20 October 2017


I've been writing about the Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS all this week, but before we tumble headlong into the rest of September's festivals (four more countries to go, folks) I want to catch up on the assortment of Irish beers I drank at home and in the pubs during the summer.

On the very day I posted my last Irish beer round-up I picked up a can of The White Hag's Atlantean, their new IPA in the fashion of (consults atlas) ah, New England. It looks the part: an even sickly yellow and a thin skim of head. Lots of sweet pineapple in the aroma, verging on oversweet but promising enough to make me go in for a sip. It's surprisingly watery when it hits the palate; at 5.4% ABV it doesn't really have an excuse for the hollowness. Around the edge of the crater there's a quite bitter allium burn: simultaneous garlic and spring onion. As the harshness fades there's a tiny hint of peachy fruit but it doesn't stick around to play. My problem here is that this has all the hop features of a really good modern IPA but the malt simply is not there to carry it, which shouldn't be the case given the strength. The absence of a firm controlling hand makes the hops too hot and allows a nasty yeast twang to creep in too. I guess the Vermont yeast was supposed to provide the substance but for some reason it fell asleep on the job. Anyway, it's a surprise pass from me.

I had no idea what to make of the announcement that Black Donkey had released a smoked rye saison. Smoked. Rye. Saison. I  did know that I had to try it so trooped along to 57 The Headline at the first opportunity to get hold of this alluringly-titled Bog Fire. I got a murky mugful, a fairly bright orange-ochre colour. The aroma is sweet and smoky, which was a good start as I had been fearing something acrid and harsh. It's not, and not on tasting either. The malt sweetness starts it off, all marmalade with just a slight backing of grassy rye. Then the smoke layer comes on top, but still sweet, like crispy maple-smoked bacon. The saison element only really emerges as the beer warms, presenting as a juicy honeydew melon feature, further softening the smoke. It gets a little harsher in the finish as a dry astringency creeps in, but not enough to upset a very well-constructed beer, one which makes great use of its constituent parts.

Keeping the murky theme going, we turn next to Edelweiss, new from White Gypsy. This surprised me at first with how dark it looked, and then by how dark it tasted. There's a definite whack of caramel, or even toffee, in here -- enough to add a sense of dunkelweisse to the whole picture. There's also banana by the bucketful, in the form of those foam sweets rather than any real fruit. The saving grace is a decent kick of green noble hops adding a flavour of celery in particular, but you do have to go looking for that, so heavy are the malt and yeast components. Though a modest 5% ABV it's a very chewy offering, and that density only accentuates the sweetness. It wasn't to my taste and I'd prefer everything except the hops to be more tightly restrained.

Endless Summer, a collaboration between Donegal Brewing and its neighbour Bog Hopper, arrived at UnderDog, appropriately enough, in early September. This is a 4.5% ABV pale ale, a middle-of-the-road golden colour with just a very slight haze. The aroma is sweet, and a little sticky, reminding me of bright pink raspberry-flavoured ice cream sauce with a sprinkling of orange sherbet. The flavour is very different, however. From the first taste I got a harsh acridity, savoury like yeast, but with overtones of smoke as well. At the very end there's a brief flash of orange, but it's not enough to save the overall taste. The base beer behind the flavour is thin and fizzy, with a dry chalkiness, which accentuates the severity of it all. I couldn't say if it's an infection, a fining issue, or if it's merely over-bittered, but however you slice it it doesn't result in a happy beer drinking experience.

At the same strength, but done much better, is the new Brú Pale Ale, recently added to the core range of the Trim brewery. It's very pale, presenting like more like a watery lager