A recent bicycle trip homewards along the south coast of Dublin Bay brought me past the two JD Wetherspoons situated there, both at convenient points for stopping off to rest the legs a bit before the final push. Stopping for a pint or three was only common sense.
Just one new beer for me on the taps at The Forty Foot in Dún Laoghaire: Cairngorm Black Gold. Thirsty on a warm afternoon I wasn't really in the mood for a dark beer but I went with it anyway and grabbed one of the last remaining tables on the upper terrace. One sip dispelled any doubt that this was the beer to choose: the texture is wonderfully light and smooth lending it enormous refreshment power. Then there's all the lovely complexities typical of dark cask ale: dry cocoa, sweet blackcurrant and then, as it warms, touches of salty caramel and butterscotch. I took my time over it, enjoyed it thoroughly, and headed on to Blackrock in a good mood.
Looking for something with more of a sunshine-in-a-glass quality when I got the The Three Tun Tavern (two years old today!) I opted for Gravitas by Vale Brewery in Buckinghamshire. It certainly looks the part: clear and cool and bright pale gold. But alas it's just too heavy to do the job required of it. The mouthfeel is sticky and the flavour a sickly, overly-floral perfume thing, with a surprising amount of alcohol heat for just 4.8% ABV. There is a little bit of nuance which comes into play after the first few mouthfuls: melted tropical fruit ice lolly and a sharp but fun lemon bitterness, but they're not enough to make the beer fully beer-garden compatible.
It was May so I felt obliged to do my bit for international mild month by drinking a valedictorian pint of same, since the management had been good enough to put one on. Mary's Ruby Mild was the name, from another home counties brewery, Nethergate. It didn't look the best when I got it: ruby, yes, but with a suspicious brownish haze through it. It didn't taste clean either, having a salty putty earthiness over the top of crunchy cereal and sweet strawberry. The heavier sort of Irish red ale is what it reminded me of and it certainly did not offer the light quaffability that I'm after in a mild, especially outside on a late spring day. Perhaps I was unlucky and got the tail end of the cask: I don't think I've had a single complaint or concern over the way cask beer is handled in either of these pubs and if this was a bad one then it's a rarity.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting to find as many different British cask ales on tap in these pubs as I did, and it was a pleasant surprise even if only one out of three was any good. I might have better luck the next time I'm pedalling through.
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