28 October 2016

Baby got backlog

Before I went on holidays in September I made a concerted effort to clear as much as I could out of my beer fridge. This post represents that hurried few days' swigging -- an express train through some of the bottled Irish beers new to me in autumn 2016.

I started with a refreshing witbier from Wicklow Wolf. Belgian White is a fizzy beast, taking a few goes to pour and resulting in a true-to-style hazy pale orange body topped with a crackling white head. It smells of fizz too: a hard carbonic bite, backed up by coriander herbs. I was expecting a hard prickle in the mouthfeel but the bubbles are surprisingly big and the texture of the beer nicely heavy and rounded, moreso than might be expected at just 5.2% ABV.

The label description mentions bananas and I get that estery fruit thing running right through the beer from foretaste to finish. There's a substantial higher-alcohol heat as well, bringing a certain element of acetone to the taste. A lacing of juicy citrus and a dry wheaty finish do a good job of providing balance and keep the whole thing from getting too hot and heavy. You'd probably need to drink it colder than I did to get any real refreshment from this guy, but as a weighty and complex take on wit it works quite well.

Red ale with Sorachi Ace hops is a new one on me, I think, but that's what Wicklow Wolf's Sorachi Red is. It's a clear dark copper colour, almost more brown than red, and topped by a stiff off-white head. The two sides of the equation are present right from the aroma, showing lots of toffee but also the distinctive lemon rind and powdered coconut of Sorachi Ace. There's a very Irish red sort of burnt roast in the flavour, something that successfully pushes against both the crystal malt sweetness and the obstreperous hops.

It's almost classically traditional, if a little strong at 5.1% ABV, and only at the finish is there that cheeky pinch of lemon. Definitely not a mad banging craft beer oddity, but rather a fun modern twist on a quite old fashioned style. Grandad's bought a fixie. Good for him.

Combining witbier with the east-Asian theme brings us to Thai Wit, new from Dungarvan Brewing. It's a whopping 6.4% ABV and rather dark for the style, a kind of amber brown. There's a lovely sweet Thai perfume, the lemongrass particularly prominent. It's rather more style-typical on tasting, the coriander coming through loud and clear on top of a dry wheatiness with lots of fizz. I'd swear I can taste the orange peel but no orange is listed on the ingredients. Perhaps it's the kaffir lime leaf giving it that citrus quality. The herbal finish lasts long, an oily coriander residue left on the lips.

It's a fun and interesting version of the style, not startlingly different but ramping up the flavours and offering a few extra bells and whistles. I didn't have any Thai food to hand but I reckon it would work very well as an accompaniment.

I'm writing this in the aftermath of the 2016 Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS and one of the stars of that show was Western Herd on their first visit to a Dublin festival. Apparently, anyway. I didn't get around to actually visiting their stand -- more fool me. I do have a couple of their bottles in the backlog, however, and I'm starting with yet another witbier: Back Beat.

This is a more orthodox orange colour. I had the option of leaving the yeast out but thought to hell with it and dumped the lees in as well, so you can add hazy to the appearance description. The fruit is off the charts in the aroma: bananas at first, then jaffa and mandarin, like a fruit salad (the dessert, not the chewy sweet). It's rather drier on tasting, with a sulphurous note I tend to associate with immature wheat beers. The coriander brings soap, the yeast an earthy grit, and all the lovely soft fruit from the aroma has evaporated. In the end it's a rather harsh beer, perhaps needing to be served very cold to smooth it out. It's complex, sure, but not in the right ways.

The other one of theirs I picked up in DrinkStore is Blue Jumper IPA. At 6.2% ABV a bit of poke was expected and it delivers in the aroma all right, a smack of fresh grapefruit with a definite heavy crystal malt toffee sweetness behind it: American-style IPA the way your momma used to make it.

It's extremely thick, to the point of being almost difficult to pull from the glass. At first there's a harsh and raw vegetal flavour but this opens out shortly after into zestier orange sherbet before settling back into the earthy tones of Cascade, with a more grapefruit and a metallic edge to remind you that this hop is descended from Fuggles.