Thursday, December 30, 2010

Decisions, decisions

Thanks to my kind wife I have a great selection of beers to choose my New Years Eve drinks from. My wife contacted Drinkstore (the local and best stocked off-licence in Dublin) and Ken from Drinkstore kindly put together a hamper of beers he thought I would like, and I have to say he got the selection spot on.

A great selection of beers were included, mainly American but also a few European beers. Lots of new beers for me to try and also some classics like Dogfish's 90 Minute IPA, which I love. Some of the breweries represented include Dogfish Head, Anderson Valley, ODells, Goose Island, Sierra Nevada, Flying Dog,  Anchor, Saranac, Williams Brothers, Brew Dog. There are some really nice Amber Ale's, one of my favourite styles, and so I may have an Amber themed New Years Eve.

Also included in the hamper was a really nice Brew Dog beer glass that I used on Christmas day. It is quite an unusual shape but is really nice to drink from and although it looks small it actially fits a 33 CL bottle.

I look forward to sampling these beers over the next month and reporting back, thanks again to my lovely wife and Ken in Drinkstore for a great selection (and the fact that he fought through blizzard-like conditions in Dublin to deliver the hamper on the 23rd!).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Festive Cheer

To begin with on Christmas afternoon I decided to go with a bottle of Black Jack Porter from Left Hand Brewing Company. The beer pours a jet black with a nice thick tan head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is sweet and malty, but the taste is a total counterpoint to the aroma. The taste is very strong with concentrated coffee flavours with a hint of chocolate on the end, you also get a lovely vanilla aftertaste. Slightly over-carbonated but a nice light to medium body. Everything you would expect from a porter, nothing outstanding but a nice beer. I think I might have a second bottle of this before changing things up.

Next up was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, had as a post dessert tipple. Pours a jet black with a thick tan head. Aroma is of strong dark chocolate, also hints of something sweeter in the background, possibly from crystal malt. Taste is very complex, dark chocolate dominates with a nice coco bitterness, with hints of burnt caramel and a very slight sourness, this is all competed by a lovely espresso hit on the end. Medium bodied with a nice level of carbonation. Certainly a beer to take your time with, strong complex flavours and a 10% ABV. This is one to slowly sip on a cold winters evening, perfect for Christmas night with a foot of snow lying on the ground.

Later in the evening I relaxed with a couple of bottles of Flying Dog's Doggie Style Classic IPA, this is a beer I have had before and really liked, my thoughs can be found here.

Last but certainly not least, Sierras Nevada Tumbler,described as an autumn brown ale. I had this on draft previously in the Bull & Castle and really liked it. Pours a lovely reddish brown colour with a thin off white head. Medium bodied with a lovely velvety smooth mouthfeel, this beer is all about the malt. Amber malt is very discernible with a hint of black and chocolate. A really nice beer, however I have to say that I preferred it on draft, the bottle version loses some of the sweet caramel plavour and surprisingly does not seen to have the same level of hops. Overall though a pretty nice way to finish the evening.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas day beers

I have been trying to decide over the past couple of days what beers I will enjoy on christmas day. I have decided to go with a couple of bottles of Black Jack Porter from Left Hand Brewing Company for the main course which should be a good pairing with the beef Wellington we are having. I have decided to follow this with a bottle of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout with dessert, I have been saving this beer for a while and so I am really looking forward to it.

I suspect Santa might bring me a hamper of beer as well so I should have plenty of choice for the evening! I'll report back on how these beers go down.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Red Hopper - Taste Test

Back in the middle of November I brewed an amber ale called Red Hopper (recipe here). This beer was born out of a discussion I had with The Beernut in relation to my opinion that the majority of Irish red ales were bland and uninteresting. I argued that in order for a red ale to be enjoyable it needed to have the characteristics of both an Irish red ale and an American amber. The red ale would provide the malty platform on which the ambers characteristically citrussy hops would sit. In researching a beer like this I came across Randy Mosher's recipe for India Red Ale in his excellent book, Radical Brewing. Having tweaked the recipe a little bit I was satisfied that it would deliver what I was looking for, a heavy malty beer balanced with a nice cirtus hop aroma and flavour.

Red Hopper - one of, if not the best,
beer I have brewed.

