late last year. The range has now doubled in size, rounded out with two beers, this time not from the hop-forward side of the spectrum.
First out of the fridge was Grafters Kölsch Style. Perhaps it was the fact that I poured it into a Paulaner glass but this presented more like a weissbier: deep orange and distinctly hazy, unlike the usual bright limpid yellow of classic Kölsch, and topped by a thick pillow of foam. I was immediately on guard for fruity esters which are allowable in the style but aren't its best feature. Thankfully the weizen similarities end with the appearance. A big first gulp reveals the clean crispness that is Kölsch's calling card: that razor sharp edge of pale malt husk, shaving the palate clean. There's more complexity behind, a very light fruitiness showing honeydew and lychee, elements which also come through in the enticing aroma. But it all finishes quickly, ready for the next sip. Though perhaps a little overclocked at 5% ABV, this is a very good approximation of the better sort of Kölsch and one of the very few bottled versions that actually calls to mind what I enjoyed in Cologne: not even Früh does that. If the carbonation was the same low smoothness this would be indistinguishable from the real thing. As is, it's just a very very good unfiltered top-fermented lager.
High hopes, then, as we turn to the dark side and Grafters Porter. Just 4.5% ABV, but rather thick as it pours and slow to form a head, which it does, eventually. If café mocha is your thing then this is exactly the beer for you. The flavour is a riot of sweet milky chocolate, calming down just long enough to let a more delicate fresh roast coffee edge come through. So intense is the full-volume surround-sound 4K 3D chocolate experience that for a while I thought I would never be able to taste anything else, but there's more going on in this beer: a heavy, sharp bitterness that's all about the roasted grain rather than hops and, while severe, is entirely necessary to balance the sweetness. The end result of all this to-ing and fro-ing is a rather busy, hyperactive beer, a noisy one man band that could probably do with laying off the espresso. Fun and exciting, perhaps, but I'm not sure I'd be reaching for a second the way I definitely would with the Kölsch-style.
Both of these sell for €2 per half litre bottle and are further examples of how great -- or at least interesting -- Irish beer is as likely to come from the bargain end of the shelf as super-premium.
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