24 June 2016

Putting the boot in

One can measure the progress of the Irish beer sector by the commemorative beers it produces for sporting events. For previous football tournaments it's only been one or two: Eight Degrees's Trapattoni Potation for Euro 2012 and JW Sweetman's Brazil 2014 beer Maracanã. Maybe it's the presence of the Republic of Ireland team at Euro 2016, but there are three beers out to mark the occasion: one can, one bottle and one cask. At this late stage in the tournament it's a bit après match but let's take a look anyway.

Claiming the best possible name for an Irish football-themed beer is Danger Here from Western Herd Brewery in Co. Clare, the first of their offerings I've tried. It's a session IPA of 4.8% ABV, pale amber with suspended floaty bits and very little by way of head or carbonation. There's a mild green grassiness on the aroma but the flavour is an absolute freight train of noisy hops, led by screaming Sorachi Ace, if I'm not mistaken. It's harshly bitter first of all, which fades just enough to allow it to be identified as a lemon skin bite, followed by billowing gusts of oily coconut. The finish is dry and sharply waxy, metallic, but even calling it a finish is less than accurate because none of these flavours actually go anywhere, they just squat on your palate, waving their flags while shouting abuse at the encircling riot police. It's a bruiser of a beer and serves as a reminder that "session IPA" is about more than lower ABV. You'll need your shinguards if you want to spend the full 90 minutes tackling a few of these. Danger indeed.

The next beer is also a session IPA, this one from Dublin's own Rascal's, produced exclusively for the Molloy's off licence chain and puntastically named All Night Long. More sessionable promises are made on the label here -- "juicy", "fruity" -- and it's a more sinkable 4.2% ABV. The head didn't stick around much on this either though it is clearer and the aroma is very west coat: all mandarin sherbet spiked with pine. It's a little thin of texture and there's a weird savouriness in the foretaste, possibly a result of one of them oniony hop varieties: is that you misbehaving, Mosaic? A gentle peach and mango fruitiness sits behind it but the flavour really lacks depth and I blame that light body. Yes, it's easy to drink and you could get through a lot of them while engrossed in the game: Molloys is helpfully selling five cans for €10, which should be enough for ninety minutes and possibly even pennos as well, But it's not as juicy or fruity as I was expecting. I should probably face the fact that what I want out of session IPA is Little Fawn and that session IPAs which aren't Little Fawn are guaranteed to let me down. All Night Long is fun and flavourful but just doesn't slot in to my taste preference as I thought it would.

The solitary draught offering is Euro Gold, on the handpump at JW Sweetman. Now this is a beer that would make me sit in the pub and watch football. For one thing, on a humid June afternoon, it was pouring beautifully cold from the cask. There was only a very slight fogging to the otherwise flawless gold, and nothing that interfered with the flavour. Lemons are the star player, not sharp or harsh but soft and sherbety in both flavour and aroma, sitting on an equally soft meringue pie texture. It slips down smoothly and there's a very quick finish setting up the next mouthful. Though I suspect the hops are new world, the overall sensation is of an English golden ale, and a damn good one at that. Yes you can happily chug it down in front of the big screen but it's equally worth taking time over in a quiet corner of the pub, if you can find one. At €4.50 a pint for loyalty card holders it's fantastic value too.

We'll leave it there so.