29 December 2017

Gold stars

As usual, the last post of the year brings the Golden Pint Awards, begun by Andy Mogg and Mark Dredge back in 2009 and celebrating the best of the year's beers and beer-related places and events.

And as usual I'm compiling mine with the aid of a suitable beer. Two, actually, this year: the bottled winter specials from The Porterhouse. I start with Dark Star Ale, a big-hitting 11%-er. It's a deep shade of ruby making me think it's going to be along the lines of a barley wine. And there is a certain vinous quality: ripe fruit and tannins. The wine gets hacked into a vermouth shortly afterwards when a herbal bitterness is introduced. As it warms the drinker is taken on a tour of the luxury goods aisle, passing fine cigars, high-end chocolate and hand-tooled leather. For all that, it's clean and easy drinking; the sweet dark malts don't build on the palate, getting thoroughly scrubbed off by the bitterness on each mouthful. It's a serious beer, but very tasty. It left me very curious about how it would fare after whiskey maturation, and I love that I didn't have to wait to find out.

Now that The Porterhouse has its own distillery in Kerry, the whiskey version is of course called Dingle Dark Star. It picks up an extra ABV point from the process though looks exactly the same. Honeyish Irish whiskey is very present on the nose but the difference is less apparent on tasting. It still has the raisins and the chocolate, it's just now there's an extra honeycomb complexity. Perhaps the biggest change is that it's smoother: all the hard bitter edges have been rounded off, quite pleasingly. The alcohol comes to the fore, and it feels much denser than the unbarrelled version, though also less complex. Anyone who wanted the previous one to be more stout-like will be comforted by this, and while it's lovely I'm personally not sure it's an improvement on the original. Still, it's an enjoyable slow sipper, which is exactly what's required as I face into:

The Golden Pint Awards 2017

Best Irish Cask Beer: Ursa Major
It's been a good year for Irish cask overall, and special mention needs to go to O Brother first of all for their consistent supply of cask beer throughout 2017. My single favourite was the strong brown porter from YellowBelly which I drank at the Franciscan Well cask festival this year. A further commendation goes to Trouble Brewing's Walk On the Mild Side too, even if it was improved by kegging.

Best Irish Keg Beer: The Harvest King
There were a remarkable number of world-class keg beers this year, especially in the sour and Bretted category. The White Hag's Olcan and Kinnegar's Phunk Bucket were both stunning at Hagstravaganza, and both are still around in bottled form -- try them if you see them. However it was YellowBelly (again) who made me put my glass down and say "wow".

Best Irish Bottled Beer: Independent Coconut Porter
Cheating because I drank this (copiously) when it was on draught, and loved it, but it also exists bottled and has just been re-released. Designed for those who don't tolerate half measure when it comes to coconut in beers.

Best Irish Canned Beer: The Fresh Prince of Kildare
Again, I probably had more of this triple IPA on draught than canned, and the canned version was slightly different, though still excellent. Dead Centre's début Marooned was another metal-jacketed delight this year.

Best Overseas Draught: Timmermans Oude Lambiek 2014
This was a surprise tick, presented by Thomas of John Martin's brewery at the EBCU meeting in Brussels back in April. I presume the brewery has vast foeders full of the stuff but have no idea how available it is. Well worth checking out if you see it, however. A special mention goes to Hill Farmstead's Florence.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Druif