28 September 2018

Barley dodgers

Belgian beers have become a bit of a rare sight on this blog of late. Two today from the Green's gluten-free range brewed at De Proef. They've been around forever (ie slightly longer than the blog) but these dry-hopped variants were new to me. Unlike most gluten-free beers, they haven't been formulated normally and then had the gluten (or most of it) stripped out; instead "alternative grains" have been employed, though the label does not deign to tell us which ones. I'm guessing sorghum.

First opened was Gold Dry-Hopped Lager. It's a fairly watery-looking gold, appearing somewhat washed out. The aroma is sweet and peachy, promising soft and ripe stonefruit. That's not really what the flavour delivers, however. There's quite a harsh bitterness, the sting of tasted perfume, after which it tails off suddenly. It's only 4% ABV and I suspect the base beer is quite a plain affair. Whatever hops they've used on it make it taste artificial and strangely stale. A check of the best-before revealed that it wasn't an old bottle. In fact it had a year and a half still to run. The whole smacks of a brand that doesn't take beer seriously. Anyway, this lager is not recommended and I apprehensively move on to its sibling.

The muddy colour of Grand India Pale Ale is at least partly my fault as it's bottle conditioned and I had it sitting on its side in the fridge. The poor carbonation is entirely theirs. Once again the aroma starts us off well: it smells of juicy watermelon, which is granted not a customary beer aroma but is a perfectly acceptable and attractive one. The flavour is not unpleasant, but it is odd. There's a candy sweetness; a touch of bubblegum or other luridly-coloured confectionery. This settles for a moment into a real tropical fruit note -- mango and passionfruit -- before fading out and leaving a punchy bitterness behind. It's another thin effort, and I guess that's what not brewing with glutinous grains gets you. The flavour combinations would be interesting in a fuller-bodied beer, and I don't even miss the fizz: there's enough of a sparkle.

The IPA is actively nice to drink; the lager definitely isn't. But neither really tastes like actual beer. There's a reason our ancestors selected barley and wheat for brewing.

26 September 2018

Real Mexico

Variety in Mexican beer is hard come by in Dublin these days. I guess it's C&C's fault. They're the distributor for Grupo Modelo, via the various arrangements with AB InBev, and they seem to have decided to concentrate on Corona and Corona Light in this segment, for obvious reasons.

Therefore I was disproportionately pleased when I spotted Pacifico in the fridge at Pablo Picante on Aston Quay. I mean, it's only a mass produced hot-country lager and nothing to get excited about, but I still felt like I'd achieved something by locating it.

The burrito bar does not run to glassware so I didn't get a look at the liquid, or a proper smell, really. I found it quite sweet to taste: lots of melanoidin malt, which I guess shows its Viennese heritage. It's good that that's still perceptible after everything this brand has been through since 1900. A tinny twang is all you get by way of hops, or anything else, but the malt is enough. While easy drinking and quenching, as you'd expect, it's also heavy enough to match up to a glutinous cheesy burrito.

This isn't a beer to be dismissed readily, and certainly not to be lumped in with Corona.

24 September 2018

All done for now

I've mentioned before my gnawing unfulfilled ambition to visit the last two JD Wetherspoons in the Republic of Ireland. They're both in the greater Dublin area so it shouldn't have taken me this long to do it, but it wasn't until earlier this summer that I set out to complete the project.

I had never cycled to Blanchardstown before and, as often turns out with these things, it's not as far away as I thought. In fact it took about as long as my more usual run to JDW in Blackrock, so I guess I have expanded my horizon for the Real Ale Festival next month. And like Blackrock, The Great Wood seems to be one of the nice Wetherspoons. This sunny Saturday morning it was all happy breakfasting families and ladies catching up over coffee, and all cask pints are €2. Cor!

I sat in the beer garden and drank a Golden Newt by Elgoods. It was a dark golden amber colour and a little hazy with it, and 4.1% ABV. There's a waxy bitterness up front, fading gradually to lemon rind, then lemon juice and finally lemon sherbet. A classic summer golden bitter, it's clean, complex and very refreshing. It was tempting to stay for another, but the day's goal was in sight.

Metaphorically, that is. My trip to Swords was a long one, travelling along the picturesque Royal Canal Greenway (above) as far as Drumcondra, then turning north and up past the airport which is a horrible road to cycle, even on a quiet Saturday afternoon. I was never so glad to swing off the final roundabout and roll into the village.

The Old Borough should be as pleasant as The Great Wood: it's in a grand old building with lots of smaller rooms instead of a big modern drinking hall. But the crowd seemed rougher and the worse for wear, in some cases. The beer selection was uninspiring, made up of too many boring English standards, and all at an outrageous €2.75 a throw. I selected Stonehenge Danish Dynamite IPA and went out to the beer garden.

Maybe it was my disillusioned mood but I didn't take to this. It's a big 5% ABV but looks pale and watery. It soon had me wishing for watery as it turned out cloyingly thick, full of banana syrup with only a figleaf of light yeast spicing and no real hop character. There's a flatness that has nothing to do with carbonation; this is just a dull lump of a beer.

But at least I got my set completed and that's me done until Camden Street opens in the winter.

The second part of this post arose by accident. On a different bike ride a couple of months later, on my way somewhere else with t