Well I am happy to say that I got exactly what I wanted from this beer. The beer pours a lovely blood red colour, nice clarity, with a thick creamy off-white head. The aroma is dominated by the American citrus hops (Cascades, Cascades and more Cascades) with a nice hint of the late addition Goldings. The mouthfeel is lovely, medium bodied with a nice low level of carbonation. This is a very hop forward beer, but this works as there is a strong malt base to back it up. The flavours you get are a hop focussed first hit with a nice caramel and toffee flavour in the middle, followed by a subtle but firm bitterness. This is exactly what I was looking for, and certainly one of, if not the best beer, I have brewed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Headless Dog

Headless Dog from College Breen Brewery is one of a number of blonde ales that Irish breweries are producing, having already sampled Dungarvan's offering (Helvic Gold), next up it was time to give Headless Dog a second chance.

The beer pours a slightly unusual colour, orangey brown (?) and appears slightly cloudy. The nose reminds me of a hop I don't particularly like in pale ales (fuggles) however the label states that the beer is made with American cascade hops, having said that there is no hint of cascades from the aroma. Light bodied with a very refreshing mouth feel. Again no taste from the cascades, however you do get that bready taste from the munich malt. Again the only hops I can taste are fuggles. A nice, light, refreshing pale ale and would make a very good session beer, however if you are going to say you are using cascade hops, you need to use more than a token amount.

A grand refreashing pale ale, but I have to say probably not a beer I would buy again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Very Large Monkey

400 Pound Monkey is an English Style Pale Ale from Left Hand Brewing in Colorado. The beer pours a very light golden colour with a thin White head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is malty with a nice level of floral and piney hops. It is medium to light bodied with a strong mouthfeel of hop oils which coat the tongue and throat.

The flavour of this beer is well balanced. A nice strong sweet malt profile is balanced with a strong floral and pine character, this is all followed by a nice stiff bitterness on the end and a dry finish. The bitterness lingers in the throat which is a nice way for an English IPA to finish.

Overall a very nice refreshing IPA, at 6.7% it certainly is not a session beer but one I could see myself enjoying a few bottles of. Not as good as Fuller's IPA but ticks all of the boxes for what you would expect from an English Style IPA.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Whole Lotta Hippo

I am unreservedly a self confessed hop head. I love big American hoppy beers and think that there is no other breweries in the world that can match the Americans in this style of beer. So tonight for a treat I opened my last bottle of Hop-A-Lot-Amus, from River Horse Brewing Company in New Jersey. This is a serious beer, an unfiltered double IPA weighing in at 8.5%.

The beer pours a burnt orange colour, with lots of haze. The head is ample and subsides to give a thin creamy head. A lovely aroma of grapefruit, orange peel and sweet malt, with a hint of the alcohol that this beer possesses. Medium bodied with a coating effect to your mouth and throat. The taste is very distinct, hops are to the fore and overpower every other flavour in this beer. The hops are so strong it is difficult to discern the flavours as the taste of the hops assault all of the flavour sensors in your mouth. There is a strong bitterness and dryness on the finish that leads you to take another sip, even if your mouth is still recovering from the last!

Many people will taste this and think that it is an oddity, a circus freak of a beer not to be tried again. I have to say that I would disagree, although it is unbelievably unbalanced, any beer that can have the effect of making you feel that you have been slapped in the face while you take a sip is a winner in my book. Enjoy, but maybe only buy the one to see if this is a beer for you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Open It! - Part II

Having thoroughly enjoyed part I of Open It! Weekend I decided to follow up my tasting of I Hardcore You with tonights offering. A bottle of Celebration Stout from the Porterhouse Brewing Company. This particular bottle is from 2009 and typically Porterhouse produce a version every year. Celebration Stout is a bottle conditioned Imperial Stout weighing in at a hefty 7% (well hefty in terms of Irish beers), previous versions of this beer have been up to 10% ABV.

