Wednesday, 29 March 2017

#335: Brotherly Love

This one's been waiting at least a year for his turn.

His name is Brother Thelonious, and as the name suggests, he is an American with fond memories and aspirations of Belgium, as well as an unflinchingly cool jazz spirit.

Belgian-syle abbey ale is the specific aspiration and Fort Bragg, California's North Coast do a good job conjuring memories of that type of thing with the crystal clear ruby-brown appearance of Brother Thelonious. Also reminiscent of Belgium is the lovely brown sugar sweetness present not only on the nose but particularly in the middle of the palate too. Thankfully there's no Lagunitas-style sugar bomb, as this one dries up after itself at the finish. Here you find dried figs and raisins, without any heavy booze or thick malt getting in the way, as well as a smattering of ground almonds. In fact, the whole thing plays rather elegantly and surprisingly light and drinkable for 9.4%. The only missing piece of the puzzle is the typical Belgian yeast-derived ester profile, but that's a minor detail when considering the wider enjoyable experience of the beer.

This passes the Belgian monks' digestibility test like no other American beer that I've encountered, and all while supporting jazz education in honour of the other relevant Monk. True, only one of those things really matters to me, but it's a pleasant footnote on an likewise very pleasant beer.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

#334: Agriable

I'm sure this particularly summery bottle had hoped to be opened about nine months ago, to live its brief life in the outdoors, soaking up a warm breeze and accompanying a soft Bavarian pretzel or somesuch. As it happened, it instead popped open in front of a fire early this year with nothing more ceremonious than a packet of supposedly fancy crisps. 
The beer is Piña Agria from Odell, and on opening I was worried. The cork doesn't look great; cracked and showing what looked like (and hopefully was nothing more suspect than) glue. From this same cork and indeed the neck of the bottle came a tang of, well, pee. No, really. Thankfully there's nothing of the sort once you get it into the glass; from here on out it's a wonderfully clean and fruity number that has more than a few shades of zesty pinot grigio or a particularly zingy sauvignon blanc, manifested as bountiful tropical pineapple, honeydew melon and a nice sherberty acidity. It's exceptionally easy to drink and incredibly moreish, tailored as it seems to be to hit that sour spot. Delicious.

I was desperately sad to see it go, especially considering the ~€20 price tag, but if you can convince a loved one to gift you a bottle for some special occasion, or if you just NEED FROOTY ACID, it's absolutely worth picking up.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

#333: After the Fall

This duo were part of a trio gifted to me by Lachie and Alison (thanks guys!) and comes from what was once their neck of the woods in Stirling.

The brewery is Fallen Brewing and there's a strong travel theme to the beers at hand, owing to their residence in a bona fide old railway station.

We start with New World Odyssey, which sounds nice. But then you read that it's a blonde, that broad and vague style moniker that brewers tend to apply to things that aren't exciting enough to call anything else and you wonder if your hopes for New World hop delivery are about to be dashed against the rocks. Thankfully they aren't, with fresh, zesty citrus getting up bright and early even if it is somewhat undercut by a considerable buttery diacetyl thing. This is swept up in the bitterness and thankfully doesn't last, with the malt half of the beer turning instead to more palatable bubblegum fruitiness. It's enjoyable, but it's far from the odyssey I was expecting.

Unlike Platform C, the IPA. These two seem to have switched bottles on the way across the Irish Sea because I'd expect an IPA to be fraught with the dangers of too-thick malt and diacetyl interference and I'd expect the blonde to be, well, more blonde, pale and clean. OK, it may not be paler, but Platform C is by far the cleaner of the two, with a perfect base of soft, subtle biscuity malt allowing a gorgeously expressive and juicy C-hop character drive the beer. Fresh and punchy with its grapefruit flesh for the first half of the bottle, candied orange sweetness for the warmer second half, but never losing the clean control. This is the kind of thing I wish all brewers would strive to achieve with their American pale ale and IPA releases, an execution the likes of which I've seen from Althea and Little Fawn among others here in Ireland.

Despite the respective names of these beers, it is the IPA that takes you on the New World odyssey while the blonde is still playing catch up.

Monday, 20 March 2017

#332: Quadruple Dutch

At least once a year I find myself unpacking a handful of bottles from a suitcase from Amsterdam and 2016 was no exception. The best thing to do with the styles I brought home this time was to horde them for the long dark winter and pick them off like a private Dutch beer festival.

The first decapitated is Wuldar, a barleywine from Walhalla, and as old world in style as the branding somewhat suggests. It's a fairly clear dark red and gives raisiny rich malt on the nose. This is largely the same to taste; thick and malty with maple syrup and dark autumnal fruit. Simple in its own way, Wuldar makes for wonderfully contemplative and cosy drinking by the fireside.

No such handful of bottles is complete without a De Molen or two and the first I opened is Wal and Schip Wild Turkey B.A. This one was bottled in December 2014, and may have been picked up the previous year, but who's counting? Blakc and brown it pours, oozing gorgeous biscuit alt and vanilla with a slight savoury side. Another exemplar of dark malt complexity, there's more figs and raisins to be found here. Rich, sweet and fruity on a woody vanilla backing with malted biscuit - I mean it seems obvious, but there you go. The bourbon barrel is thankfully well integrated and doesn't overpower everything with sickly vanilla syrup. In fact, it reminds me more than once of the best bourboned beer I've had, Bourbon County. Once again its a comforting drink that warms up to give marzipan and palate-smacking savoury malt goodness.

Another stout from another barrel is Emelisse's White Label Imperial Stout from a Bruichladdich barrel. This one's got more chocolate than the De Molen and the whisky influence shows itself as a bit of spirity heat, but it remains smooth and round. There's rich, round chocolatey stuff throughout, making it a particularly indulgent and dessert-like beer, showing a touch of sweetness.

Surprisingly less chocolatey is Ciel Bleu Imperial Stout from Brouwerij 't IJ, with collaborative input from the Michelin-starred Ciel Bleu restaurant and chocolate makers, er, the Chocolatemakers. Far from the liquid dessert I was expecting, this is disappointingly thin and mild, especially considering the 10.2% ABV. Still, it was easy drinking which is its own achievement, and I finsihed it happily enough before long. 

A mixed bag, perhaps, but as with all Nederland-born hauls, fun was had.