Around here you can die of thirst waiting for a sunny day on which to drink a summer beer. When the opportunity finally presented itself I grabbed two that have been waiting in the fridge since mid-season.
First up is Samradh, a raspberry-infused saison from Dublin's Third Circle, brewed (for the moment) at Craftworks. I very much approve of its summery ABV of 4.5%. They've made great use of the raspberries too: it's pink, for one thing, and the fruit is very prominent in both the aroma and the foretaste. That's the point where one starts to worry that it's a syrup-laden alcopop wannabe, but the saison style comes to its rescue, clearing out the sugar and putting a crisp dry finish on it. Palate-scrubbing fizz makes it that rarest of beasts, a cleansing fruit beer.
One could argue that it lacks complexity: any pepperiness or other fun saison attributes are thoroughly buried under the raspberry, but I didn't get bored of it because I drank it very quickly, something it happily permits, despite the high carbonation. It's bright, refreshing and sessionable; fun and different. My regard for Third Circle as the masters of Irish saison remains undimmed.
To follow, Connemara Cherry Sour from Independent. "We soured this beer in the kettle and then fermented it on cherries to create a tart cherry flavour" says the label copy, which sounds right up my alley. Unfortunately the reality is a long way from classic Belgian kriek, or even wonky Belgian kriek. For one thing it's almost totally flat. While I may be a staunch member of the League Against Fizz, sour beers do need a bit of gas to lift them. Secondly, it's not even remotely sour: the aroma is that syrup thing I feared in Samradh and it tastes sickly sweet, claggy with a metallic saccharine twang.
And yet it still doesn't actually taste of cherries. I know it can be hard to make fruit -- mostly made of sugar and water, remember -- to impart its flavour into beer, but this gets nowhere near: I challenge anyone to identify it as a cherry beer tasted blind. And then there's a unpleasant savoury note on the finish. Tough drinking, something unforgivable at 4.4% ABV.
Perhaps it's a bad idea to attempt to bring a cherry beer like this to market when so much good kriek exists out there, and I'd never criticise a brewer for giving something a go, but this guy really needs to be brought back to the drawing board, in my opinion.
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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