29 January 2018


Dublin's DOT Brew had a busy 2017, finishing with a rake of new releases. To show how far behind I am in writing about them, the first in today's overdue catch-up post is the Autumn: Seasons of Saison release. This one is 5.8% ABV, making it the lightest of series, and includes rye in the recipe. It's a handsome clear gold colour topped by a fine tight foam. The aroma is fruity but clean. I get white grape in particular. It tastes much more savoury than that: there's a smokiness at the front of the flavour, then sweeter apple and pear behind. I found it a bit harsh overall, and the busy fizz is distracting. The finish is a burnt plastic burr that didn't suit me at all. While its fruity side is tantalising, the rest, too much of it, is interference.

But that was merely prologue to the grand finale of Seasons of Saison: Winter. The biggest of the lot at 7.2% ABV, obsidian black and aged in both a whiskey and a port barrel. It's dry, but makes you work to find the saison characteristics after that. There's a very stout-like roast, and then a tar-and-tobacco bitterness. I think I get a touch of dark grape from the port pipe, as well as a more saison-specific peppery spice. Although there's plenty of sparkle it's still beautifully smooth, and I think that's what fits it best for winter: the fact that it's comforting and sippable; a saison for a quiet evening in. It's certainly very different from your typical saison, and manages that without doing anything silly, which is commendable. It was a fun series and I look forward to where DOT's saison adventures go next.

My adventures, meanwhile, brought me to Idlewild. The Fade Street cocktail bar had worked with DOT to create a beer that tasted like a cocktail, specifically, an Old Fashioned. Real Friends was the name: 10.7% ABV with rye, a convoluted combination of botanicals, some orange, and aged a whopping 15 months in bourbon barrels. I can't tell you how closely it resembles an Old Fashioned as I've never had one; I can tell you that it tastes nothing like a beer. It arrived flat and headless, a grim murky brown colour, with a thin texture to match. My impression on first tasting was of a Negroni: that dry rasp, accompanied by an explosion of vermouth-like bitters. Oily aniseed is most prominent, evaporating up into the nostrils for a very wintery sort of refreshment. The fruit and the oak vanilla follow afterwards, though the finish is quick. Once you get past the strangeness, it's a very enjoyable beer, and I had a second straight after my first. I'd normally criticise this sort of thing for being unbeerlike, except this is so unbeerlike as to be superb on its own terms. Daring doesn't begin to cover what DOT has assembled here.

Before turning to the bottled line-up, a beer I thought I was going to miss out on as it was created as a bottled special for Blackrock Cellar, an off licence that's just too far out of my way for hunting a single beer. Then lo and behold it arrived on draught at 57 The Headline where I could enjoy a dirty great pint of it. Joel's Barrel Aged Vietnamese Coffee Stout Batch II (I did miss the first batch in 2016) is a blend of a dark ale with an imperial stout. Both components were barrel aged separately, the stout with additional coffee beans and espresso, and the results came out at 6.9% ABV. I was expecting it to go big on coffee but it's actually quite restrained, light bodied and with a pleasingly low carbonation. Milk chocolate and rosewater are the primary flavours, like a Turkish delight from the Milk Tray box. There's a slight whiskey burn in the finish but it's mild, more like the whisky component in Drambuie or Irish Mist than anything neat. It's very sweet, and yet not cloying, presumably because of that lightness of body. I really enjoyed my pint, and came away happily reminded that massively intricate dark beers can be created without resorting to syrupy booze bombs.

Another spirit barrel comes out to play in DOT 013: Belgian Blonde Aged In An Irish Single Malt Ex White Rum Barrel, with its stellar label designed by Aran Brazil. The title preempts anything I have to say before tasting, other than it's 7% ABV and turns out a hazy orange colour with a rather plain oak aroma. The flavour is pithy, with a spritz of orange zest, fading quickly without much behind it. As it warms, more of the oak comes out, as well as savoury yeast and an alcohol burn, and the whole thing is a bit too heavy and serious for my liking. Perhaps this is where a wine barrel would work better than a rum barrel. I'm thinking of recent beers like Eight Degrees's The Oak King, YellowBelly's Kind Of A Big Deal or DOT's own Champagne Beer, where the barrel gave the base Belgian-style beer a fresh and fruity lift. This lacks that, and seems bogged down on the sugar cane plantation. A near miss, then.

A big beast follows next: Barrel Aged Cab Sauv Grain Rye. "But you already had this!" I hear you exclaim, referring back to DOT's first birthday last year. Foolish child, that was the Barrel Aged Cab Sauv Malt Rye. Grain is completely different, and 0.1% ABV stronger, at 9.6%. It's the same dark red-brown, mind, with a nose of toasted malt loaf. It has the same flavour of booze-soaked cherries as the malt one, though seems tarter, almost veering towards vinegar notes. The rye adds a distinct acidic bitterness that I don't care for and the whole thing would benefit from some maturation, or possibly just being served colder. There's a lot going on in it, but no one element takes the reins. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that it's more of an abstract painting than a portrait.

The finale is the one that nabbed DOT the prestigious Irish Whiskey Society award for best barrel-aged beer in 2017, and it's only 4.6% ABV! Single Grain Cab. Sauv. Session Ale is the name, or 012 if you're keeping count that way. It's a whiskey-ish honey amber colour, topped with a generous pure white head. Wood in the aroma again, this time with grape must and piercing spicy incense. That wine element is a major feature of the flavour, and it surprises me slightly that the whiskey heads would be into it: there's no spirit in the flavour that I can detect. I get smoky malt coupled with juicy white grape and a bitter herbal backing track featuring thyme and desiccated coconut. For all the panoply of flavours it is actually sessionable: nothing tries to dominate the palate or hangs around too long, though the carbonation is a smidge high. Possibly not the amazing finisher I was expecting, but a very good beer to go out on.

I'd hazard a wild guess that there will be more barrelly shenanigans from DOT later in 2018. Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment