18 April 2018

Doing the rounds

Seems I now have two kinds of Irish beer round-ups to do every few weeks: the regular one and the Dublin brewpubs dispatch. We'll start this one at Open Gate.

I've said multiple times that lager is the Diageo microbrewery's principal strong point and I'm always pleased to see a new one. Open Gate Vienna Lager came my way on a visit to the bar last month. And it's absolutely proper in every respect: clear copper coloured, with a sweet-yet-crisp dark biscuit grain character, overlaid with green celery noble hop flavours which build pleasingly to a grassy bite in the finish. The carbonation level is quite high but the body is so clean that it gets away with it, scrubbing the palate without scouring it. At 5.5% ABV it's maybe a bit too full-on to be a true session lager, but a couple of pints is just the ticket.

Open Gate IPAs I have been less on board with. I missed the prequel to today's one, No Limits. This is called Double the Limits, 7.2% ABV, and in a New England kind of style. For all that, it's a clear lager-yellow colour. The texture is properly thick, however, and this helps feed a strong resinous hop character, leafy at first, before easing off to gentler lemon and lime notes. There's a certain cheesy funk in the aroma, and this side gives a mildly sour edge to the flavour which is quite out of keeping with the rest. Overall it's not bad; the flavour does manage to hang together coherently, the mouthfeel is lovely and fluffy and the big strength is well hidden. It's still not a great IPA though, whether double, New England, or however else you slice it.

Eastbound and down, to Urban Brewing. Last month I mentioned that JT from Gipsy Hill had done a collaboration beer here, and lo it arrived on the taps, the cheerily-titled Spring Break, a sour saison of 5.3% ABV with peach and apricot. It's a sunny shade of pale yellow and smells like a fruit sponge. The peach juice leaps out of the flavour first thing, and just when I thought it was going to build to a cloying sugariness, the tartness sweeps in and cuts it off deftly. The finish is merely mildly fruity, showing the melon rinds often found in unadorned saisons, plus a satisfying spark of jasmine perfume. The fruit element does come on a little strong in it, though is entirely in keeping with the beer's mission to be fun and carefree. I liked that it was tempered with the more serious soured and saison sides and would perhaps have preferred more from this. As is, though, it's a great offering.

Irish Altbier seems to be having something of a moment right now, and here was Alt Bier by Urban Brewing. There wasn't much going on in this, which I guess is perfectly on-point for the style, especially the more industrial big-name variants. It's the appropriate rusty colour and tastes dry and crisp. It took me a while to find anything else. A late-rising bitterness was the first distinguishing feature, followed by softer toffee malt as it warmed. Both of these are slight and not terribly distinguished. I was underwhelmed but unoffended by the whole thing.

Not long after, the venue played host to the National Homebrew Club's national championship. I took a quick break from judging there to sample a new offering just arrived on tap: Pan Am, an IPA with added grapefruit and yerba mate. It's a murky red-brown colour and, presumably because of the mate, is absolutely roaring with phenolic smokiness, tasting very similar to a strong cup of lapsang souchong. A tiny spark of citrus begins it, but followed swiftly by a long blast of stale smoke and old rubber, finishing dry and harsh. A noble experiment perhaps, but one that very much didn't suit me. I wouldn't be able to swear that the taste wasn't down to an infection of some sort.

I couldn't leave this post on that bum note, so thankfully was rescued by the next release: Bière de Table. This is broadly a saison, though is stronger than a typical bière de table at 4.9% ABV. It has the proper look, however: a pale and hazy yellow. And it definitely has the flavour, presenting beautiful perfume and spices right from the start. I got jasmine, lavender and incense all the way through, adding a slightly sticky peach nectar to the picture late on, before the long herbal finish. Its farmhouse credentials are present and correct and all the features gel together well. I genuinely got a vibe of Bermondsey from this; the nearest you'll find to The Kernel's version of the style in these parts.

I don't have a new one from JW Sweetman for this round but I'll let Kildare Brewing step in as a surrogate. Late last year, Sweetman ran a homebrew competition and the winner was Brian McSorley's stout Black Ó Lantern. Kildare subsequently brewed it up and sent a keg (the keg, I believe) to JW Sweetman where I got hold of a pint. This is Irish dry stout writ large: a huge dry and bitter hit up front, all black toast and sharply metallic hops. And yet it's not at all harsh, carried by a big and thick treacle base. That treacle brings a certain amount of sweetness into the flavour late on, and then the burnt roast comes back in the finish. It's an absolute beaut and up with the best of the genre, like Wrasslers and Leann Folláin. A repeat brew would be no harm at all.

I'm sure I'm already far behind on what these breweries have released more recently. If you want to find out what they have now it's best to just call in.


  1. green celery noble hop flavours

    I don't know how you are on mind-reading, but I wonder if this 'green celery' is a better way of referring to the 'gas pipe' bitterness I wrote about here (Ticketybrew Munchner & Blonde).

    1. Yours does sound rather stronger. The thing about celery, and I mean in raw form, is that it doesn't really taste of much.