Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Dark Bitter bock is now bottled and conditioning (brew #4)

I only managed to get 36 bottles. Most were 500ml but two were a little bigger, I think one was 750ml and another was 660ml. Anyway I am not sure how it will turn out as there was a lot of crap floating around in it. Then again its all natural crap so hopefully it will be ok. Damn those glass carboys are a pain to clean though. There was a lot of junk caked on to the top part (where it foams) so I filled it with hot water and poured some bleach in. Hopefully in a few days it will be easier to clean.

The FG was not what I expected, I believe the OG was 1.040 (give or take) and this was 1.021 (give or take) which would make it only 2.3%? Its possible my result was contaminated due to the fact that I only took the result during bottling, I used my bottling wand to transfer into a test tube first and then started bottling so at this point 174g of glucose had been added to the mix.

Anyway the mix tastes ok so we shall see how it ages.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Dark Mexican Cerveza is bottled (brew#5)

Since I'm off on Mondays and Tuesdays these days, I decided to bottle the dark Cerveza. I was planning on also bottling the Dark BitterBock but I ran out of caps.
This time I was in no rush so I primed it correctly and transferred the beer into 41 x 500ml bottles and 1x 750ml bottle (Whychwood Goliath bottle I believe). Interestingly the other Whychwood bottles do not cap with my capper so I corked them instead. Having corked one of the wheat beer bottles last time I know it works. In fact I opened that corked wheat beer yesterday and it was lovely. Oh I tasted it while I took a sample and so far it tastes nice. Good malty and hoppy balance.
FG was 1.012 and since I think it started on 1.040 that gives it a nice ABV of 3.6%
For the sample, I actually used a syringe used for refilling ink cartridges. I made sure it was very clean and sanatised before use obviously.

I just placed an order with the homebrew company in Laois for some caps. I also got a single Corny keg but not the fittings as I will get them all in time. I'm getting a little at a time. I got my wife a 30 bottle medium-sweet Solomon Grundy wine kit as the first 6 bottle kit turned out fantastic.

All going well I can bottle the Dark BitterBock tomorrow. Then again I could simple put it in the corny and then get the fittings in a few weeks... hmm decisions. With luck I will get my large order from the UK tomorrow will all my extract ingredients.

One other thing I did recently was get this large wardrobe from B&Q. I did have all my brewing supplies on the spare bed and it was a mess so I spent 8 hours or so putting this monstrosity together and could not be happier. There is room for everything in it. I can even hang my tubing on the rails. It will be more full when I get my ingredients order. It was only €210 in B&Q if I remember correctly.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Porterhouse Beer & Whiskey Festival

The Porterhouse is running a beer and whiskey festival at the moment. It started on Thursday with the Michael Jackson (nothing to do with the pop star) awards, and its running until April 5th. Bionic Laura wrote a great piece about this as she was a judge, read here. As well as their own beer and their new Chocolate Truffle stout, they also have guest beers from other Irish breweries. So I had to go in and sample the delights, my wife went to Drogheda for the day to visit a friend. Unfortunately no one was able to come in with me so another day drinking beer by myself.

I sat at the bar and the first thing on my mind was food and also some beer to go with it. I ordered Bangers and mash and decided to try the Galway hooker dark wheat. I also ordered a Chocolate truffle stout and left that to come to room temperature.

So the Hooker, this was my second outing with a hooker. The first one is the beloved Galway hooker with all its hops and citrus flavours. This one is a darker beast and very different. I hope Galway hooker decided to brew other styles also.
The first thing about this beer is that it pours like a stout, look how dark it is. It does taste like a cross between a stout and a wheat beer. I have had very few dunkel weisse beers before but this was one of the best. It was certainly better than the Erdinger offering. It had a light hop aftertaste and a nice carbonated mouthfeel. It is certainly drinkable and I liked it a lot. It is not however a very complex beer and it seems to shine in its simplicity.

After the Hooker and my food was gone, I tried the stout. This was the main reason I was here. I love chocolate and I love a stout so combining the two together should be heaven for me so I had to savour it.

