02 August 2017

Coq of the walk

It was a surprise to find beers from venerable Estonian brewery A. Le Coq on the shelves at SuperValu. I snapped them up, of course. It's not every day that beer by appointment to his imperial majesty shows up in suburban west Dublin. Am I supposed to curtsy?

First in the trilogy of lagers is Imperial Gold. This is 4.8% ABV and isn't really in any particular style: it's a flawlessly clear reddish gold, full bodied almost to the point of stickiness -- far more than one would expect for the strength -- with just a gentle herbal tang of liquorice bitterness, a little honeydew sweetness, and some other nondescript fruit candy, a bit like Lucozade. (What is Lucozade supposed to taste like?) That sticky fruit tang hits the back of the palate with every mouthful and manages, just, to keep the beer interesting. If called upon to designate a style I'd be calling it a Märzen, except the next one is a Märzen.

Imperial Märzen raises the ABV very slightly, to 5%. The sugar gets a bigger boost, seemingly. For though it actually looks paler, it tastes darker, of brown sugar and a sharp aspirin bitterness. It seems less coherent than the previous beer, which is not what I'd expected. Normally if you've deigned it good enough to have a specific German style appended to the label, it fits that style like a glove. This is just too simplistically sweet to be a proper Märzen. There's a bit of the dense fruitcake quality that goes with the style but it's an afterthought: you don't take a sip and say "mmm, cake" as one is supposed to with Märzen. Not true to style.

Finally Imperial Ale. Are we fermenting from the top now? It's anyone's guess. (edit: ah, it does say "Top fermenting" in teeny letters on the label) 5% ABV again and we have yet to escape from that coppery-gold thing. There seems to be more residual sugar in this, but otherwise it's not that different from what has gone before. The bitterness takes a bit more of a back seat while the sweetness leans more towards treacle or golden syrup. There is a little bit more to the fruit element in this one and I get properly juicy raisins, but there still isn't the body of an ale, and definitely nothing you'd call hop character.

With their 40cl bottles I'm wondering are these yet another attempt by a large purveyor of generic industrial beer to wiggle into the craft niche? I though Le Coq was above such things but it really looks like it. These aren't the classy classics I was expecting. I can think of a dozen German beers I'd recommend over any of them.

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