13 April 2018

All over the shop

I'm giving up any semblance of order in this final post from Alltech Brews & Food 2018. It's just stuff I found to drink.

Some of it came via Simon, who brought along a selection from Lacada, as is his wont. First out was a brand new sour beer called Oonagh's Secret. Though a little on the strong side at 5.5% ABV, it's pale and clean with just enough of a tart and fruity punch to hold your attention, while still being light and refreshing. It's the sort of thing that ought to be in every brewery's core range.

That was followed by Zostera, a black IPA. This is a meaty 6.4% ABV and pumps out all the taste and aroma in an assertive, confident way. It smells spicy, of nutmeg or allspice, and tastes bitter and tarry. The creamy texture helps offset the more severe side of that, and while the hop flavours don't pop with complexity like in some black IPAs, it's still a solid version.

Half Hung rye IPA has been around since the autumn but this was my first chance to try it. The colour is murky brown and the flavour matches it with a sludgy, dreggy yeast flavour. Neither the hops nor the rye make much contribution. It's certainly no Rustbucket, and at 6.2% ABV it definitely should have more to offer.

New from Hopfully was Baniwa Chilli, a saison that takes its name from the added ingredient (with pineapple and mint) and the Amazon tribe that grows it. It looks like pineapple juice, all murky and white. The flavour is surprisingly dry for all that, true to its saison roots: crisp cereal and a hint of banana ester. It takes a moment to unfold, but the pineapple and mint arrive eventually, adding a note of summery fruit punch, and then there's just a subtle scorch of chilli on the end. At a mere 3.8% ABV it's more a beer for drinking than sipping, built to quench a thirst rather than for considered analysis.

Foreign beer wasn't at all a priority for me, but I did nab a quick (generous!) half of Stone Brewing's Ripper pale ale. It's a bit of an odd one, I thought, beginning with the sugary, syrupy aroma. The flavour brings a rapid burst of zesty grapefruit before turning sweet again. There's a thick and gummy texture making the weedy hops extra resinous. For an American pale ale, albeit one at a biggish 5.7% ABV, it's quite intense and involved. I think I liked it though, for all its show-off acrobatics.

Tallaght's finest, Priory Brewing, was offering two new additions to its core IPA range. From the standard Original Sin, we go down first to Venial Sin session IPA (pictured). I wasn't impressed at first, finding it thin, which isn't terribly surprising at 3.8% ABV. It improves as it warms, with emerging flavours of spiced red cabbage and black pepper. There are no sensory loop-the-loops here, but I can see it working very well for a pint or several.

Up the other end of the peccatorial scale is, obviously, Mortal Sin, at 8% ABV. It's every bit as serious as the name suggests: heavily textured yet similarly spicy, and packed with funky hop resins. A real old-school job, it has no truck with fruity high notes, going all out for that bitter bite. After a few pints of Venial, this is one to finish your night on, but be sure to go to confession in the morning.

That leaves just our hosts to round things out. Of course Alltech's own beer was a major part of the offer at the festival, and as usual the Kentucky Ales bar was the centrepiece. Tucked away in a corner, however, there was another bar for the pilot-batch beers from Alltech's Irish brewing arm, Station Works.

The way-out experimental recipes on offer included, er, Station Works Lager. It was lovely, though. A middle-of-the-road 4.5% ABV, opening on fresh lemons and based on a super-clean base of crusty white bread, The hops reassert at the end of a bitter finish. A classical rendering of all that's good and holy about German helles and pilsner.

For something with a bit more wahey!, here's a Sherry Cask Red Ale. It didn't taste to me of sherry, exactly, but more a mélange of red wine and sweet liqueurs, showing notes of chocolate, vanilla, cherry and raspberry. The oak brings a little harshness, so perhaps longer ageing is required. Overall it's pretty good, for a taster of a novelty. I don't think I'd object if it showed up for sale in small bottles.

Next is Damien's Peanut Porter. I was sceptical, to say the least. It's a tough beer to be angry with, however, offering freshly-baked cookies as well as some properly grown-up bitter roast. The balance is excellent and, unlike so many pastry stouts, the ABV is modest at 5%. It's another one I probably wouldn't drink a lot of, but one sample clearly showed the brewer's skill.

It's back to the press room for the last one, which conversely was the first beer I had at the festival. Station Works Imperial Stout is 10.5% ABV and barrel-aged. I got lots of red wine from it: tannic and fruity. There's a thick layer of very strong coffee and an umami element suggesting that this one probably got quite enough time in the barrel, if not too long. An almost total lack of carbonation let it down, so it wasn't quite as enjoyable as the others, but still pretty decent for a big stout of this kind.

That's Alltech done for another year. Well done to all involved. Beer festivals are getting thinner on the ground in these parts, so I for one am happy that this fixture is here every spring. Long may it continue.


  1. Professor Pie-Tin8:41 am

    Some people say hearing the cuckoo call is the first sign of Spring.
    But for me I'll know that Spring has really sprung when I make my first sighting of The Beer Nut's garden table.
    It's been a long old winter but surely the moment can't be far away.