30 September 2016

No fear

Today I'm getting back amongst the bottled beers of Wexford Town's YellowBelly Brewery. There's a broadly sour and farmhouse theme to this set which arrived simultaneously a couple of months ago.

A gose first, called Gose To Leipzig. It poured a beautiful gold colour with a very slight haze and a fine head which faded quickly. The biggest surprise is that this one is a stonking 6% ABV, much stronger than gose would typically be -- classic originals Bayerischer Bahnhof and Ritterguts are 4.6% and 4.7% respectively.

The aroma is a sweaty mix of seawater and alcohol with just a very mild herbal component. The texture is thick and kind of greasy, leaving a film in the mouth. As expected it tastes quite boozy, with a similar heat to strong pale lager. Beyond this there's an interesting apple fruit character, a dry wheaty crunch and then a tip-of-the-tongue saltiness which helps clean things up. I'm used to gose as a refreshing quaffer but this one is definitely for sipping, and while it's certainly one of the more flexible styles, that's normally because of the added flavourings brewers insist on putting in. I'm not quite sure what to make of this plain but ramped-up one. I don't think it quite works because of that heavy heat.

And that's a problem I also have with stronger examples of another style: saison. When they're too hot and fruity I find them difficult to drink. Where's Wallonia? is YellowBelly's first bottled saison. Lots of bubbles going on here, and a worrying acetone smell, suggesting an ABV far higher than its 5.6%. Thankfully it's much cleaner on tasting, but not particularly farmhouse-y. I was expecting some crispness and some funk, but really you could pass this off as a pale ale. It might be the added orange peel that gives an impression of fresh hops. There's quite a high level of sweetness as well, a candyfloss middle that dries out towards the end, aided by the fizz.

Overall it's a rather jolly beer, refreshing if a little overcarbonated. A few saison purists might get upset but it does the job for me. Certainly a lot more accessible than the gose.

Last of the set is the lightest: Great for the Town is just 4.5% ABV. It's a non-specified style of sour beer with the inclusion of Wexford's signature crop, strawberries. It presents from the bottle like a bellini: the same shade of orangey-pink. It smells very sweet, more like strawberry syrup than the real thing. The sourness is the main feature of the flavour, but quite subtly done at the same time. After an initial burst of tartness there's a gentle strawberry jam effect for a finish that's sweet, but not sticky. It's all the flavour of real strawberry with none of the sugar.

This really hits the refreshment target that the gose missed: that gum-scrubbing acidity makes for very easy drinking and is a wake-up call to the palate. The strawberries are a little unnecessary but I appreciate they're a big part of what the beer is designed to be. Drink local and all that.

Three fascinating beers here. Great for the Town is probably the best of the bunch but the muscular gose engaged my interest more than the rest. I'm sure it's high time I went looking for the next set of bottles.

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