Cork, and a kind of beery-catch up.

The Handsome Family, Handsum IPA and Hanson er, yes, hanging out with the most excellent Tony were the highlights of last weekend.  This whole trip can be told via the medium of beer, as can most of my holidays.

  1. Handsum IPA – after checking in to our hotel, and eating the best fish supper I’ve had since Victoria BC (I don’t understand why people think that English do good fish and chips), we head down to local pub, Sin é.  Walking in is pretty much like walking into a stereotypical Irish Tourism Board video – locals drinking pints of stout at the dark and cosy bar, a covers band sounding just like they’d stepped out of The Commitments playing in the corner.  We order two pints of Handsum IPA and it’s the perfect thing to drink after the greasy fatty salt of dinner. Fresh, malty, lots of hops but not overpoweringly, almost like beers I had on the West Coast.  Maybe because the beer was served so close to source? Closing time comes too soon.
  2. Survivor, Mi Daza XXX – Next day we head out for an excellent late breakfast bap at the English Market, pick up our Handsome Family tickets and head over to the Rising Sons Brew Pub.  Once we dismantled houses brick by brick and reassembled them over in America – now we do the same but in reverse and with sports bars.  The beers we try there are great – a Beara Irish/Rising Sons collaboration, the Survivor pale ale is dry hopped, with a tropical zing, and the Mi Daza XXX is a nitro-poured Cork stout, with a great cocoa aroma, roasty and creamy and smooth.
  3. Purgatory, Shandon Stout, Rebel Red – We head on up the hill to the Cork Butter Museum which I was prepared to laugh at, but was actually gently brilliant in the way only highly focused regional museums can be.  The Franciscan Well brewery is next on our list.  The first beer, Purgatory, is a good solid pale ale.  That’s all I can remember about it, and my notes don’t help.  The stout was quite sweet, almost too much so, and quite thin.  The Rebel Red was possibly the crappest beer I’ve had in years, and I am surprised that there are people out there that rate it highly.  It tasted like someone had left a pair of new, cheap rubber flip flops in by accident whilst fermenting.  But luckily the pub saves the day with a delicious taste of Jameson Whiskey Caskmate, whiskey aged in a stout barrel.  It starts off with cocoa beans and stout before finishing off like sucking on a butterscotch.

To be continued…

Beer Five, Week Five: Transatlantic Overdrive, Fourpure Brewing/Bear Republic

Three of us popped in to the Three Johns for the launch of this new beer collaboration from Fourpure, just before popping up the road to see the Phantom Band.  The place was packed to the rafters, with a scrum instead of a bar.

This was a clean, light, golden coloured IPA. It had a medium-crisp, fresh taste with moderate carbonation that would have gone so well with the pizzas I saw others eating at nearby tables, the lucky sods.  There were hints of pine, malted biscuit and orange pith.  I was kind of expecting one of those in your face American IPAs but nope, this was a good transatlantic balance.  I’d have liked some of this in the summer in a park, shame it’s not going to be around for long!

Beer Four, Week Four: Wild Beer’s Somerset Wild Saison

I’d spent the evening wandering around Soho, gorging myself on lovely Thai food at Rosa’s. Walking back towards Holborn, I wandered into the Craft Beer Co fancying something sharp to reset my taste buds.  And I found that in this beer from Wild Beer.  This is possible the sourest beer I have ever tasted, judging by the laughter at the faces I was making after every sip.

As a kid I always refused those sour sweets, because I disliked them. White wine never agrees with me. I also don’t really like cider much, but beers like this are making me rethink and retry things I’ve previously dismissed.

The Wild Beer website recommends eating this with fish, which makes sense – I am going to get some of this and try it in the summer with some fish straight off the BBQ.  I reckon it will work brilliantly.

Beer Two, Week Two: Ashtray Heart by Evil Twin Brewing

I love a smoked beer, and have been keeping an eye out for a bottle of Ashtray Heart for a while following great reviews online.  But I think the first sign that this beer wasn’t going to quite live up to my expectations was when I tried to pour it into the glass and it fizzed like it does in that Mentos/Diet Coke experiment.

The ash-y taste is definitely there, but it also has a harsh, burnt, campfire taste and, unlike other smoked stouts of this strength I’ve had recently, the alcohol is too heavy-hitting.  When I left half of the beer for a while to warm up and settle, it did improve in the balance of its flavours, with a slightly sweet, dark fruit and nut chocolate taste coming through and tamping down that harshness.

I didn’t particularly like this beer, but I am going to give it a second chance and try and find a bottle of it from a different batch.

Beer One, Week One: Lava Smoked Imperial Stout by Ölvisholt Brugghús

Late last year I spent a day in Iceland on my way back from the Pacific North West.  This was a day well spent soaking in the Blue Lagoon, but not a day spent drinking anything more special than the local Gull lager. I had been on the look out for the local Lava smoked imperial stout, recommended to me by @anthonyqkiernan, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally got to taste it thanks to his gift of a bottle after his own holiday there last week.

And it was worth the wait.  As I poured it out, I got a lovely whiff of smoke, similar to that of the Schlenkerla rauchbier, so I kind of expected it to taste similarly, like a smoked applewood cheddar.  But this is much more complex and not at all cheesy – I got dark chocolate, a hint of bacon, caramel, and the lingering reminder of a good Christmas fruit cake.  Despite my description it wasn’t a sticky sweet mess but beautifully balanced, with the smoke drifting through and a nice dry finish.  It’s also surprising not at all boozy for a beer that’s 9.4%. Now I’ve tasted it, I have the urge to put a few bottles away to try in year’s time, or maybe two. Lucky I am heading back to Iceland for ATP later this year then, isn’t it?