02 April 2018

Reservoir reservations

It seems to me a long time since Quentin Tarantino was considered cool. Lately his association with Hollywood sex pest Harvey Weinstein has tarnished further a reputation already on the skids. So I was a little surprised when fashion-conscious Danish contract brewer To Øl continued to evoke the director's work in a sequence of beers.

The Mister Series has been around a couple of years, each of the six beers named after a pseudonym used by the central characters in Reservoir Dogs. In 2018 the recipes got revised and they arrived in Ireland for the first time, landing at a special event in The UnderDog in February. By the time I stopped by it was a bit too loud and crowded for trying them all, but here's the four I did get to on the night.

Mr White was my first choice. I was intrigued by the daftness of the description: a "New England style grisette". Whut? At 5% ABV it's a bit strong for grisette and weak for a New England IPA. The flavour isn't very complex: orangeade fruits and slightly soapy herbal bathsalts. It's... fine. That it's not the wacky and way-out offering it purports to be is most likely a good thing.

Next to it is Mr Brown, a coffee imperial stout matured on oak and cedar wood. This was the best of the lot, all heavy and warming with tasty hazelnut flavours while also decently bitter, as imperial stout should be. I didn't get much of the wood from it, though that's probably in its favour: oak works best when it's no more than a seasoning. A little more cedar might have spiced it up nicely but I can't really complain.

Just a taste of Mr Blue for me, a multi-berry-infused Berliner weisse. It's certainly blue; a deep dense shade of purple and completely opaque. The texture is palate-cloggingly thick in a way that's totally inappropriate for a Berliner weisse, or anything other than a fruit smoothie, really. There's a certain tartness but a lot more sweet claggy fruit pulp getting in its way. This is one of those beers that's all about the concept and the daring recipe, leaving no consideration for whether it's nice to drink. Which it isn't, really.

Before hitting the road, a swift Mr Orange. This is a double IPA at 9% and includes a raft of tropical and citrus fruits as well. It's another heavy one, and the texture accentuates its cordial sweetness. That ought to have been the death of it but a big hop bitterness comes to the rescue, offsetting the cloying sugariness and giving it a clean snap in the finish. It didn't convert me to the cause of fruit DIPA but it did show that they can have merit, sometimes.

Sad old Mr Blonde was still on tap a week later and Paddy offered me a taster. This is a fruited gose with added vanilla and, contrary to the name, is the bright pink colour of red grapefruit juice. I shouldn't have been surprised to find it tastes like a yoghurt, but it does: that mix of lactic tartness, creamy vanilla and sweet berries. It's fine, but not terribly exciting, verging even on dull. I doubt that a bigger measure would have improved it.

In the best gangster tradition, I thought I was done but they pulled me back in. All six showed up bottled in Fresh so I was able to complete the set with Mr Pink in the comfort of my own home. This beetroot IPA looks very dramatic: an opaque blood red topped with electric pink foam. I caught a little of the beetroot's signature earthiness as it poured, but a proper sniff turned up a purely hoppy citrus aroma, mostly of fresh zesty lemon. The flavour is similarly, simplistically, hop-dominated, the citrus spritz joined by a heavier wilted-spinach acidic greenness. You have to concentrate to find the beetroot amongst it, but I think it's there in the finish: a sweet tuberous edge, more like parsnip than beet, and really not making much positive contribution to what's otherwise a solid, if simple, American-style IPA.

While some were certainly better than others, there was very little wow factor to any of these beyond their descriptions. I'm sure every sensible drinker knows that way-out recipes do not necessarily make for better beer, and it's not like we're starved for this sort of "creativity" in beer these days. But the people in the pub were happy and maybe that's their most important achievement.

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