Tuesday, 31 January 2017

#329: Tildonkers

In the second half of 2016 something changed in my beer drinking. The over-saturation of new Irish beers (which is not in itself a problem to me - more choice and the good ones will stay on while that bad ones will drop off) finally overwhelmed me in what I considered the original purpose of this blog; to chart a course through the hypertrophic growth of the Irish craft beer scene, buying and trying virtually everything new that Irish brewers were making as well as assessing new and exciting imports. In itself, this would be a full time job, requiring another full time job or two to fund it.

And all of this before we get to drain pours. Yes, among Irish beers and a few imports I found myself not enjoying more and more new beers and where once I would stick it out for the sake of getting my money's worth I've now taken to gleefully dumping them. 

The result of this is that I've become more enamoured with the beers and styles of beers and breweries that I know or at least am pretty sure I'll like. So for a time you'll be seeing fewer new Irish 'Indian pale ales' [sic] and more imports and for that I make only a half-hearted apology.

Still, it hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for new beer and breweries so when goods from Hof ten Dormaal made a brief appearance at the Bierhaus I took a pair of bottles home.

I'd heard plenty of cooing over Frambuesa i Chocolate from proprietor Dave who'd encountered it in Brussels and I wasn't disappointed when I found it in my own glass. It's described on the label simply as a 'dark beer with raspberries' but pours very much like a stout. There's a sour, lactic tang to the nose that immediately introduces tart raspberry and, yup, it's fresh, sweet and tart juicy raspberries on the tongue too. Any worries about the chocolate side of this beer being a powdery, sickly sweet mess are unfounded; this is by far and a away a dominantly sour beer with real puckering power going on and just a smooth slickness of dark malt to help round things out. It's desperately easy to drink and one wishes it was easier to find.

The Zure van Tildonk 2014 is, like the above beer, another limited edition and another sour beer, this time a familiar hazy blonde. So familiar in fact that it plays like a fairly convincing tribute to the beers of Lembeek at first, with a sharp acidic sourness on a beautifully full body. Behind that, though, there's a strap of sweetness throughout, not unlike the kind of thing you find in the older Rodenbachs but without the deep, chewy malts of those beers. I often think of lemon sherbert when I come across a pale sour beer with echoes of sweetness but I think this is by far the most appropriate recipient of that descriptor; it finally actually tastes like lemon sherbert and it is delicious, even if it does turn a tad syrupy towards the finish.

Two wonderful beers, and more than enough to build up a considerable bank of credibility for the brewer in my book.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

#328: Blackeyed

I am more than prepared to eat, or indeed drink, my words. When I - and many other beer folk loitering on Twitter in Ireland - found out that Brewdog's canned imperial stout was hitting the shelves with a price tag of €11.95 I scoffed and virtually shook my head and said "well really". Sure enough, a combination of The Beer Nut and Matthew Curtis (follow both) pointed out that 1) it would be roughly the same price here as it is direct from the brewer, a rarity in Ireland's alcohol tax landscape and 2) that the bourbon barrels, vanilla and particularly the Vietnamese coffee beans used are pretty expensive stuff. Still, it's a €12 can of beer 12.7% ABV or not.

Obviously, the beer in question is Black Eyed King Imp - Vietnamese Coffee Edition. Obviously I only went and bought one. Obviously it turned out to be rather good.

Obviously it's pitch black with a brown head but this doesn't stay long. The first vapour wave to cascade from the glass is a smooth sweet vanilla thing - thankfully not a whack of bourbon - though it does come with a slice of wood. All the characteristics you'd expect from the additions are there; dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso - it's quite difficult to separate the beer from the additions, in fact. From this, I guess you have to accept it as a well integrated beer the likes of KBS but with all the character and intensity that I never got from bottled KBS. It's not dramatically complex but it is incredibly rich, delivering plenty of dessert-like characteristics and balancing black bitterness. I was hoping for the sort of savoury turn that Bourbon County Vanilla had, but I suppose more patience is required for that sort of thing to develop; here, the cask influence is much more of a syrupy, full-on bourbon player.
All in all, it works bloody well and is the closest I've come to reliving the wonders of the aforementioned Bourbon County Vanilla Brand stout from a couple of years ago.

So for all my initial naysaying I inevitably recommend this, and I even recommend tucking one away for a while.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

#327: Thursday Morning Comeback

I lengthy application process for a post grad diploma in Brewing and Distilling (it worked, wahoo!), a number of artistic projects, a busy work schedule and, perhaps most devastating of all, a long post-in-progress that I never saved and lost to the ether all conspired to keep me off this blog for quite some time. Indeed, I was glad to forget about it and consign it to the scrapheap for a while, such was my preoccupation.
But, there is a gap in that mess this morning and I am nothing if not persistent so here is the only collection of beer notes I am bothered to salvage from the many logged last year; after this, it's winter 16/17 onwards and no looking back.