Off the nose, I was overpowered with Dark Chocolate and a lot of Cocoa. It pours dark, but not black. It is a dark amber colour. In the mouth I was surprised as it was much lighter in feel than I expected.
The second shock was how bitter it was, I was expecting a sweeter stout due to the chocolate but this was not sweet at all. The cocoa is overpowering, in a good way though. There is also a burnt coffee aftertaste. I enjoyed this beer a lot, at first that is. As I got half way down and it was at room temperature I started to notice something else, the cocoa was dissipating fast and being replaced with another familiar taste. Cookie Dough? I was brought to mind immediately of the Porterhouse Plain porter which I talked about the last time I was there. I did not like the plain that much. At this point it started getting very crowded at the bar so I grabbed my stuff and moved the back of the bar which is above it but still at the bar if you know where I am talking about. You can look down on the main bar and still order drinks. Up there I found a card which talked about the festival and what beers they had and it was on this card that I read that the Chocolate truffle stout is actually based on their award winning plain porter. Ah it all makes sense now, they took plain porter and added cocoa to it. Even though the cocoa dissipates half way through, I still like this more than the plain but this is not a patch on Wrasslers XXXX or even the Oyster stout.

Next up I tried a half pint of BrainBlaitsa. I had never had this and heard it was good, turns out it is much better than just good. This weighs in at 7% making it their strongest beer. This is one reason I got a half, the other being that I wanted to pace myself so I could fit in more beer and not have to go to the bathroom all the time. I also did not want to be "too" wasted. Anyway you would expect a 7% beer to taste of this fact but it does not at all. In fact, the first thing I noticed was the fruity smell off the nose - Strawberries? I took a taste and my brain confirmed that it tastes like strawberries. This beer tastes like a cross between Fruli and a hoppy ale, it certainly has hops. I was surprised by how much I liked this beer actually as I would not be a fruli person at all. This will be one I will have again.

When I ordered the brainblaista I also got a pint of Clotworthy Dobbin to let warm a little. I had heard great things about this. This is brewed by the Whitewater brewery in Co. Down (not Antrim is I said, thanks beernut) and is one of the guest beers. This was a little lighter in colour than I expected, then again I did not know it was a Ruby ale and expected a darker porter.
The Aroma was a little fruity with the hops coming through. It has a very nice carbonated mouthfeel and is not heavy at all. This is a great session beer, it was absolutely drinkable and delicious. The bar man asked me what I thought so I am guessing it is one of his favourites. The aftertaste is also wonderful with toffee sweetness and bitter hops elaving a perfect balance.
I wonder is this better from the bottle rather than draught? Probably is so I will have to track some down, I have never seen so might have to make a special trip to one of the good Dublin Off-Licenses.

Next up came a little test using two of my favourite beers. I ordered them in half pints again so I could pace myself.
In one corner (left) is Galway hooker (from Roscommon). In the other corner is Purgatory pale ale from Corks Franciscan well brewery. You may have read my blog on the Franciscan well and Purgatory in particular, I loved this beer. I also love the hooker and since they are both pale ales, I decided I needed to compare them.

The first difference is obvious from the picture, the hooker is crystal clear and the purgatory is cloudy and looks like a wheat beer.
The second is mouthfeel, the hooker has more carbonation and feels better in the mouth than the purgatory.
Thirdly the hooker has a more hoppy bitter taste to it where as the purgatory is lovely and bitter but has a sweeter taste.
The hooker also has the clear crisp citrus notes.

This is a tough one as I love them both but if I had to pick one, it would be the hooker for me. It would depend on your own taste of course.

At this point I left the Porterhouse and went for walk around temple bar. I was trying to decide if I should move to another porterhouse after my walk or go to the Bull and Castle and I decided on the bull and castle in the end and walked back in that direction. There was a food market in temple bar so I headed to an ATM first and then off towards Christchurch.

On arriving at the Bull and Castle I was at the opposite end of the bar to last time. I stood for a moment and looked at one of the fridges and a bottle of Black sheep ale caught my eye so I ordered that. Sorry about the image quality. Anyway this was a nice dry English ale, to me it was like an ESB but it seems to be classified as an English Pale Ale. No matter what it is, it was pretty damn tasty. I am afraid I do not remember much more than that as I got talking to Geoff and did not take any more notes.
Next up I ordered a beer I did not recognise from the Fullers section. I did not know what it was so I asked the bar man to let me take a look and I decided to have it. It was the Whitstable bay Organic. It was shepherd Naeme and not Fullers which should have been obvious to me from the clear bottle and its shape.
Anyway this was nice and refreshing. It had honey notes and it was crisp and clean tasting.... yummy organic goodness. There was a slight malt and hop character and it had a great mouthfeel. This is a wonderful summer beer.

