Friday, 25 June 2010

Dungarvan Brewing Company

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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 IrishCraftBrewer.com 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.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The beer of Kings (well, Princes)

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Ever have in mind a beer that, to you, is the archetype for what that style* of beer should be? When it came to Dunkels, for me the benchmark was always König Ludwig Dunkel from Schloßbrauerei Kaltenberg, a brewery run by Prince Luitpold of Bavaria in his castle (apparently to pay the bills). I first encountered König Ludwig Dunkel about eight or nine years ago in my wife's home town. It was nice, sitting in the market place sinking back half litre mugs of the refreshing stuff, and it stuck in my head since. So too did the fact that the Prince has been refused access to the Oktoberfest on account of the brewery being outside of Munich, and despite the royal origins of the fest. What did they do instead? They run a Knight's Tournament. I bet they weren't drinking pints of Ritterbock before doing that though!


From the bottle, König Ludwig Dunkel is a clear, deep reddish brown with a lively head that looks the part. The aroma is redolent of dried fruits and caramelised sugars. Up front, it delivers a sweet, malt-driven hit with a woody tone in the background and finishing with a gentle roasty kick. There's a slight peppery edge, but it doesn't linger. The finish is dry, attesting to its apparently high attenuation, so it's definitely not as sweet as many German Dunkels can be. Nevertheless, it does leave a pleasantly sweet residue under the grassy dryness. To be honest, it's not as good as I recalled (a bit like Highlander and Mysterious Cities of Gold), but it is still moreish, and for that, I like it. Probably better from the tap while sitting in the sun. I shall try again next month.

*sorry, I hate using that word.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Splash of the Titans

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Last February I bought a stash of US beers from the likes of Flying Dog, of which I still have to finish up the big dogs now that I think of it (Canis Major, you know), and some Left Hand Brewing ones. Perhaps stupidly, I only ordered a couple of beers from Great Divide, as I'd really enjoyed their Yeti at the opening of Beer Temple in Amsterdam last year. But, whatcha gonna do? The box would only hold so much.

One that I did get, was Great Divide Titan IPA, how can you resist a name like that, when you've grown up loving movies like Jason and the Argonauts (although that was some time before my birth!)? Titan is a slightly hazy copper-amber with bubbles moving slowly to feed a creamy, broken head. Looks like there's crystal malt in there. Great! It's got a rich, sweet aroma with lashings of hops: orange pith dominant with undertones that suggest strawberries and fresh pine. It's got a good chewy body and mouthfeel. I expected some sort of hop assault (not that I object to being harangued by hops), but while full of those really juicy hop flavours that are so apparent on the nose, the bitterness takes a moment to shine through. When it does, it's big, broad and chewy, if that can make sense for something that's bitter. The finish is long and dry, despite a lingering caramel sweetness, yet it feels strangely thin considering the big boldness of the main event, and after a while began to feel a little one dimensional. Still, a rather enjoyable, juicy, hop-driven beer.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Ulrichsbier (now mine) and Echt Veldensteiner Landbier

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It's not Ulrichsbier, it's mine! Ahh, fond memories of Terry's Chocolate orange, for some reason. Haven't had one in ages! Ulrichsbier from Berg Brauerei Ulrich Zimmermann, down near Ehingen, is nothing like chocolate, or orange, however. It has a yeasty, fruity nose with a touch of caramel, and on first sip, delivers a really soft, creamy mouthfeel. It has a juicy malt-edged-fudge flavour, with toasted bread and some fruitiness, reminiscent of mild cherries. It has a gentle hop profile, giving just a hint of spicy bitterness. Quite like this really. Süffig!

Leaning a little more towards chocolate, perhaps, is Echt Veldensteiner Landbier from Kaiser Bräu, Neuhas an der Pegnitz, not too far from Nuremberg. Just a little, mind. I really like its richly, red-hued amber, topped with a creamy head, and the flavour lives up to what I expect from such a rich-coloured beer, with toffee, a slight plumminess up front, chocolate filling in the mid-ground and toasted edges. This comes on a little more in the finish, with a waft of burnt toast and a gentle, grassy bitterness. Combined with a soft mouthfeel, this combines for a rather tasty treat.

And yes, these are notes I'm dragging out of my dusty notebook. Plenty more where that came from!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Yarr! Störtebecker Pilsner!

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Klaus Störtebecker sounds like he was a bit of a colourful character, as most pirates are, but given that his nickname "Störtebeker" meant "empty the mug in one gulp" in Old German (apparently he could empty a four-litre mug of beer in one gulp), I was wondering what he'd make of the beers bearing his name.

Störtebecker Pilsner, an almost green-tinged yellow pils that falls bang on the regulation standard of 4.9%, has been rated "Sehr Gut" in ÖKO-TEST magazine in 2008 and 2009, presumably because they use organic hops. Past experience with this magazine tells me that this ranking amounts to a hill of beans though.

With an aroma that suggests pine trees that have been dusted with a light powder coating of sulphur, the the first sip is surprisingly sweet, delivering a fruity, yeasty taste up front. This leads a sweet, bready charge, followed by a soft floral-infused bitterness. The finish is dry, while retaining those sweet elements, and has a lingering pine note. It's not a bad beer, but I got bored with it. I got the impression that it being "breadier" than most pilsners around these parts rounded it out a bit, but perhaps too much. Not quite Sehr Gut, in my humble opinion.

A combination of work, travel, fantastic weather, BBQs and beer consumption has left me little time, or desire for posting recently. I'm sure I'll be forgiven :)