21 November 2017

In the clear

Central Dublin's pair of brewpubs are the subject of today's post, starting over at Urban Brewing in the Docklands. I had been a bit down on the beers here when they opened and promised I'd give them some time to bed in before re-assessing. I figured two months should be plenty so was back in late October for lunch and a run through what was on the house taps.

I began with Urban Brewing Belgian Pale Ale, and hey presto it is indeed clear. It's a very unBelgian 4.8% ABV and there's a lightness to the flavour which reflects that. Banana esters are the main feature, and the principal way in which it expresses its Belgianness, though there's also a softer honeydew melon quality and a whiff of gunpowder spice. A decent amount going on, then, and nothing interfering. An auspicious start.

I followed that with Urban Bitter. This is very much in the traditional English style, even if it's a tad strong at 4.6% ABV and served on keg. It's a copper colour and tastes dry: grain husk, shading to sackcloth. A metallic bitterness is the hops' contribution. While quite authentic tasting, it's a perfunctory example of the style, not taking English bitter in any particular direction or emphasising any of the features. The drinkability is first-rate, however, and it's well suited to session drinking, which I guess is the point.

The dud in the set was Urban Brewing Rye IPA. The description brings certain expectations, none of which were met by the beer. A pale gold colour was the first surprise; the second was the massive chemical ester flavours, intensifying to marker pen solvents by the end. Hops: none. Rye: none. If I hadn't been trying all of the other beers available I'd have assumed there's been a mix-up somewhere. This recipe needs to go back to the drawing board.

Lastly it was Urban Brewing Session IPA. There was a fun fruity aroma from this darkish amber job, though not the citrus explosions that mark a really good example. It's another understated one, showing dry grain and a pleasant pinch of grapefruit skins with some heavier resins, but not much of any of it: a flash is all you get, and neither the foretaste nor finish have much flavour. It's a little watery overall, inoffensive, but again not doing the style as well as most other Irish breweries.

There have definitely been production improvements at Urban Brewing but it still has a ways to go to catch up with rural brewing.

Around the same time, JW Sweetman held its first ever Cask Weekend in the basement bar. Before getting on to what was pouring, I would like to mention how wonderful it was to have have an entire bar dedicated to independent draught beers, being served by genuinely enthusiastic staff. More of this kind of thing please, Jay Dubya.

There were four handpumps on the go, with all pints an extremely reasonable €5. Only one was new to me; indeed the entire brewery was new to me. Kildare Brewing Company operates out of the Lock 13 brewpub in Sallins, and yes I'm shamefully overdue a visit. Their cask offering here was the modestly-named Kildare Brewing English Pale Ale, a bright golden one at 4.2% ABV.

First impressions were of quite a sweet beer: full of unctuous honey. The kicker comes later on when a big grassy, waxy bitterness takes over. It's in no way harsh, however, but punchy and invigorating; balanced yet assertive. What it reminded me most of is Timothy Taylor's iconic Landlord bitter. It's not a multifaceted flavour kaleidoscope by any means, just simple, sinkable and very high quality.

Kildare Brewing Amber Wheat was also present, though served kegged. It's a murky orange-bro