23 March 2018

Short hop

I finally made it to the Lock 13 Brewpub in Sallins! Admittedly I had to be all but marched there via an invite from the house to come and participate in a beery symposium hosted by head brewer Brendan Murphy. The bar itself is lovely, rangey in that country family pub way, stretching out along the Grand Canal at the eponymous lock. The latest add-on is the Kildare Brewing Company, in production since last summer and, for the moment, supplying beer mainly to the pub and its sister, The Silken Thomas in Kildare Town. It's very handy for Dublin, too: less than half an hour on the commuter train from Heuston.

From his homebrew days, Brendan has been known as a wizard with lager, and so it was with Kildare Brewing Co. Lager that I started my journey through the range. In keeping with the general theme of the beers, it's sessionable and accessible, 4.2% ABV and sparkling clean in a way that brewpub lagers rarely are. Despite the modest strength it's not thin, displaying a solid malt base with even a slightly sticky golden syrup or marmalade quality. A fun spicy bitterness is the hops' contribution, a subtle addition to the otherwise malt forward beer. It's perhaps not as smooth as the classic examples of the helles style, but it's still perfectly serviceable.

Hoppy Lager was previous called Pilsner but the brewery found customers weren't getting it. I'm not sure I'm getting it either as it's still a beer which leans heavily on the malt component, ramping up the ABV to 4.6%. It's drier and altogether plainer than the previous beer, and while yes it is noticeably bitterer I didn't get any extra hop flavour, which was disappointing. While this is unquestionably another well-made pale lager, I'm not sure I see the rationale of having two beers so similar on tap together.

The top-fermented sequence begins with the Weiss, a deliberately light version of the style at just 4% ABV and looking quite pale on it: a wan hazy yellow. The flavours are down-the-line classic: some bubblegum, turning a little to butane, a dusting of clove and a touch of noble-hop celery greenness. I do miss the chewy, fluffy candyfloss body of a bigger weissbier, however. Maybe because it was a cold day in February I missed out on its more summery refreshing side, or maybe I just prefer weissbier with a little more meat on its bones.

Better get through the Red next. This one is weaker still, only 3.8% ABV, so I really wasn't expecting much from it, but it genuinely impressed me. It's remarkably dark, for a start, appearing a ruby-garnet colour in the glass. The flavour is packed with dry roasted notes and dark chocolate, giving it the air of a porter more than a red, or possibly even a mild. There's a very English-ale metallic hop bite in the finish too. You might be disappointed if you were looking for caramel or toffee, but I really liked this roasty twist on a normally uninspiring style. Remember that lovely Irish Red that Aldi used to sell? Yeah, that.

According to Brendan, the Pale Ale on tap was the same as the "English Pale Ale" served on cask at JW Sweetman last year. The barman disagreed, telling me the hopping was different and insisting on giving me a taste. Now maybe it's the dispense, but it tasted different to to me, showing bright and fresh new world resins, rather than the other's heavier wax and honey. I think I still preferred the soft, full richness of the cask one, regardless of whether it's the same beer or not.