11 July 2016

Left in the dark

Trying to keep up with what Ireland's breweries are turning out has become exhausting. Poor me, etc. I did a bit of a fridge clear-out at the weekend, getting to grips with some of the dark beers that had accumulated in there.

First up, Fierce Mild, a mild (obviously) from YellowBelly and with an impressively low ABV of 3.1%. It poured out disappointingly flat with only the thinnest layer of bubbles forming, temporarily, on the cola-brown body. And sure enough there's barely a whisper of condition to it. Nobody wants their mild to be a fizzbomb, least of all me, but this has unfortunately veered much too far the other way. It's doubly a shame because the beer tastes great: a rich and smooth chocolate flavour is the centrepiece with a black cherry fruit complexity and an edge of gentle roast. While light and very easy drinking it's also decently full bodied without a trace of wateriness. But it's just not enjoyable because it's flat. I feel gypped.

Onwards anyway, and Kangaroo Jack is YellowBelly's foreign extra stout, though a modest one at just 6.5% ABV. I thought I was on for another carbonation disaster as it poured out thickly and flat, but a stable head did form and there's an appropriate prickly fizz. One sip is enough to serve as reminder that stout, traditionally, was a very heavily hopped beer, and export stout even moreso. This, presumably as a nod to its Australian collaborators Woolshed Brewery, uses Southern Cross hops which give it a big, greenly bitter, flavour, mostly grass and crunchy fresh cabbage, though laced with pithy grapefruit as well. Looking past this there's a chewy caramel sweetness at the centre, the malt delivering a massively full texture as well as the flavour, and then there's just a mild dryness creeping in at the finish. But really this beer is all about the hops, and gloriously so.

I was given a health warning about The Wexican by Richard in DrinkStore. The chilli levels were too high for him; no such thing for me: bring it on. It's another dense one, pouring inky black and again no head and only tokenistic carbonation. It has the dry acidic bitterness of super high cocoa dark chocolate and a savoury Bovril note that suggests the possibility of autolysis. The chilli, frankly, is barely there: just a light scorch on the palate and a warmth in the belly, but disappointingly no chilli flavour. This is a rather severe beer. Though 7.5% ABV it lacks the comforting depth and roundness of Kangaroo Jack while retaining a gut-coating stickiness. It's a hard one to love.

We'll stay in Wexford and switch breweries for the last beer: Ejector Seat a "turf smoked stout" from the Clever Man range by Drew Fox Brewing, and the first of their beers I've tried. It's an approachable 4.5% ABV, though appears quite dense: an opaque black with a beige head. The label promises the full-on effect of a turf fire, but I don't think I'd go that far, there's just a gentle peaty greasiness in both the aroma and the flavour. The stout behind it is a pretty basic one with a middling amount of roast, some cocoa, and higher than average bitterness for a pleasing old-fashioned effect. The smoke seasoning adds even further to its quaint charm, as does the thick, slick mouthfeel. Not a world-beater but a solid and interesting beer.

Three dark and heavy beers in a row meant that I needed to pull a palate-cleanser from the fridge next, but that'll have to wait for another post.