Friday, 25 June 2010

Dungarvan Brewing Company

One of the things I'm missing about my homeland is the relative slew of new beers, and breweries, that have appeared over the past year. In particular, I was really happy to see the two newest, Trouble Brewing and the Dungarvan Brewing Company, as I'd had the pleasure of meeting the brewers at the regular meet-ups. Little did I know, when I first met Cormac O'Dwyer in July 2007, that he'd be braving the Irish micro brewing scene, and how happy I am that he and his brother-in-law have embarked on this journey.

And how happy I was when they told me a package was on the way over, with one of each of their three beers! And how devastated I was when my wife called to say the DHL man had arrived with a dripping package, and what felt like a bag of shards. She refused to accept the package, thinking maybe we or the lads could claim back, but in the end, we agreed to salvage what we could, and the DHL man came back a week later with the package, less drippy by now, but still jingling somewhat. Happiness returned when I found that the one I most wanted to try, the Black Rock Stout, was still intact, along with the Copper Coast Red Ale. Helvick Gold was the tragic victim, as was the cloth bag with the Dungarvan Brewing logo, that went mouldy in the beer and heat mix of the postal depot in Greven.

But I had my goodies!

I have to say, I'm not exactly a big fan of the so-called Irish Red Ale. I mean, I'm not sure if it exists, and often think that it's been made up as a style by the BJCP and American craft brewers (though most likely influenced by the late Michael Jackson). Although I've probably been influenced by TheBeerNut and fellow ICBer Séan, the likes of Smithwicks and Caffrey's do not a style make. Nevertheless, it's probably true to say that there's a kind of reverse osmosis, and the fact that this gets bandied about as a style means that many of the Irish craft breweries will put a red ale on the portfolio. Can't (or won't) argue with that I suppose. So, how does Copper Coast stack up? Well, it's aptly named, with a red, burnished coppper look to it (though it's named after the famous Copper Coast Geopark in County Waterford), with a haze. The aroma suggests it's going to be a fruity, caramelly experience, perhaps with a fresh yeast twist, and that's pretty accurate. While there are certainly caramel goings on, as would be expected, the dominant flavours lean towards a dry fruitiness, slight apple, a touch of something that reminded me of honeydew melon (don't ask). It's quite yeasty, in a freshly made dough kind of way, and behind all this runs a grassy, floral bitterness that adds a balancing bite to the finish. At 4.3%, it's surprisingly well bodied, an impression enhanced by the light, natural carbonation. My only (hopefully constructive) criticism would be the level of yeast flavours that, to me, dulled the other aspects a little, but, compared to other red ales in the Irish market, including the likes of O'Hara's, this stands out for its breadth of flavour and soft, cushion-y lushness. Really nice.

Black Rock seems to have the Irish bloggers talking, and it's been hard avoiding reading anything about it before I could try one. It's another style of beer that an Irish brewery almost has to have in its artillery, and there are some good ones out there, with Porterhouse Wrasslers XXXX standing out. Funnily enough, I used to always recommend O'Hara's Stout, but the last few I bought seemed different; thinner and more ashy. So, what about the newest addition to the true Irish Stout family?

Almost totally opaque, with just a hint of creosote-brown around the edges, Black Rock exudes a melting chocolate aroma, with a dab of fudgy caramel and a hint of dark fruitiness. Dark toffee, a bite of dark chocolate on a creamy-smooth body, shutting down swiftly with a roasted bite. Gentle, mind, but robust, drying and satisfying. Like it's red sister, it's really quite luscious for a 4.3% beer, and it lingers with an almost rosemary-like herbal hop confection, melding with that dry roastiness. It does have hints of the yeasty undertones of the Copper Coast, but more subtle, or perhaps masked by the richer, dark flavours.
Very nice, and very easy to sink a pint of -- off the shelf of course!

I wish the guys the very best of luck with the brewery, and hope we get to see more of these on shelves around Ireland and beyond.

Disclaimer: I got these beers for free, as well as some dinky little bottle openers which I have now spread around the house so I'll never be left looking for one when needed. The above are my honest opinions, as I would expect from anyone tasting my homebrew.


Velky Al said...

I am looking forward to trying their wares when next the boss and I get to Ireland, provisionally next summer! I really liked the interview they did with Fuggled as well.

Mark (Halite) said...

totally agree with all that you said Barry. The Black Rock really is an outstanding beer, hopefully the guys see this reflected in the growing success of their venture.

DrJohn said...

It's a pity you missed out on the Blonde; it's very solid though some have reported variation between batches. The Bull & Castle had the red on cask some weeks past, and it was a completely different animal to the bottled version. The nose even reminded me of Rodenbach Grand Cru!! They are a great addition to our humble Irish beer scene.

Barry M said...

Al, hopefully they'll have wider availability by then, but you can always trust the B&C :)

Mark, I get the impression craft beer is slowly gaining exposure back home, or is it just e with Beoir-tinted glasses viewing from afar? :)

John, that sounds great on cask! Although would some people be put off by a bit of Rodenbach bite? (not me!)

Royce said...

These two beers sound quite impressive. I find your comments about the Irish Red Ale style interesting - I didn't realize this is in some ways a fictional invention? In the States we see staples like Killian's Irish Red and I think we just assume it's a traditional Irish style.

Any idea what kind of distribution Dungarvan gets? Any brewer that does will with body weight and flavor while maintaining a low abv deserves to be sampled, in my opinion.

Russ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russ said...

Barry, I'm curious... If Irish red ale is a made-up style, how would you categorize Smithwick's and Kilkenny?

Anonymous said...

That Black Rock sounds fantastic. I'll have to keep an eye out for that one.

Barry M said...

Sorry for delayed response, I was travelling all week with sod all time or decent web connections. Did pick up some beers from Sweden though :)

Royce, that's the thing, I suppose. What defines "traditional"? :) When MJ was classifying these things, there were probably only a couple of examples, so would that constitute a separate style? I don't mind style tags as much as I used to, but I do think it gets a little too detailed when it comes to the likes of the BJCP, for example, and (I might be wrong about this) much of this was based on MJs classifications.

Russ, TheBeerNut has convinced me that these were (or are) basically pale ales/bitters with low hop profiles, for whatever reasons, and if they were found in the UK they'd be called as much. As far as I recall, Kilkenny is relatively new and was brewed for the export market. I think it's pretty close to Smithwick's. Must buy a bottle (that and Guinness are of course easy to get anywhere!).

Barry M said...

Actually, read Séan's post that I linked to for another view :)

Barm said...

I suspect that Kilkenny only exists as a brand because foreigners can't pronounce Smithwick's.

Barry M said...

Hah! Never thought if that. You're probably right!