30 April 2018

Not a Fuggle to be seen

It's assorted hoppy odds and sods from England today, beginning in Yorkshire and another from Vocation. I'd said previously that hops are where the brewery's strength lies, so how about a 3.9% ABV US-hopped pale ale? Bread & Butter poured out fizzily, a riot of busy bubbles capping the custard-like body. There's lovely fresh zest and lighter flowery perfume in the aroma, and the flavour follows through with a gorgeous mandarin juiciness. After a moment some more serious herbal bathsalts creep in, a lemon citrus bitterness and a hint of naughty yeast. The flavour complexity is really helped by the smooth and fluffy body -- no trace of wateriness here, though the finish is a little quicker than I'd like. This is still an absolute belter, and at 4-for-€10 in Stephen Street News, the very essence of session.

I must be getting soft in my old age because there came a moment a few weeks ago where I thought I quite fancied one of those fruit-infused pale ales that were the height of fashion two or three years ago. And then I realised I actually had one in the fridge, namely Field Day by Five Points. It's a meek 4.2% ABV and a lightly hazy pale golden colour. There's a bitter perfume aroma, and I'm guessing the added lemon and grapefruit are at play in this. Even that didn't prepare me for the sharp bite at the very front. Mosaic hops have been employed, but rather than imparting ripe tropical fruit it's an overpowering caraway crispness, with a green leafy edge: part cannabis buds, part freshly-picked rosemary. And that's all it does, the bitterness fading on the watery texture. Where's the fruit? The one time I wanted a pale ale that tastes of fizzy orangeade I get one that tastes of herbs. There's no justice.

We don't see much yet from Land & Labour, the side project of Galway Bay's head brewer Tom. My first is a collaboration he created with Beavertown at their brewery and which found its way onto the taps at The Black Sheep. Be Excellent To Each Other is an IPA fermented with wine yeast, aged in wine barrels and coming out of them at 7% ABV and a clear pale yellow -- my secretary has misplaced the photo I took of it, for which I apologise. The first impression was of something massively tropical, all pineapples and mangoes, all on the funky and over-ripe side. When that settles down I got a herbal complexity, showing basil and sage. Although it's light bodied and gently sparkling, it does suffer a little from the cloying syrupy sweetness that these winey beers sometimes have. A small glass was lovely and refreshing, and I'm sure that's what the brewers intended, but I was very ready to have something else at the end of it.

I got two tickets for the hype train in a single can with Beavertown and Cloudwater's collaboration Do Not Open Until 1985. It's a big-hitting double IPA of 9% ABV, glooping lazily into the glass, looking wan and sickly, an opaque yellowish-orange. A lot of alcohol heat comes from the aroma, veering almost towards marker pens, as well as an intensely savoury hop aroma, all spring onions or even garlic. Yes, it's one of those. The flavour does have some light tropical fruit, and there's none of the booziness indicated by the smell or indeed the label, but the main act is an unpleasant yeast bite alongside sharp green onion. The thick and slick texture adds to the general air of unrefined murk: there's no cleanness or clear-cut hop taste, just unrelenting soup. Consumed seven weeks after canning, I doubt freshness was an issue. Beers like this just don't suit me, and it's important to check in with one now and again, just to remind myself of that.

Two lagers from Cloudwater by themselves next, both found on tap at UnderDog. Cloudwater IPL Vic Secret Ekuanot is a sizeable 6% ABV and a cloudy orange colour. The aroma is powerfully dank and funky, and the hops (12g/L, fact fans) follow through really well in the flavour, showing a spiky bitterness with a green veg acidity. It is a little thin for the strength, and lacks the clean finish of a proper lager because of all the hops, but it was still a highly enjoyable pint.

Its stablemate was Helles Mandarina, and we're on more familiar ground here, with its 4.8% ABV and crystal clear yellow hue. The aroma is all light and crisp biscuit, while the flavour introduces just a mild tang of orange from the hops. I was all pleased about how properly lagerish this one is when I realised I had set it too low a bar. Yes, it meets the requirements of the style but it doesn't d