10 October 2016

Hello from the other side

Normality and routine returns today after three weeks on holiday from the daily grind. I spent most of it bimbling around the USA but you'll have to wait a few weeks while I sort my stack of beer notes into semi-coherent blog posts if you want to find out what I drank there.

I returned to the shock discovery that Irish beer has not stood still in my absence so with bag unpacked and the first load of laundry on I nipped over to The 108 in Rathgar to seek out Galway Bay's newest releases.

Just gone on tap was the brewery's take on the highly-fashionable Vermont-style IPA, dubbed NE. I'll be honest: I was expecting it to be soupier. It's hazy all right, opaque indeed, but more of a pale yellow-orange rather than the full-on Sunny-D effect which is one of the style's gimmicks. The head retention was a bit poor but the aroma was gorgeous: pure, fresh citrus juice. The flavour is just as bright and juicy, with ripe mandarins the main feature, plus a pinch of peppery spice and then a green spinach edge on the finish, giving it a good bittering balance. At only 5% ABV it's extremely drinkable, though that greenness does build as it warms, becoming the sharp grassy effect you get in beers that have been dry-hopped too long. Still, the happy surprise is that there's absolutely no yeasty off flavour: it's all hop, all the way down. A strong candidate for regular re-brewing here, I reckon.

I just missed the first appearance of Ceasefire before I left. This is the second beer that Cigar City assisted with on their visit to Ballybrit and was formerly called Brigid -- some labels and tap badges still have the original name. It's a blonde sour beer with added rhubarb and sloe. While the texture is quite light it manages to create an illusion of stickiness with a kind of purple jammy flavour at the front -- it could be blackberry, or blackcurrant, but I'm guessing it's actually the sloes. And then beyond this there's a rather basic dry crisp beer with a kind of aspirin tang, leading to a damp squib of a watery finish. No rhubarb, and barely even any sourness. This is really rather a dull offering, putting in the bare minimum of effort with the flavour. Proof, if it wasn't already obvious, that sticking a big-name brewery on the label is not a guarantee of getting good beer.

Finally for now an autumn seasonal from Galway Bay called Harvest Altar, described as an "American brown ale". It has a big, but not immodest, ABV of 5.6% and uses it well, delivering a heavy satisfying body. This forms an excellent base for the warming chocolate and mocha-coffee flavours at its centre. And at the start, that's all I thought it did: it's a perfectly reasonable flavour profile for a wholesome autumnal dark ale, after all. Then the hops kicked in. I first noticed them in the aroma: a very vegetal English effect, like a bitter laden with late East Kent Goldings. As the beer warmed this came out in the flavour too: a definite hard bitterness which starts subtly but builds as it goes. I'm guessing the surprise hoppiness is another part of what makes it American-style, but you won't find any citrus here. I rather enjoyed it; it adds an interesting complexity to a rock-solid traditional style ale. Hopefully Harvest Altar will last until the temperatures really start to fall and we need to make our sacrifices to the winter gods.

For my part I'll be glued to the keyboard as the nights draw in, putting together my holiday blog posts. I've plenty of pre-scheduled content in the pipeline to keep the lights on in the meantime.


  1. there's absolutely no yeasty off flavour: it's all hop, all the way down

    Not true to style, then?

    1. Can't say I'm in much of a position to judge but, for example, Hill Farmstead's Sumner didn't taste yeasty to me.