It was a little strange being back in Dublin after eight months away, but it's easy to slip into old habits. I had originally planned to fly over tomorrow, but shortly after booking my flight I received an invitation to the launch of a book representing the final stage in an archaeological research project that I last worked on nine years ago, and in fact began working on in 1992. SO, I changed my flights and landed in Dublin on Wednesday night. It was great to see this book finally out, and a very proud moment for the director of the project. It was also great seeing alot of faces I hadn't seen in eight years, never mind eight months! Ah, but those were the days when i was young, fit from walking up and down mountains with surveying equipment every day, and had long flowing locks. It was also the period (the early 90's at least) where I drink quantities of Bud, Miller and Carlsberg, but there wasn't much choice in rural Ireland back then, so I'll continue to hide behind that excuse.
My old friend (hi Kieron!) who had also worked for the research institute came over to the event and later on we decided to head for a pint in my old haunt, the Bull and Castle, stopping off at Porterhouse Central on the way where I got to try the Porterhouse Alt. It was served very cold indeed, so I couldn't get all the flavours initially. In fact my first thought was that it tasted a bit home brewey (but not in the good sense). I found it a bit overly fruity and the hops a bit green, but I have to admit that as it warmed a bit I also warmed towards it, and the hops seemed to become a little more sherbety, the fruitiness a bit more balanced against a decent malt backdrop with a touch of butter. Quite a good interpretation actually and a nice beer in its own right, though perhaps not as clean as the German examples I have been trying.
We walked down Dame Street to the Bull and Castle, resisting popping into the Porterhouse on Parliament Street. Geoff, the manager of the B&C, immediately gave me "the usual", a pint of my beloved Galway Hooker. It's been so long since I had this it was like tasting it anew. In fact it was almost a shock to get that wonderful hop profile that I just haven't found in the German beers, with a mix of first gold, fuggles, saaz and cascade working together to create an interesting spicy mix. It's a cleaner tasting beer than I remember, but with a long finish that leaves your mouth coated with gentle hops. Getting to the end of the glass I realised I was hooked again.
We avoided German beers, but went to a neighbour for the next one with a Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin, a delicately spiced dubbel that, to be honest, had to fight the hop residue left over by the Hooker and the Alt. The label says it uses a "gruut" from Bruges, and I'd love to know exactly what is in it. I think I'll try it again with a cleaner palate to try to do it justice.
We were joined by another old frind (hi Brian) who steered us towards England with a Fuller's London Pride. It's been ages since I had Pride, and indeed ages since I has a classic English ale. I think having subsisted on German hopped beers for the past few months let me really taste the difference in the hop characters, and this was just wonderful. A great mildly toffee-like base with a strong, clean floral hop flavour. It tastes like hops smell. Really delicious. I want another now!
Before leaving, Geoff instructed the bar man to give us one more before we'd have to leave. As has been my habit, it was time to let loose the Goose; Goose Island IPA. Another hop dominated beer, and another example of how different hops can make a beer. It didn't have the body that I remembered either, but it's certainly one of my favourite beers. In fact, a six pack is winging it's way to Germany as I type (thanks Mike), so I think I will use these for a tasting session (as I had thought of doing before) with some German colleagues to see how they cope with the flavours.
Next time I'm out I'll be bringing my camera...