28 April 2017

The year DOT

My blog is 12 years old today. I'm using the opportunity to catch up with a local brewer whose beers I've been gathering notes on for months and am overdue actually doing a post about. The brewer is DOT, a Dublin-based outfit. I last met its proprietor Shane at an event in Teeling's Distillery back before Christmas. I tasted a few of his then-new releases, and bought a few more to take home and intend to drink for ages but not get around to.

DOT Amber Ale was the first I tried on the day. The accent is very definitely more on the hops than the malt in this one. It's relatively pale, for one thing, only 4.5% ABV, and places a bright and fresh citrus juiciness at the heart of the flavour. Though there's none of the toffee often found in the style, a certain creamy texture starts to emerge when it warms a little, with a touch of coconut about it, but it stays clean and keeps pushing the American hop flavours. Lovely.

I wasn't so keen on DOT American Stout. Despite the name, this uses New Zealand hops and there's a strong hit of the medicinal eucalyptus flavour some of them give. The intense dryness doesn't help this at all either.

On, then, to the set of bottles I brought home and finally opened a couple of weeks ago.

01: The Origin is a red ale Shane has used as the base for a trilogy of experiments. I could have bought the three-pack of all of them, but I'm annoying like that. It's big for the style at 5.6% ABV and poured a dull ochre colour with little by way of head. The aroma suits a heavy red, being toffee and red liquorice, while the flavour is dry and grainy to begin with, before opening out into summer fruit, meadow perfume and finishing on a strongly assertive bitterness. Despite the complexity it never loses sight of its roots, still a soft, easy-going down-to-earth sort of beer. I nearly regret not paying in to find out where the story went from here, but the other beers available were far too distracting.

So next up is DOT's Barrel Aged Roasted Oat Stout, a 6.5% ABV job in a classy paper sleeve. There's a bit of a homebrew twang off this one: a touch of meaty savouriness and a fruity side that speaks of temperature control which is not what it should be. The dryness I was expecting is quite low and there's surprisingly little roast. It does have the soft smoothness of oatmeal as well as the slight putty tang I often find in beers that use it. While a certain vanilla element from the barrel is present, it's not overdone. Redcurrant jelly is the flavour analogue it keeps bringing to mind: it has that same sort of dense homogeneous texture, as well as the sweet tart fruit. On balance I'm not sure I like it: while it's certainly complex, the flavours I enjoy in stout are absent, and I miss the extra spirity booze that tends to come with barrel-aged stouts, if the barrel did something fun before the beer went it. This one is just a bit too serious and plain.

The last of the set is one I'd had back in Teeling's originally and was impressed enough to make sure I brought a bottle home. It's DOT's Champagne Beer, using three yeast strains and aged in Chardonnay casks, and it does an amazing job of picking up the champagne qualities into what must have been a perfect base blonde beer. The fruit level is off the scale with succulent white grape, soft juicy melon and the green edge of kiwifruit. The back label mentions pineapple and yes, I get that as well. All the soft sweet and juicy notes are here and it's very difficult to believe we're facing 8.3% ABV when it's so lightly textured and easy drinking. I thought so when I first tasted it -- and stand by my view four months later -- that this is one of the best Irish beers ever made: massively complex yet exquisitely balanced, it verges on perfection.

Bringing us (I think) right up to date is DOT Spring Saison, the first of a promised sequence of seasonal saisons. A hazy deep orange colour, it's a substantial 5.9% ABV, but plays things light and breezy with a soft, juicy and above all fresh peach and melon flavour. A dry sharpness builds gradually as it goes -- and it goes quickly -- giving it the classical saison pepper. It's complex enough to be interesting but also works as a beautiful thirst-quenching refresher, albeit one which could do with a point or so knocked off the strength. Maybe the summer edition will do that.

DOT celebrated its own first birthday last night in Idlewild with a swathe of brand new beers. Look out for reviews of them in a post here soon. A couple gave that champagne beer a run for its money in the phwoar stakes.