We will look quite a ways back for now though, all the way to August of last year and a quick roundup of beers that were had out and about in Amsterdam.

Neerlands Wild
We start, as ever, in 't Arendsnest, with Emelisse's Oak Aged Imperial Stout, the Ardbeg version. As a 9%er it's robust, dry and bitter but lacking any sign of that booze. Alas, it also lacks any sign of Islay. It is smoky, but in a rather more Irish, roasted barley kind of way. It's in no way bad, but you don't get a great return for the ABV or the cask.

My sweet tooth pulled me then towards Jopen's rye wine, Don't tRye This At Home. And yes, it sweet. It's murky, sugary but not cloying, offering a satisfying dessert beer thing along the lines of Schneider's Aventinus, minus some spice. Chewy toffee syrup-smothered malts form the main effect and the whole thing nicely scratched an itch.

Next up is Neerlands Wild from Klein Duimpje. It's dark and sour to start with, all pulped red berries. There are some really big woody tannins that elbow into the middle and dominate proceedings. What's worse is that this soon reveals itself to be some bourbon-barrel hamfistedness the likes of which Alltech have been perfecting over the years; shades of the good stuff - balsamic vinegar, juicy red fruit - are completely lost amidst coarse, bitter wood shavings. Tough going.

The only other bar I visited in Amsterdam itself was Craft and Draft on Overtoom. As it's part of the same empire as the Arendsnest and Bier Temple, there were a couple of overlaps on the tap list, but Craft and Draft had beer from absolutely everywhere. Still, I stayed Dutch with Noordtwaarts Saison, brewed for Morebeer at Noordt. It's dry if not bone dry, but has a decent peppery scrubbing effect, leaving it tasty, light and incredibly easy to drink. I'm not sure whether they were indicative of an actual spice addition or not but there's also some coriander and lemon in the otherwise caramel-toned finish. Pleasant stuff, if not quite Dupont territory. 

When I ordered De Prael's Scotch Ale I thought I was getting something along the lines of Dirty Bastard or Scotch Silly - you know, a chewy, toffee malt number. Instead I'm presented with a pale, orangey, honey-nosed thing; there are sweet floral bouquets and an odd streak of meaty rauchbier smoke that I guess was a misguided approximation of Islay peat. It's a bit bloomy, mushroomy even, with flashes of what might be heather. Or maybe those are the quiet bagpipes looping in the back of my mind as I sip. Either way it's interesting and quite nice.

Bald Eagle
Still, I had been looking for a less sophisticated sugar-bomb and I came closer to the mark with The Big Fat 5, an 8% IPA that is also a Morebeer release, this time brewed by 't Uiltje. It oozes pungent, ripe fruit of the banana, mango and pineapple sort, with a sweetness reminiscent of similarly flavoured baby food. Ditto says the palate, a sweet tutti frutti mix that won't stand as classic DIPA stuff in my book, but is a fun and fruity change of pace all the same. The body remains surprisingly light, which helps with drinkability at first, but by the of even the wee glass I had, I'd seen enough of the beer.

Kompaan's Bloedbroeder is where I finished up and it's a particularly meaty, bloody and sharply smokey stout. At 9% it doesn't carry the usual trappings a big stout; no booze, no chew, no real body or depth. It plays like a porter of half its size and while it may be objectively interesting, it didn't quite do it for me.

Unsurprisingly, later in the week I found myself back by the canal - this time a much sunnier one - outside the Arendsnest. Inevitably, I had another Morebeer DIPA in my hand, this time Bald Eagle brewed at Kees. It's beautifully fresh and tropical fruit nose lasts about two minutes in the direct sunlight before it develops a streak of cardboardy skunk but, thankfully, this only affects the nose. It's smooth and full bodied and drinks way too easy for its 8%, but that juice has to go somewhere.

Oedipus were back on the menu with Frazzled, a farmhouse stout with blueberries. It's mainly dry and definitely blueberried, with a murky and muddy purple-capped appearance to show for its weird fermentation and fiddling processes. Light and slightly tart as it is, it's surprisingly easy to drink, with a small blackcurrant cordial sweetness hiding in the middle.

The penultimate beer to report is Archimedes Q, a porter (geddit?) from Amsterdam's own Butcher's Tears. Porter my arse, this is sour red stuff right out the gap, with a finish of those Caffé Noir biscuits that they should really stop making. A helping of woody tannins gives you a clue as to what's been going on, but this is beautiful stuff. The mixture of sour, juicy Flanders red and respectably roasty elements is a new one on me, but Butcher's Tears have made it work wonderfully.

Finally, and rather underwhelmingly, is All Black, a foreign stout from Stanislaus Brewskovitch. It's dry and beefed-up and all well and good, but ultimately nothing more than an average, roasty stout.