I got talking to Geoff again for a bit and someone ordered a Paulaner Salvator which I had been eyeing up in the fridge so I asked Geoff about it and got a bottle myself.
There is a time when you have been drinking as many beers as I have at this point when one is the one too many. This was it, I will explain in a moment. Firstly here is what I remember. It was sweet and fruity. That's it....
Here is what I wrote down on my notepad. "Dark wheat beer" (which it is not). I also wrote "wife would like it" and I think this is true.
I also wrote down 7.9% and this explains the next thing I wrote. "*Drunk point 1/5th through" and then I skip a line and have down: "16:48 i am pretty Drunk"
Apparently I called my wife a few minutes later, also it seems I ordered a fisherman's Pie. I do not remember this at all, I hope it was good.
Here is a picture of what I wrote, my handwriting is only marginally better than this when I am sober.
I worried this morning in bed that I paid Geoff for the last beer as the others had been cash. I checked my receipt and saw the seafood pie on it so I did pay but I paid for food as well as the Salvator so this had me curious. Some snooping in my phone found talk of fishermans pie so I asked my wife did she had it or did I. My wife laughed and told me I texted her to let her know I was eating fish pie (she was in Drogheda).

I must have left then at some point and walked to Busaras though I do not remember getting there. I do remember walking in though and I lay down beside a pillar and closed my eyes for a bit. I remember two people asking me if I was ok? I was fine, just resting while waiting for my bus. Anyway I sobered up pretty quickly then.
I do remember being in line but it turned out the bus to Galway was express so would not stop in Rochfortbridge. I asked at the service desk what door the next bus would be at and was told 7? That made no sense to me as door 7 was for kells so I ignored the muppet who clearly did not know how to do his job and tried the next bus for Galway which was fine. So at this point I had my faculties back and I was grand. The bust driver was listening to the Irish match on the radio and he seemed to be in a hurry which suited me fine. I got home, called my wife and told her I was getting Chinese and asked what she would like. I had a curry, left half of it for the morning and watched star trek . I also had 4 pints of water which was great as I woke up early and got up with no ill effects.

Anyway I had a great time in Dublin, I just hope I did not do something stupid in the Bull and Castle before I left.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Disapointing beers during the Rugby

Yesterday was a fine day. It was a little cloudy unlike previous days but it was still warm and after a 2km walk with my wife, I got home and started a quick brew before the rugby started. I wanted to enjoy the rugby so I decided to break into my stock of interesting beers I had not tried yet.

First up was the Innis & Gunn oak aged beer. I have to say I have never been more disappointed in a beer before. It looks so promising in its 750ml bottle and its oak barrel aged claim on the label. Add to that, it is a champion beer according to the label also. In the past, I have enjoyed Scottish beer and thought this would be an excellent big beer to have with the Rugby. Wow is all I can say, wow because I was incredibly wrong on all counts about this beer. It is an absolute disaster, a train wreck to my taste buds.
I can certainly taste the oak in the beer, however it is completely overshadowed by an overpowering metallic taste of what I can only assume rusty water would taste like. It completely killed my taste buds while in my mouth and I had to force myself to drink it. I even tried knocking it back real fast as if I was a child forced to take medicine I did not like. This is no way to drink a beer so I poured it down the sink in disgust. The only good thing was I can recycle the bottle and use it for wine (or beer if I like).

Next I decided I would go for a beer that had to be good, Its Fullers and in my book they can do no wrong. So I opened my Fullers 1845 and had high hopes.
I'm afraid I was disappointed by this too, only because I expected so much more than it gave me. I do get the feeling that after the Innis and Gunn that my taste buds were not working so I'm going to have to get another bottle of this some time. I had this at room temperature which was probably about 20c at the time. There was certainly a rich malty character with some fruity undertones and some spice. I get the feeling this might have gone down better with some food. It was nearing dinner time and I had not eaten. I did enjoy this beer, I just think I was overwhelmed by the previous monstrosity and that this is not a session beer and needs something to go with it.
As I neared the end, my wife came in with a bowl of Jambalaya using a kit we picked up in New Orleans at the New year and a bottle of Brooklyn Lager. Spicy Jambalaya and Brooklyn lager it seems is the perfect combination and even sweeter when Ireland narrowly beat Wales in a Titanic show of skill and effort by both teams and won the Championship, Grand slam and Triple crown.

On a different note, My Dark Cerveza is bubbling away nicely. Also we just bottled 6 bottles of peach wine and 6 bottles of Cherry wine.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Ireland are the grand slam six nations champions as well and Tripple crown winners

I'm very proud to be Irish today, what a game. Ireland clearly deserved to win. We had the possession, we were the better team. Wales had a fantastic defence in fairness but we got there in the end. The last 10 minutes were nail biting, Wales managed to get the drop goal I had been fearing putting them just in the lead.

