14 September 2018

The last of them

I've been away for the last couple of weeks, leaving in a rush of hastily-scheduled blog posts. Today's concerns the final few Irish beers I tried before I left.

We begin with Toothless Grizzly, the first brand new beer from Mountain Man in quite a while. They've badged this as a schwarzbier but my pint at the Black Sheep was distinctly amber-coloured, and a bit murky with it. The aroma is a strange mix of sweet dark malt and an out of place sour tang. Thankfully the sourness goes no further. It's properly crisp and lager-like, with a mild orangey citrus in with husky biscuit before finishing on a green and peppery bitter noble hop bite. On the downside, it's over-carbonated: nobody wants a flat lager, but here the jagged fizz is detrimental to the flavour; and, just as the colour is wrong, the distinctive dark lager flavours -- charcoal, liquorice, tar -- are completely missing. The recipe has potential but desperately needs darkening.

YellowBelly produced a beer to commemorate 85 years of Molloy's off licences. Covert Operation is described as a juicy pale ale and very much delivers on that promise. A bolt of pineapple strikes the nostrils immediately on opening, and it pours a hazy medium orange. The texture is fluffy, as fashion dictates, and all the fruit is worn up front: ripe mango, passionfruit and tangerine. There's just enough of a citrus punch late on to balance it, as well as a wisp of savoury garlic. It's very similar in style to Trouble's now-legendary Ambush, with the same level of satisfying drinkability. The tall can was emptied in short order.

At Hagstravaganza I missed the third Canvas offering, Double Wingmirror, so I was pleased when it showed up bottled in DrinkStore. The first warning light comes with the label, where "Double IPA" has been unconvincingly blacked out. It fizzed busily on opening, pouring a dark copper colour. There's a homebrewish yeasty spice in the aroma and the flavour mixes Belgian esters with burnt caramel and a touch of phenolic smoke. The marker was right: this isn't anywhere close to being a double IPA. I'm not quite sure what it is instead: though less than six weeks in the bottle it reminds me of long-abandoned home brewed pale ales, their hoppy days long past and the deathless yeast steadily drying them out. My 33cl bottle cost €4: top dollar for a beer that really doesn't warrant it.

Back from my train trip it was straight to The Brew Dock to try the newest from Galway Bay. It's the second sequel to Goodbye Blue Monday, a collaboration with Begyle called Last Goodbye, just a little weaker than the original at 5.8% ABV and utilising Hallertau Blanc, Azacca and Ella. I expected Opal Fruits from that lot but got Fruit Salad chews instead. It's mouthwateringly juicy: an almost sickly blend of pineapples, mangoes and apricots. There's an oddly prominent booze buzz cranking this up unexpectedly, but thankfully also a lime and guava tropical bitterness, shading into garlic as it warms on the palate. It is, above all, a fun beer, much as Goodbye Blue Monday was: a fruity hop celebration, albeit no longer served by the pint. No matter: you probably don't want this getting warm.

Whiplash treated us to two new double IPAs in August. I tried Do You Wanna Touch Me, their collaboration with Wylam, at Alfie Byrne's. The murk level is off the charts here. I mean, it's not even beige, more a bile-coloured grey-brown. It smelled fantastic, though: fresh tropical fruit, with a background hint of custard. 8.3% ABV means you get an alcohol burn as the first flavour. The fruit is in the middle and, unlike so many of these, it actually sticks around for subsequent sips, staying sweet and interesting and fun. The usual hangers-on are present for those that expect them: an oily garlic buzz and some dry gritty yeast and protein bits, but they confine themselves to the finish and the next mouthful tops you up with mango and pineapple again. It's an excellent interpretation of a super-fashionable style that is done too poorly too often.

So what's the point of a simultaneously-released 8% ABV one that's hopped with Citra like the other. Eventually looks a little more appetising but is still a milky opaque colour. I get caraway and poppyseed in the aroma, with a softer but acidic garlic backing track. To taste it's very sweet, with non-specific artificial fruit, like Refreshers or Lucozade, plus a smoothie-like cream texture. It's all softness and fuzz, leaving me wanting more punch and zing. It avoids any boozy heat but only by wrapping it in a lemon-scented fluffy blanket. This is one of those beers which I'm sure has an audience but isn't for me.

Twin releases also came from Stone Barrel. Poppin' Pils is in a tall can and describes itself as a "hopped up lager". It's 4.5% ABV and a slightly hazy golden colour. The aroma is quite sweet, with an air of lemon and lime shandy, plus perhaps a hint of scented detergent. A malt sweetness begins the flavour: brioche and Maltesers. The quite flat texture did nothing to dispel that, then after a second or two there's a sweeping spinach bitterness, fading to candy and bubblegum. It's not the crisp lager I was hoping for. The flavours aren't bad, but they don't gel together well, malt hops clashing where they should complement, resulting something a bit too sweet while also a bit too bitter.

The second in the set is a black IPA. Remember them? It gives the game away right on the tin, with the name Dark, Dank, Pineapple? though perhaps it's not sure of itself. Poured, it just about passes the blackness test, showing brown to red at the edges. The head dissipates disappointingly quickly but there's still a lovely aroma, full of herbs, spices and fruit of all sorts. For a tiddling 4.3% ABV it's a thick lad, slick and tarry. The flavour presents spiced red cabbage, a classic component of good black IPA, then a harder dark roasted bitterness and a long lemon rind finish. It's another one where the carbonation is too low and the sensation is a little watery as a result. It's still a decently complex black IPA. The clashing smashing flavours work so much better in this style than in a pils.

That's it for today. It's nearly time to go home and find out what the Irish brewing scene has been up to in my absence.

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