelty wears off quickly. Should you find yourself ordering a second it's possible that you don't like drinking beer. Have a word with yourself.
Beer three landed at 57 the Headline following a world première at the Belfast Craft Beer Festival in late April. Owl Day is a pale stout at 6.1% ABV. YellowBelly has been twiddling with this style for a while now, and they have a bottled version knocking around now. Trouble's attempt is definitely pale, a clear orange-gold behind the condensation on that glass. The aroma is low: just a touch of green-veg old-world hops. The illusion is all accomplished in the flavour: a big and crunchy Irish stout roast opens it up, followed by a rather forced-tasting chocolate and coffee. The finish is dry but it still leaves a bit of a sickly impression from the chocolate. So, yes, this beer does successfully achieve what it's trying to do -- it really is a pale beer that has the assorted flavour characteristics of a dry stout -- but it's not a dry stout and, beyond the gimmicky giggles, isn't something I'd be interested in drinking again. Where black IPAs brought something new and thought-provoking to the beer world, pale stout, in my opinion, does not.
Trouble website tells me there's Wakatu and Mosaic in it as well. They have been thoroughly bullied into submission by their loud Japanese colleague, however. As befits an amber ale there's a strong contribution from the malt, but here it's more texture than flavour: it's a heavy and filling beer, tasting stronger than its 5.5% ABV. There's maybe a slight crystal malt sweatiness, but not so much that it interferes with the hops.
Stakeout and Amber Avenger are my top picks out of this lot, which leaves me wondering if Trouble Brewing's hop mastery is leaving it at risk of being a one-note operation. Probably not. I'm just a bit intolerant of gimmicky recipes, unless they taste better than the middle two here.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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