We responded with a drop goal of our own from Ronan O' Gara. Then in the last few moments, we gave away a penalty and thankfully Stephen Jones was just short. Fantastic stuff.

Im celebrating with a beer I got in an off-license in Enfield. La Trappe Quadrupel is a Trappist beer from the Netherlands. It comes in a corked 750ml bottle and at 10% it is pretty strong but not a barley wine by any measure.

I am not one for sweet beers and at first I was unsure but I have decided I like this a lot. Off the nose I am reminded of a Heffe-Weissen and that surprised me as I should not have been. Do I detect some Banana?
It has some nice carbonation and a very sweet but not overly sweet background and then leaves you with a nice 10% buzz you get from a good wine. Some slight spice notes in the background also.
All in all, this seems to have got the right combination of everything right for my tastes. I would rather have a hoppy IPA but this works well.
I had two other beers in between some Brooklyn lager that I will mention tomorrow. Neither were what I hoped for and one I poured down the sink.

A Brew before Rugby (brew #5)

Ireland plays Wales in an hour for a chance at a Grand Slam. Even if they lose to Wales, as long as they do not lose by a certain margin (13 points I think) then they will still win the 6 nations championship.
I took a walk with my wife and when I got back I had decided I might as well use the last of my beer kits as im going Extract from now on.

It is a Muntons Mexican Cereza and again I altered it a little and did it my own way. I used a Brupaks flavapak for Lager and replaced the 1kg of sugar with 500g Light Spraymalt and 500g Dark spraymalt. I considered using a pack of Safale s33 yeast instead of the one that came with the kit but decided in the end to keep it for more interesting brews. This one is more for my wife but chances are I will like it better than she does.

As you can see, my Dark BitterBock is still sitting in its fermenter surrounded by a Black shirt, I'm sure its done but there it does it good to leave it a little longer. I may even rack to a secondary next week as I have a large order from the UK on the way and one item will be a 5 Gallon Better Bottle carboy. I might rack it to that and free up the glass carboy for a large batch of wine.

Remember I said there was a lot of foam and I lost a fair bit of beer? One thing in my order is a foam regulator to prevent this much loss.
Check this out:
Before Fermentation

After Fermentation

Three Interesting beers last week

I spent most of last week drinking my Wheatbeer from my minikeg. With low carbonation from the keg, I wanted to drink it before it lost any more. I did have some more interesting beers during the week and here are three of them.

First up for last week was Fiddlers Elbow from the Whychwood brewery. Last night I had a HobGoblin and I did not like it as much as I did the first time. I wonder was that just me or did they change something? Anyway the Fiddlers Elbow however was excellent. It is an English style Pale Ale. There is plenty of Malt to begin with and then the hops kick in. It was low in carbonation and the head did not last very long as you can see though I am not bothered by a long lasting head in a beer. Plenty of Caramel notes, a little citrus and very drinkable.

Next up is my second beer from Wells. It is the Bombardier Buring Gold. I think this is supposed to be an English Pale Ale, though I found it a little more Lager like for me. It went down pretty well but to be honest I can not remember much about it.
I think this is one for a Summber barbeque as it was light, easy to drink and pretty inoffensive so that anyone used to Carlsberg or other mass produced Lager could easily enjoy it.

Marstons Old Empire IPA. This is an American style IPA which is one of my favourite styles. It was a lovely mix of floral and bitter hops, malt and citrus and infinatly drinkable. Perhaps some grapefruit in the background? If it came down to this or the Burning Gold at a Barbeque then for me I would pick this one.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Brew day # 4 Experiment time

Well here we are, Brew day 4 and this time is my experimental mix. I combined two different kits for this as follows:
Muntons Connoisseur range - Bock
Brupaks Beers of the world - London Bitter
I also used a Brupaks Flavapak for Ale
1kg of Dark Spraymalt
Now a Bock is a bottom fermenting beer and a London Bitter is a top fermenting Ale and im going for an Ale here so I used a different yeast than what came with the kits. I used Danstar Windsor Ale yeast. I am also using my new Glass Carboy for the first time, instead of a standard plastic bucket.

