03 June 2016

Can do attitudes

Session logoCarla aka The Beer Babe is hosting The Session for June and the topic is a bit of an awkward one, being concerned with the secondary beer trade: the farmers, the marketers, the bottle-opener-makers. None of which is stuff I'm usually concerned with on this deliberately beer-centric beer blog. I will say, however, that the recent growth of the Irish malting industry to include the needs of microbrewers is very heartening to see. While I doubt we'll ever have commercial hop farmers again, more's the pity, knowing that the backbone of our beer is at least in part local is pleasing.

But for this post I'm going to jump off the other end of the brewing process and I've grabbed three imported beers, one each from what I regard as the three top importers of beer to this country. They're presented in the order I drank them, and no ranking is to be inferred. Wonderful and all as the Irish brewing renaissance is, this blog and this drinker have always depended on imports, for education as much as for refreshment. So, just this once, let's hear it for the goods-inwards brigade.

First up it's Four Corners, and from their portfolio I've chosen Summer Love, a blonde ale by Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania. The use of noble hops is unmistakeable here as it tastes like a classic pilsner, with that assertive green edge: crisp spinach and aspargus to begin, finishing on heady damp mown grass. It really helps that the rest of the beer is lager-clean with just enough sponge-cake soft malt to give it a satisfying ale body and a reasonable 5.2% ABV. I doubt I'd pass any remarks if you gave me this and told me it was a Märzen or Dortmunder. You probably could knock it back cold and enjoy its invigorating bitterness, but it rewards calm sipping at a more mature serving temperature too. You don't even need to be outside on a glorious sunny afternoon, but it sure helps.

Second shout-out goes to relative newcomers Pro Addition, an offshoot of Galway Bay Brewery, and their Fourpure Oatmeal Stout, from That London. There's definitely no shortage of body here: it pours thickly from the can, forming a lazy beige head. I've never been particularly concerned with the appearance of very dark beers but this one is discernibly murky: where you often observe a ruby edge on a glass of stout, this one shows a hazy cola-brown colour. Heavy treacle and molasses is the main element of the flavour, and a jangling saccharine sweetness that I found a little hard to take. There's an almost aggressive burnt, even smoky, character as well. The extra bulk of the oatmeal is not something this beer really needed and its intense bitter-sweetness offsets the smooth easy-going quality that oats tend to impart.

Maybe it's the black can but the beer this reminds me most of is twangy old Mackeson's Milk Stout, and that's probably not a comparison that is likely to go down well among the cool kids of Bermondsey. This stout is trying to do too many different things and doesn't work for me at all.

The last beer comes via Grand Cru, veterans with a particular penchant for beer from brewing hotbeds California and Colorado. G'Knight is an "imperial red IPA" by Oskar Blues, based in the latter of those states. It's a deep and rich mahogany colour and smells as enticing as it looks: ripe cherries and juicy peach. The flavour is understated: I got nothing for the first few seconds but then there's a waft of menthol across the palate and some light fleshy tropical fruits -- satsuma and mango -- but it's fleeting. Despite the 8.7% ABV this is not a big-flavoured beer. The bitterness is low-key and while it's definitely heavy it's not sweet. You need to take a big cloying mouthful to get much of a bitterness hit. At close to six months since it popped off the canning line, perhaps I'm not getting this beer as the brewer intended. It's enjoyable, sure, but lacks the oomph I was expecting. That it's not a sticky toffee bomb is perhaps praise enough. I commend it to you on that basis alone.

Mixed bag? Yeah, well that's the world of beer for you. There'll always be something else on the next shipment.


  1. I like what you did there, concentrating on the importers to get some beer reviews in.