21 May 2018

A few thirds

Third Barrel has become one of my go-to local producers of late. The series of one-offs produced by the brewery in west Dublin has largely surpassed the regular beers it makes under its constituent brands, Stone Barrel and Third Circle. New ones have been landing fast enough lately to warrant a post of their own.

Flaschenpost Pils was the second beer from intern Alex, who also brewed their recent Alt (reviewed here). I was hoping for something very classically German when I got my pint, but it was not to be. Coconut! The first mouthful gave me a big hit of oily bittersweet coconut, and that is not part of the pils playbook for me. This taste lasted all the way through, allowing very little past it. I detected a very slight grassiness, some smooth golden syrup, and there's a proper crisp finish -- all things that belong here and I would have enjoyed more if they'd been further to the fore. Why would you spoil it with a big coconutty hop thing? I finished my pint confused.

The first off-trade offering arrived in the form of Third Barrel IPA, a 6.8% ABV US-style job in a 440ml can. It poured a deep and dense orange-amber colour, topped by masses of stiff and thick foam. The aroma offers an enticing mix of dankness and citrus but doesn't even hint at what's to come. This beer is bitter, powerfully and deliciously so, in an old-school west-coast style. It's not harsh, though: the texture is thick, the carbonation at an almost cask-like low level, and there's lots of dry tannin, all of these serving to smooth the edges and round it out. The emerging flavours are green veg acidity, waxy sappy resins, and sparks of instense citrus: grapefruit pith leading to lime essence. All of this hangs together beautifully, integrated and harmonious. No gimmicks, no juice, just plenty of properly-focused IPA hop power.

Back to the pub, and the appearance of Raspberry Stout on cask at The Black Sheep. Fruit and stout isn't always a great combination, with the fruit being lost completely half the time, and ruining the beer with syrupy gloop the rest. This one nailed it, however. The raspberry flavour is huge and real; juicy and jammy with a tart edge. A velvety smooth chocolate complements and contrasts with it. The whole thing slips down easier than one might expect for 6% ABV, and while it might look like a pastry stout on paper it lacks the gloop factor. I could easily have gone for a second pint straight after.

I'll squeeze one new Third Circle beer in here. I missed their tap takeover event at UnderDog but did manage to catch one of the leftovers: Blue Sky, a Brett rye saison. What does that mean? Well, it's 6.5% ABV and a pale orange colour. There's lots of Belgian character apparent from the outset: banana first, then the ripe peach that Brett often brings, without any farmyard funk. And that's pretty much it, other than a dry grain crunch in the finish and a slightly syrupy texture. It's OK, but less than the sum of its parts, perhaps.

To round off, a Third Barrel one-off that appeared just last Friday, pouring simultaneously in UnderDog, 57 The Headline and Brickyard. Summer Simcoe SMASH doesn't leave you guessing as to what it is, though it wasn't as Simcoey as I expected. It's only 4.9% ABV, and I guess it's the summer side of the equation that has left it sweet and fruity instead of bitter and resinous. The aroma is all fruit chews while the flavour is dominated by a ripe tangerine character, only turning any way bitter towards the end. The orangeade feel is accentuated by a slightly syrupy texture, though it's still light enough to be easy drinking. What they've achieved here is one of those juicy pale ales that other brewers make by adding fruit concentrate, except without any additions. I expect we'll be seeing more like this before summer is out.

From this set, Third Barrel certainly can't be accused of being conservative in the styles it picks to brew. I'm a big fan of the scattergun approach to recipe design and am already looking forward to what pops up next.