12 October 2018

How's the weather?

Wild Weather Ales arrived unexpectedly into Ireland earlier this year like a sudden storm. The cans are striking, with their quirky names and kids'-comic artwork. I picked up a selection in O'Brien's in Blanchardstown when I was there for their festival.

First open is King St Pale, an "honest" pale ale at 4.2% ABV. True honesty would have meant a written warning it was going to gush all over my hand when I flipped the ringpull. It looks well: hazy but bright, and keeping its head after the initial rush. The aroma is a balanced mix of citrus: mandarins and lime, though with a savoury edge that made me wary going in for the sup. It's OK, though. Not as juicy as the aroma suggested, turning instead to the caraway side of hopping with some added oily dankness. It's a little watery too, finishing quickly on a mineral soda tang. Nevertheless, this is perfectly drinkable, and actively refreshing on that particular warm afternoon. A good starting point to build from.

Led Balloon was next, described as an American red ale. It's not very red. Perhaps it's the murk giving it more of a pale amber colour. There's a buzz of Irish red from the aroma: caramel and roast. It's no hop-dodger, however, and the flavour brings a spice more than a bitterness: green pepper and celeriac, but all hop-derived. It's not an exciting beer, and the "American" badge implies to me that the hopping would be more intense, but as a red ale it's very passable.

Back to the pale ales next, and Obscure 80s Reference. It didn't gush but I could tell from the tall pillar of foam it was thinking about it. The appearance is similar to the King St: a cheery opaque orange. Simcoe is the advertised hop yet it smells of caraway. Are we in for a replay here? There's a certain resin to the flavour, but not as much as you'd expect from something with Simcoe written in all caps on the label. The texture is light and what hop flavour it has fades out quickly. Even at 5% ABV, it should have more going on. This is a little tin of whatever.

From pale ale to IPA, and Storm in a Teacup, brewed with additional Earl Grey tea. It's a hazy deep orange colour with a busy fizz, foaming up at first, then keeping a thin but steady head. The aroma is a strange mix of sweet Seville oranges, harsh yeast and twangy zinc. Despite the fizz, it has a smooth texture, reflecting fully the 6% ABV. The flavour is out, though. A heavy dregginess dominates the picture, covering the hops, aided by thick treacley brown bread. As it warmed I even got a twang of vinegar. A tannic edge on the very end must be the tea, but it tastes like dry leaves rather than a steaming infusion. I've had problems with Earl Grey flavoured IPAs before, but not these sorts of problems. I'm convinced this is just a poorly made beer.

We conclude, appropriately, with End of Level Boss, the double IPA at 9.2% ABV. No overactive foam here; in fact it was difficult to get any head to form. I should have known by now to pour carefully, and shuddered when a concentrated gobbet of dregs followed the clear golden beer into the glass. The aroma offered the first hint of tropicality I've had from this supposedly hop-fronted lot: pure pineapple juice. The flavour isn't as sparkly, though the pineapple is there in the background. It's as thick as the strength implies, with a fairly intense alcohol heat. Most of all it's sticky, in a fruit juice sort of way but also a gummy lactose sort of way. This is a beer to be chomped through, and it lacks any balancing bitterness or major fruit complexity. Passable again, like the pale ales.

My takeaway from this whole thing is that, despite the shiny cans and the kidult branding, what we have here are your basic bottle-conditioned English microbrewed ales. You have to be careful how you pour them and there's nothing exceptional in the way they're designed. I suspect it's an inevitable consequence of the way British craft beer has developed in the last ten years, that brewers with no intention of making daring beers reckon that the artwork is enough. These aren't bad beers, but they look to me like they're intended to fool the drinker.

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