30 November 2018

Back at it

Another Irish beer round up in the same week as the last one? 'Fraid so.

Wicklow Wolf, for one, has been very busy, with the harvesting and the collaborating. The 2018 edition of Locavore landed, in two cans of oatmeal pale ale with two different hop combinations, all grown on their own farm. It must be going well as they also supplied the green for White Gypsy's Emerald this year. Named literally after where the plants were growing, The Top Field is Bramling Cross, Challenger and Fuggles, while The Bottom Field is Cascade and Chinook. They should be quite different so I opened them side-by-side.

Both are a deep orange colour, with the US-variety one almost completely clear while the English one had a slight haze. A tall pillar of foam was also common to both, one which subsided quite quickly. The Top Field is sweet, with lots of floral honey in particular, and the blackcurrant jam note I associate most with Bramling Cross. There's quite a heat for just 5.4% ABV, the flowers turning to a concentrated solvent in the finish. The Bottom Field is also quite malt-driven, giving a first impression of golden syrup rather than honey. There's a flash of sharp bitterness but it's brief, and quite waxy and English-tasting. Maybe if you bring Cascades east across the Atlantic again they turn back into Fuggles. If not exactly leaping with hops, this one is at least clean with a pleasant crispness. The Top Field does not improve as it warms, getting hotter, dirtier and more sickly as it goes. It's counter-intuitive, but new world hops seem to be the ones worth growing in Ireland.

Moving on, Dark Flight is the third in Wicklow Wolf's collaboration series, a 7% ABV five-grain porter brewed with Anspach & Hobday. It looks like a proper porter: deepest black with a crackling tan head. I thought from that it was going to be thin and crisp but instead it's rich and sumptuous, full of gourmet coffee and spendy chocolate. There's a certain cereal dryness and a lacing of bitter herbs, but mostly this is all about that coffee roast. It bears a strong resemblance to A&H's own The Porter, which is great: proper Saaaf Laahnden character in a beer from Wickla. I really enjoyed my single can of it and would suggest that if Wicklow Wolf are planning to regularise any of these arrangements, Dark Flight is the one to do again.

Whiplash had a new pale ale, a scaled back version of their Drone Logic single-hop Simcoe double IPA from last year. Let Forever Be is 5.5% ABV. The aroma is sweet and juicy with a lacing of citrus pith. Lots of juice in the flavour too, at least at first. It tails off slightly, leaving a savoury sesame seed buzz, the sort that would normally annoy me, but I think the lower alcohol helps make it less severe. There's a smooth texture that drifts over any flaws, and the residual juiciness lasts long into the finish, ending up as the feature you remember about the beer overall. The whole thing is pintable and sessionable, and very tasty: all the fancy stylings of modern hop murk, but you can drink more than one of them.

Two modest-strength Whiplash beers in a row? What are the chances? Here's Slow Life, their first porter since the original Scaldy, 4.5% ABV and served nitrokegged. And it's a very good example of why nitrokegging is generally a bad idea. Whatever flavour complexities the brewer intended to feature here have been comprehensively buried by the nitrogen. There's a vague chocolate taste and a light grainy biscuit finish, but that's the sum total. Very dull and very disappointing, this, though I'd happily give a straight-carbonation version a second chance.

Can you tell that this was originally written as an all-Wicklow post? One last Garden County beer before we move on. O Brother's If You Say So is the first in a series of arty collaborations. It's a double IPA of 8.5% ABV and an opaque orange colour. The aroma is fresh and zesty but its flavour is heavier, hot and sweet with a strong resemblance to orange cordial. Despite this, and a bit of a dreggy murk burr, it finishes cleanly, leaving just an afterglow of garlic. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you're in, it's an enjoyable one with plenty of hop wallop, a pleasant warmth and no sharp edges.