14 May 2018

Hot to DOT

My collection of DOT Brew tasting notes has grown shamefully large. Time to share them with the world.

They begin back in mid-March with an event in the Teeling Distillery, pairing whiskey, beer and cheese -- big thanks to DOT's Shane for comping the tickets. The first beer out was Single Grain Cabernet Sauvignon Session Ale, Batch II. The modest 4.9% ABV belies the immense complexity in this pale amber beer, beginning at the rich white-wine aroma, all tropical mango and apricot. The flavour is correspondingly massive, piling in tonnes of berries and stonefruit, alongside drier raisins and some light wood. The whiskey barrel was an ex-Napa Valley red wine cask and I was amazed at how the wine character survived, though without the tannins. Overall an absolutely superb opener.

Later on we had the début of B8 D8, over a year in the making and involving a convoluted blend of pale, amber and dark Belgian-style ales, matured in eight separate types of barrel. The style is recorded simply as "Dark Ale" and it's 7.7% ABV. "Dark", here, means a deep red. There's a lot of alcohol in the aroma, both strong red wine and whiskey spirit, as well as some drier cocoa. Stout-like roast is where the flavour starts, picking up buttery toffee and raisin fruit after it. There's an edge of oakiness in the very finish but it's no vanilla bomb. I found it a little confusing at first; it's hard to find something to compare it to. Once you get used to it it's less troublesome, offering a smooth and quite easy-going mix of chocolate and dark fruit, harmoniously melded into each other. Tasting it later on draught, the red wine element is much more pronounced at the expense of the chocolate. On a different day and a different mood I might suggest it tastes of other things entirely.

From the off licence I picked up a bottle of Amarone Amber, which I think is my first Amarone-aged beer, though again the barrels became whiskey receptacles in between the wine being done with them and the beer going in. It's another fairly light one at 5.6% ABV, and seemed thin on pouring, coming out a handsome dark copper colour nonetheless. There's a spiced orange aroma and the flavour doubles down on this, offering a surprise mix of juicy jaffa segments and spicy peppery oak. Though it is a little watery, the finish is decently long, tailing off into honeyed Irish whiskey and citrus pith. I liked that the fresh hops were still making a big contribution, contrasting nicely with the wood seasoning. I would have liked more of a wine character, however. As-is it's a neat little beer and, as the label says, surprisingly refreshing.

And then came the main event: DOT's second birthday party, held at UnderDog. Three new-release offerings were in the line-up and I began with Just Peachy, combining peaches, honey and barrel ageing. It came out an opaque red-orange colour with a lightly woody aroma. The flavour, however, is very forward with the fruit, dominated by the sweet peaches and then seasoned with light oak vanilla and spices. I couldn't find any trace of the whiskey or honey. At only 5.5% ABV it's probably not meant to be a total palate pounder, but there was plenty in there to enjoy.

Funnily enough I got a bigger honey aroma from the next one, Tutti, despite there being no honey involved in the recipe. It's 7.2% ABV and a blend of amber and rye ales aged in both bourbon and Irish whiskey barrels, and I'm guessing it's the latter contributing honey to the nose. The flavour is drier than I expected after that, suggesting cool clean Fino sherry, with hints of hotter sweeter Oloroso. It's a difficult contrast to describe; like B8 D8 above, it's a sensory chimera, with radically different facets of flavour blended together yet still contrasting each other. "Markery but fresh" it says in my notes. Useless. Just try the beer, yeah?

I was on steadier stylistic grounds when a keg of Olly's Barrel Aged Imperial Stout went on. The eponymous Olly is DOT's honey supplier, and there's no mistaking the stuff in this one. While it's a thumping imperial stout through and through -- 11.1% ABV, densely textured with lots of milky coffee flavours -- the sticky honey sweetness laces the whole thing. A balancing bitterness arrives on the end, with the light runny honey turning to dark treacle, finishing on a stimulating kick of espresso. This was a great one to end the evening on.

Year three of DOT began just last Friday with a tap takeover up at Brickyard in Dundrum. I arrived to find Andrew had kindly set me up with a glass of Olly's Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Morello Cherry. The fruit doesn't improve it any, giving it a cherryade sweetness in the foretaste which combines with the thick beer and turns it to sticky liqueur or, less kindly, cough medicine. For all that, it's not unplesantly cloying: the texture is remarkably light and it slips back easily as a result. It is quite unbeery all the same, and doesn't really give the drinker the benefit of the base stout or the honey.

Bourbon Dark is a DOT offering that's been around a while but which I'd not been able to get hold of, and here it was on tap. This is a relatively modest 6.5% ABV and poured a dark chocolate-brown colour. The aroma offered a gentle waft of coconut, and that's very much what I got in the foretaste too. Behind, there's some rough and woody oak sawdust and a sharp shot of espresso. The combination works quite well: starting out sweet ahead of a long dry finish. Something for everyone there. I didn't get any specific bourbon taste but it's definitely warming and smooth so perhaps the whisky was working away in the background somewhere.

Another dark one to finish, the Barrel Fermented Dark Saison. This presented like a stout -- pure black with an off-white skim of foam on top. The flavour is unmistakably saison, however: dry and crisp and its core but livened up with juicy white grape. After a moment or two, something more uniquely dark emerges, a layer of milk chocolate counteracting the dryness, complementing the fruit and generally offering a deft twist on the style. There was a considerable alcoholic warmth going on as well so I wasn't completely surprised to read that it's 8.4% ABV, far stronger than saison normally is. And yet it's not heavy or any way difficult to drink, all being very well balanced and integrated.

That's everything DOT which passed my way this spring. Shane tells me there's an IPA on the way, though in what form remains to be seen.

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