I wanted to boil as much water as possible, even though its a Kit so here is what I did.
I filled a 14.5L pot with 10L of bottled spring water and left that to heat to a boil.
As that started getting near boiling point I boiled 1L of water in a smaller pot and put in my hops and grains. Now the Flavapak has a hop bag and grain bag however the London Bitter also comes with a hop bag and grain bag so in they went and the smell was lovely reminding me of growing up in Dublin and the strong hops aroma around the city. I turned off the heat when I added in the bags and left it for about 15 - 20 mins. I then added in the two cans of Malt extract. One was very dark but sweet and the other was light and bitter, a great combination. I miscalculate on the amount and found that after the first can, there was little room left so I poured some wort into another pot and tried to balance things out. I then poured my hop/grain water into each wort and put them back on to boil for about 10 mins before taking out the bags of grains and hops.

I moved the two pots to a bath of cold water and then brought in my Glass carboy 10 mins later and poured them in (5L of cold spring water already in there). I then topped up with more spring water. Unfortunately I miscalculated how long it would take to cool this down as previous to this I used a lot more cold water than hot. I do have a wort chiller but I have not got it set up yet so in the tub of cold water, I sprayed the carboy with cold water and also ended up adding some ice cubes inside. I got the temp down to about 32c.

I had re-hydrated the yeast almost an hour before I was able to pitch it. I was worried about this as the last time i re-hydrated yeast it did not work out so I also added another sachet of the same yeast and pitched it dry. SG is 1.040 (possibly 1.042)

It only took about 15 to 20 mins for the bubbles to start so as long as I did not get any nasties into it then it should work out wonderful. It is as dark as a porter right now.
It is now bubbling away and the carboy is covered with a thick black shirt to keep out light and the room is being kept at 20c with my remote thermostat controlled panel heater.

My wife also did two batches of fruity wines using Solomon Grundy 7 day wine kits which always turn out excellent, especially when left for a few weeks/months.

Hours later and the foam coming out of the blow off tube is unbelievable. Originally I used a pint glass half filled with water and put that in a little saucepan as I knew it would overflow but that got out of hand so I got a very large pot.

The beer coming out once the foam settles is very dark and very bitter, I think it will work out very nice indeed. It seems my entire wort is coming out the tube but I reckon that is deceiving.

Yay my wheat beer turned out excellent

I have spent the morning and most of the afternoon brewing my new batch of beer (more on that later) and I just took a bottle of my wheat beer out to try. This is the second sampling. Last week I tried it and it was not very carbonated and was very malty and tasted almost like a watery ale.

This time it was very carbonated (perhaps a tad too much) but it tastes great, has a lovely Hefe Weissen taste with banana notes and once the massive head goes down and I can get the whole bottle into a Pint Glass.

Even my wife will drink this.
I'm going to tap a mini keg and hope it does not explode in my face!#

*Update on the minikegs, there is not as much carbonation. I may give up using them for this reason. Not all the bottles have the same carbonation level either. This is due to lack of time and not mixing in the primer correctly some some bottles have more carbonation than others.

Three Bitters and a Porter

Having Recently been down in Cork, I picked up some interesting beers in a Bandon Carry out off-license. I also picked up a few interesting bottles in an off-license in Enfield recently after a nice meal at the lovely Lee's Chinese restaurant. We arrived in time for the early bird menu it seems which is good considering we were celebrating the news that on top of the three day week I was put on back in January, the whole company now takes a 10% pay cut. That was worth celebrating so after dinner I walked up to the off-license to see what they had. Enfield used to be the home of the Celtic brew company and is home of Finnians beer, alas they have not been producing for a number of years and I was hoping I might find an old bottle. I did not but I found a few others beers to add to my collection, one of which is the Porter.

Rather than talking about each bitter, I'm just going to go over them quickly and mention which one stuck in my mind the most. All of them are English bitters. The 1698 and the ESB are both strong bitters while the Brakspear is a more traditional bitter with a lower ABV.
I enjoyed all three of these beers immensely, The English bitter seems to be a style of beer that I can drink with pure enjoyment, just like a good Pale Ale.
All three have a typical strong malt taste dominating at first and then ending up in Bitter Hops. The one I remember most though, that for me stood out was the Fullers ESB. It just had something extra, was smoother and the one I would most likely search out again. If however I can not find one, I will quite happily take either of the others with the Shepherd Naeme 1698 being my second preference.

One other thing, My Wheat beer has now been conditioning for two weeks. Last Saturday I tried a bottle and it unfortunatly tasted nothing like a proper wheat beer, however it was very Malty and these bitters reminded me of the concoction that I brewed, except mine does not have the strong bitter hops. I will certainly drink my brew and with luck it will carbonate a little more as it seemed a little on the low side. I will start my next brew this weekend.

