29 June 2018

Late to the party

This is day eight of Indie Beer Week 2018 and I'm rounding off my series of posts with the beers I discovered during the week itself.

I'm picking things up where I left them yesterday with Praetorian, new from YellowBelly and as far as I know exclusive to its beer club subscribers. "Polaris hopped blueberry weizen" is the unlikely style statement, and it's 5% ABV. It looks like a smoothie, pouring a murky dark purple hue, without a proper weissbier head. There's not much aroma, while the flavour is odd and perfumed: a mix of miscellaneous spices and non-specific fruit. There's a sharpness which could be attributed to the berries, but nothing that really says blueberry flavour. On the other side it's a weissbier by texture for sure, but that's it. I get the Polaris, though: a sharp herbal mint. So one out of three. For all the wowee craft innovation it's quite a plain beer, a lot less interesting than any standard weizen you care to name.

That backed up my notion that weissbier isn't one of the traditional styles amenable to craft hacking, a prejudice which was further confirmed by Lemondrop, just released by Carrig Brewing. The hacking is apparently no more than dry hopping with the titular hop and Denali, but my pint arrived clear and gold in a straight-sided glass, the attempt at a big weiss head making it look like an underfilled pint of lager. The mere 4.6% ABV is further evidence of inauthenticity, but it really kicks in from the aroma: sweet and sticky like a lemon meringue pie. The flavour is pretty much the same, adding a touch of banana foam sweets. The whole thing is weird and artificial. Contrived; and bound to upset any Germans who come to Bar Rua looking for a weissbier. This experiment didn't work out.

Staying in that pub, owner Carrig's other new guy was Basil Blast, a gold-coloured Centennial and Simcoe pale ale of 5.5% ABV, with a purported large helping of basil in the whirlpool. There's definitely something other than the usual in here, but I'd swear it was ginger: that slightly woody, chewy, spice you tend to get from real fresh ginger. It certainly shouts over the hopping, and I am assured that no ginger was involved in the recipe. There is a slight herbal tang on the tail, but it's not the oily green richness of real basil. A dry and tannic finish complements the spicing. This is definitely a refreshing beer, and was much appreciated on a warm sunny afternoon; it's just a little confusing.

Around the corner, last Friday, Stephen Street News hosted the third beer release from Liam, aka Dead Centre Brewing: Seeking Sunshine IPA. He kindly donated a can for me to bring home where I drank it in the last rays of Sunday's sun. It's 5% ABV and brewed with Citra and Amarillo, pouring a pale yellow shade with little head. The aroma is quite dank and funky, though with a little bit of juice thrown in. Its flavour, then, is disappointingly savoury, piling in the caraway taste I associate most with Mosaic-gone-awry. There is a faint juiciness as well on the very end, a tantalising echo of mandarin, hinting at what this could have been without all the honking caraway. The texture is nicely full thanks to the oats in the grist, and the carbonation is low enough to make it easy drinking. It's still a passable IPA, but in need of punching up, I think.

I covered Third Barrel's goings-on on Tuesday. Their last-minute contribution to the week, in UnderDog yesterday, was Juice Bigalow. And yes: juice. Big juice. Mega juice. It opens on a giant bag of mandarins, rendered extra juicy by an effervescent sherbet quality. There's bitter kick on the end, a growing dankness, a metallic tang and... waaaait a minute: this bears a striking resemblance to Tuesday's sensation Two Yards, from the same brewery for someone else. Is it wrong of me to suspect this is a very small variation on it? Very small? It doesn't matter either way to me: I get great beer regardless. Pleasingly full-bodied at a super-sessionable 4.1% ABV, it's properly complex and juicy as all hell. You can call it what you like, sure. (And I am completely wrong to be suspicious; see comments).

Fresh from Whiplash is Shades of Marble double IPA, at the standard Whiplash ABV of 8%, hopped with Galaxy, Vic Secret and Lemondrop, and both looking and smelling like pineapple juice. There's a bit of yeast grit in with the tropical fruit, though that doesn't come through in the flavour. It's still pretty soupy-tasting, however: glutinous floury protein blocking any hop brightness. There's a green veg foretaste, then the bitter liquorice of Vic Secret, and a buzz of alcohol. It's all a bit harsh and unfinished-tasting for my liking, and yes I know that's the style. Clean this one up and it would be very decent.

I finally got to tick off the last of the Hopfully trilogy brewed for the Klaw restaurants (you can find the other two here). Auntie Arthur's is a porter, modestly strong at 4.8% ABV. The presentation was poor: a dirty glass leading to dodgy head retention, but that didn't interfere with the flavour. There's a light and easy-going chocolate foretaste, followed by medium roast and a slightly metallic tang on the end. A long aftertaste brings endless cups of strong filter coffee. This is dry rather than creamy, yet still full-bodied. Solid; by-the-numbers. It went very well with my sweet and spicy prawn poke.

Hopfully also released a new seasonal, described as a "white India Pale Lager" and named California Uncommon. This has the pale and hazy appearance of a witbier but puts delicious fresh and juicy peaches at the front of the flavour. The expected herbal spicing comes after, a little jarring at first but settling out to rosemary and lemon zest, like a slightly adventurous stuffing. While not particularly lager-like with all this going on, it is at least clean and devoid of unpleasant yeast interference. You could just consider it a decent pale ale and be happy with that.

Rascals came out with a sequel to last year's Strawberry Vanilla Shake IPA in the form of Raspberry Sundae IPA. While the former did manage to preserve a considerable proportion of its IPA character, this one throws it all up in the air and runs away giggling. It tastes exactly like raspberry ripple ice cream, warming to lean more towards a jam-and-cream spongecake. There's a certain beery bitterness buried right at the back, and a touch of actual hop flavour on the reflux, but otherwise this is all dessert. It's clean and drinkable despite this: fun, silly and hard to dislike.

A late-evening call to The Hill in Ranelagh yielded a pint of Dolmen. This whiskey-barrel stout is from Western Herd, a Clare brewery whose wares are rarely seen in these parts. It's 7.6% ABV and sweet without tasting hot. Black cherry is at the centre, laced with coconut cream around the edges and given a dusting of cocoa. But there was something else, something not part of the confection construction, and it took me a while to figure it out. Autolysis. A jarring meaty flavour -- Bovril or gravy -- that hovers in the background and comes to the fore at the very end. It's too late to spoil anything, but it does take the shine off an otherwise calm and balanced beer.

Here endeth the week's festivities, for this blog at least. Got your plan ready for the closing weekend of IBW18? Good.