After a vigorous pour I was left with a jet black beer with a large fluffy tan head. Strong roasted character to the aroma with hints of dark fruits (that reminded me of Christmas cake!) and some earthy spice in the background. Medium bodied with a velvety mouthfeel and quite a high level of carbonation which acts to clean the palate of the velvet texture. Very complex flavours, chocolate is there, but muted, the roastiness does not really come through as expected, however what you do get is quite a large hit of alcohol and a slightly cloying sensation on the end, followed by a dry bitterness. This beer is possibly slightly too cold and too gassy, will leave it sit in the glass for a while before continuing......

Sometime later.....The large head that it started off with dissipated quite quickly to leave a thin tan line. Unfortunately the first notable change I get from this beer when it warms up is a diacetyl smell and some phenols. This beer is supposed to age pretty well, but from this I think this bottle may be beyond redemption. If you can block out the aroma the beer tastes ok, but unfortunately I can't get away from that aroma.

Unfortunately this has proven a very disappointing follow up to I Hardcore You. I have another bottle of Celebration Stout in my stash and so I will maybe reserve final judgement on this until I have left that age a bit further.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Open It! - Part I

This weekend is Open It! weekend for us beer bloggers, an idea by Mark Dredge of Pencil & Spoon, Open It! weekend is about digging deep into your beer fridge and opening up those bottles that you have been saving for a special occasion. For me unfortunately I do not have a beer fridge full of rare specimens, however there are a couple of bottles that I have been saving and this first post will be about I Hardcore You, a collaborative beer brewed by Mikkeler and Brew Dog. I Hardcore You is a serious beer, a 9.2% Imperial IPA.

I Hardcore You, a serious

The beer pours a rust colour with a thin white head. The aroma hits you from across the room, pine and pink grapefruit assault the nose, and this is the strongest aroma from this style of beer that I have come across, there is also a very slight funkiness. The taste is just wow, hops, hops and more hops, all backed up by a lovely warming sensation from the alcohol. The pink grapefruit flavour is up front in this beer, a nice malt middle is followed at the end by lemon juice and a nice stern level of bitterness. A chewy body is balanced by a nice level of carbonation. Although the aroma and flavour of this beer is very strong, as is the ABV, it is actually very drinkable and you would quickly forget that it is 9.2%.

An absolutely fantastic beer and I am sorry to say that this is the only bottle I have. A hop bomb that in my opinion is everything that a good Imperial IPA should be.

Part II of Open It! weekend will involve a bottle of Porterhouse 2009 Celebration Stout.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer Time!

Due to the fact that it is cold and wet in Ireland I thought what better time to clear out my fridge of summer beers that I did not get around to drinking earlier in the year.

First up is Sierra Nevada Summerfest. The beer pours a very light lemon colour with a thin loose white head. Very subtle aroma, sweet malt is apparent with a very light flowery hop aroma. It is light bodied with a very crisp clean finish. Nice malt character, sweet yet subtle, with a nice floral hop character and a hint of spice. Not as sharp as a traditional pilsner, but the flavours are soft and subtle making this a great session beer. Overall a very pleasing light refreshing lager, well worth picking up a few bottles.

Next up was Goose Island Summertime, I am a big fan of their IPA and so I was looking forward to this. The bottle describes this as a German style kolsch beer. It pours a light golden colour with a thin white head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is so subtle that it is nearly non-existent, very slight spicy character is apparent if you focus really hard. Light bodied, with a beautifully smooth mouthfeel. Lovely fruity flavours dance across the mouth, hints of lemon and melon give this beer an amazingly refreshing taste. A fantastic beer, one I would be stocking up on for when the weather picks up.

Last but not least is Anchor Summer Beer, an American style wheat beer, a style I have not tried before. Pours a light golden colour with a large white frothy head that dissipates quickly. There is an aroma from this beer that you would expect more from a pilsner, and definitely a million miles away from what I would associate with a typical German wheat beer. The large proportion of wheat used in this beer gives it a nice smooth mouthfeel, but the flavours are very subdued. The flavour is a little sweet, a little sour, with the merest hint of lemon. The combination of flavours just result in a pretty bland beer, refreshing but not very exciting.

And so the winners and losers:

1. Goose Island Summertime - a fantastically refreshing beer, perfect for a long hot summers day

2. Sierra Nevada Summertime - a nice refreshing drink, a little light but does the job.

3. Anchor Summer Beer - a distant 3rd to be honest, if this is what American wheat beers are like I think I will be steering clear.