Last night I tried this Porter I picked up in Enfield, I picked up two bottles actually as I thought I might like it from the description. This is my first beer from Wells although I have sampled one of their Young's range. This is the Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills.
If I can sum up this Porter in one word, it would be Luxurious. This is clearly a world class Porter and I would love to do a side by side comparison with the excellent Fullers London Porter I had recently. The Chocolate Malt reminds me of a Cork style Dry Irish stout of which Murphy's is probably the best known world-wide. This was much better than Murphy's, far more complex and at the end of the day is a Bottled Porter and not a Nitro Kegged stout. I know there is such as thing as a bottle of Murphy's thanks to The Beer Nut so I will have to hunt one down but I can not imagine it is as good as this. While drinking, I kept thinking I could smell a smoky aroma and sometimes I could pick it out in the taste. I thought it was my imagination but on doing a little research I found that its not just me. I have heard of smoked beers, indeed VelkyAl over at Fuggled just sampled his Smoked beer and found that it is quite drinkable. I am now in the mind to try brew one myself.
Anyway that is all for now, some excellent beers and I have a lot more to try out.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Leann Folláin alongside O' Haras Stout

Having recently been given a bottle of Leann Folláin I decided to keep it until I had a bottle of my favourite stout so I could try them side by side. I knew the two would be different, I wanted to know just how different so having picked up some normal O' Haras I now have the chance.

Im going to keep this as short as I can. Normal O' Haras from a bottle is absolutely gorgeous. It is full of roast coffee, a little chocolate and just leaves you gagging for more.
The Leann Folláin is as different to this as Dark chocolate is to Milk Chocolate. The normal stout is clearly the Dark Chocolate, full of powerful cocoa and bitterness. The Leann Folláin is the milk chocolate. It is very sweet and syrupy and the mouthfeel is much thicker than normal stout. In fact if Leann Folláin was ever Nitro Kegged I can imagine you could litterally chew it. I personally am not in to the sweet beers so this is something I will probably not try again. I will leave it to others who like this kind of beer to enjoy, it is after all a complex beer and only for the fact I can not appreciate sweet beers I might be singing its praises.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Franciscan Well - Cork (part two)

While we were sitting at the bar, two guys came in and ordered a Bulmers? I said to Dave, and I suppose the girl behind the bar too "What's the point of coming in to a brewpub and ordering a Bulmers?" The girl behind the bar laughed and said I would be surprised at how often it happens.

So anyway, on to the last two beers and my favourites.

First up is Shandon Stout. This is a typical Cork style dry stout. The aroma packs a strong roasted coffee and this follows through when taking a mouthful. It also leaves a lovely Burnt Coffee aftertaste which lingers.
This was Nitro Kegged unfortunately and on asking did they have it in another form like bottle I was told no. She said they used to do Rebel Red in 5L mini kegs but not any more. That was a shame because I knew about that and had planned on buying some to take home. Anyway this was a nice stout, probably not as good as Wrasslers XXXX from the Porterhouse but still a very nice stout.

Finally comes my favourite of the bunch. Purgatory Pale Ale is one of their special seasonal brews. I loved this from the first sip, hell I loved the sound of it before I even tasted it and ordered a Pint before I even got my sample plate. I left the pint alone while I went through the samples as I wanted it to warm up a little.

I love bitter hops and this did not disappoint thanks to the Cascade Hops. It is a dark amber in colour, very dark actually which makes a lie of the Pale Ale style? The Barmaid must have seen me examine it and said that this is a new batch, only released the other day and it is much darker than the last batch. The last batch had been pale like a Lager. I asked about how that impacted the taste but she said she honestly could not remember what the last one tasted like but she loved this new batch. Now I am curious to know what it was like before, I'm going to take a guess that this is a much better batch than the paler version. Anyone any comments? Maybe someone has tried the previous version or better yet, had both.
I sucked this down before Dave was half way finished with his Lager so I ordered another one and took it a little more slowly. This is the kind of Beer I love and could drink them all day.

Later that day when we got back to Bandon on the bus, we stopped off at the closest Off-License for me to see what they had. I remember I liked this place from the last time but I was mainly buying wine and they had a great selection. Of beer they were not so great. I got a few and the one im going to mention now is because it was pretty rubbish.

This is Svyturys Ekstra, a Lithuanian beer. I liked the bottle and I had never had a Lithuanian beer so I gave it a shot. The Ekstra is just a standard Lager. It tasted fair as lagers go but was nothing interesting and I only finished half of it before pouring the rest down the sink.

I was determined to find a good Off-License in Bandon and Dave mentioned one at the other end of town so I would have to check it out.

Franciscan Well - Cork (part one)

I headed down to Cork on Wednesday night to stay with some friends in Bandon. The main (only) thing on my to do list was a visit to the Franciscan Well. If you are not familiar with it, It's a Brewpub which means they brew their own beer on site. I walked in with my friend and ordered a sample platter. I also looked at the menu and liked the sound of the Purgatory Pale Ale so asked for a pint of that (even though its on the sample plate). My friends idea of a beer is a can of Tuborg or a Coors light so I had to educate him. Im going to leave the Purgatory till last as it was my favourite. If you look at the sample plate, I started with the closest one to the right and worked my way around anti clockwise.

First up was the Rebel Lager, It went down smooth and had a slight creamy taste to it. As Lagers go, this was a very nice one but Lagers do nothing for me so I passed it to Dave as I knew he would like it and he certainly did. He ordered a pint of it.

Next came the Purgatory... yum but I will write about that later.

Then came the Rebel Red (at the back) which is probably the most well known beer they do. This was lovely stuff. Kilkenny on steroids... And with some taste as well. I liked this a lot, the only other "red" I can compare it to is O' Haras Red. I think I would need to have more of the Rebel Red to know for certain though. My original plan was to eat food and have a pint of each beer but it became apparent when I walked in that they do not serve food. If they had, I would have sat for hours sampling the beer properly. I will get some Rebel Red next time I am at the Bull and Castle.

Next came the Blarney Blonde. As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of Blonde beers as they usually have a very sweet & fruity undertone which I do not like. This however had no such thing. Delicate is the best word I can use to describe it, almost like a light wine. There were some Citrus notes but there was very little about this beer to keep me interested so I passed it to Dave and as I suspected, he thought it was lovely. My wife would like this beer too.

The last beer on the plate (with one more not on the plate) was the Friar Weisse. This was a pretty nice wheat beer, lighter than most I have had but very drinkable. I gave it to Dave and told him to take a sniff and he eventually realised he could smell the banana.

Schneider Weisse - Hopfen Weisse

When I was at the Bull & Castle, Geoff showed the Hopfen Weisse to me after I got the Brooklyn lager. It is a collaboration between Brooklyn and Schneider. Essentially it is a wheat beer crossed with a Bock I believe. At 8.6% it is pretty strong so I decided to be on the safe side that I would bring it home with me instead of having it there and then as I did not want to be drunk on the bus.
Goeff showed me as best he could in the dark pub how cloudy it is, apparently he was warned not to drink the sediment at the bottom? Im not sure why but I said that I am certainly going to drink it, Its like saying not to push the red button. When i poured it in to the glass, I could see the sediment more clearly and in fact even when it was all in the glass I could see large white chunks floating about, It might be possible to see them in the picture.
All that is left to say about this Beer is that I did not particularly like it. Don't get me wrong, this is a very rich and complex beer and is very interesting. I did not want to stop drinking it, I simply would not buy it again for the simple reason that it was way too sweet for me. It had a rich sweet fruity character that I find in a lot of Blonde beers like Leffe and I do not like it. If you like sweet or fruity beers then this is certainly a beer to try, in fact I would suggest everyone at least tries this beer. I would think more people will love it than not.

**Update August 09** I tried this again yesterday and I have to say I enjoyed it. It is a little sweet yes but I have developed an appreciation for sweeter beers.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

A great afternoon in Dublin - part two - The Porterhouse

On my way towards the Bus stop home, my destination was the Porterhouse. There are a few beers there I have yet to try but one in particular I just had to have.

Wrasslers XXXX. This Nitro Kegged Stout is supposed to be from a recipe popular decades ago. Michael Collins used to drink it apparently. A stout like your grandfather probably drank.
I noted a hint of sweetness, possibly caramel. Plenty of roast Barley and a wonderful after taste. I loved this pint. I will be looking more.

After the Wrasslers I decided to try Plain Porter. I only ordered a half as I did not want to spend an uncomfortable hour on the bus home. Before I took my first sip I wrapped my hands around it in an attempt to warm it a little, two guys sitting beside me asked what I was drinking. I believe they asked about the girly size so I explained about the bus. Anyway we then got into a great conversation about beer and brewing. I told them about brewing my own beer and advised them to check out the ICB website. A third guy showed up then. They are from Cork so I mentioned I am heading there on Wednesday night for a long weekend and will be going to the Franciscan well. Anyway after a few more mouthfuls of the Porter I decided I was disapointed with it, Very surprising as It is exactly the kind of drink I should like. I did not dislike it, I was just expecting a lot more from it.
I think the biggest problem was the mouthfeel and the taste that went with it. If you have ever baked a cake and eaten the mix or even had Ben and Jerry's cookie dough ice-cream then that is what im talking about. There was a floury sort of taste and feel to it. Now perhaps I had a bad example of it or perhaps the wrasslers strong taste had overwhelmed me.
I will certainly give this another go some time.

So that was it, such a great Day. It is days like this that I do not know how anyone can complain about Dublin being a dump. Its a great City.

A great afternoon in Dublin - part one - Bull & Castle

Originally I had planned to head in yesterday to the Bull & Castle in Dublin for the first time. Due to the Ireland V England rugby game, this became impossible so I took the opportunity to bottle my wheat beer. Today I got the bus in and it was brilliant craic.

I arrived at the Bull and Castle, asked for a drinks menu and ordered a Big Daddy IPA. I am a big fan of IPA's, I love any beer with plenty of Hop character. At 6.5% the Big daddy was pretty strong and it had a serious amount of hap character.
It was crisp and clear and had plenty of Bite. I certainly liked this beer. The only thing about it was the fruity undertone I thought was a little too much. That is just me though and I'm sure more people would like the fruitiness than not.
Afterwards I tried a Goose Island IPA for comparison and at 5.9% is a little weaker in alcohol level than the Big Daddy. It has an excellent mix of Hops and Malt. The bottle indicates a fruity undertone but I had to strain to notice and that suited me fine. I liked the Goose Island better than Big Daddy. Its a Chicago beer too, Chicago being my favourite city in the World after Dublin of course and I am a regular visitor there.

While I was having my Big Daddy I also had some food, It is a Gastro Pub after all. I ordered Ribs and Chips (fries). The chips were chunky like wedges and the sauce on the Ribs were excellent. Perhaps some parts of the ribs were a little tough but that did not bother me as it was delicious. I ordered my Goose Island at this point and also a Youngs Double Chocolate Stout so it could sit and warm to room temperature while I ate.

I am a big fan of stouts but I have never had a chocolate stout let alone a double chocolate stout. The most obvious thing about this beer is the Chocolate, it hits you right in the nose and works its way all the way down your to your gut and refuses to let you forget it is there. Also prevalent is the roasted Barley taste. The chocolate is achieved from chocolate malt and also some sort of chocolate powder or cocoa, hence the "Double". I love stout and I love chocolate so you would think I would doubly love this beer. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was great but perhaps it was the fact I had this when I was finished my food but it just felt a little too much for me. This is one I will try again, on an empty stomach next time.

I got talking to both bar tenders while there, from the very moment I walked in actually. While I was eating Jeff appeared. Jeff is also known as Silenus from the Irish Craft Brewers. He spotted a fellow Beer Lover, probably a combination of two decent beers and a notepad in front of me. So I let him know I was Saruman from the Irish craft brewers and we got chatting for a couple of hours. He gave me some great advice on some Beers. While he was showing me one interesting beer, the name of which escapes me, An English Girl came over and asked us about the beer. Apparently she comes to Dublin often and is into the craft brew scene back home. It seems there are even beers in the Bull and Castle that they do not get in England, or at least where she is from. Again I can not recall her name but perhaps she is reading this as Jeff and I gave her a list of websites and blogs to take a look at as well as a list of great pubs that sell craft beer.

One interesting Beer that Jeff got me to try was one I had dismissed as American Muck Beer like Coors etc. The reason was that I have seen it on special all over the place and I thought if it is that cheap it must be crap. Sort of like Milwaukee's Best or some other "American Beer flavoured Water". Don't get me wrong, the Americans make some of the best beers in the world but the ones best known are the crap like Coors, Bud & Miller. Mass produced Ass beer. Anyway the beer im talking about if you have not guessed yet is Brooklyn Lager. This was fantastic! Apparently the distributors got so many in that they have been trying to get rid of them. I for one will be looking for a good few of these at the Off License or Supermarkets. I thought it more like a Pale Ale than an American style Lager. It had a great Hop character. The funny thing is, My brother in Law in the US also brews his own beer and is into his craft brew. I was talking to him on the phone earlier and he has never heard of it. He loves his Sam Adams of course and in fairness to him, before I took beer seriously he gave me a Sam Adams back in 2005 or so and I found it too strong and made a Shandy out of it. He almost cried and I cringe when I think about it.

Well After the Bull & Castle I headed to the Bus stop by the way of the Porter House. More on that tomorrow.