Saturday, 31 December 2011

Bristol Beers

When I was at Steve's house the other weekend, he gave me some beer in exchange for beer I brought up to him. I love it when I get beer from a brewery I have never come across before.

The Bristol beer factory have a nice, simple website that is very effective. They make great use of social media like twitter and even youtube.

Bristol Stout is a 4% bog standard stout. Sweet caramel on the nose with some hints of coffee. In the mouth you find a smooth, low carbonated stout. While thin, it's also a very drinkable session stout. I prefer my stouts a little more bitter, dry and roasty but that's just me.

On the other hand, their Milk Stout is a little less my cup of tea (or coffee). The aroma is like Bristol stout but milky.
It tastes rather like a very milky coffee and is tooth rottingly sweet.
I could feel the cavities forming while drinking it.
An enjoyable beer but hard for me to drink with that level of sweetness.

The Ultimate Stout was hands down my favourite. Not a whole lot on the aroma other than coffee and caramel. When I tasted it though, the beer just came together. It's not complex, not full of amazing flavours or much subtlety. What we have is a very balanced and very tasty strong stout. A sweet toffee concoction with coffee, chocolate some treacle a little alcohol. 

I really liked this one. I look forward to finding some of their other range of non stout beers. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

It's a hardknott life

Steve gave me a few Hardknott beers in exchange for a Shandon Century stout 1 litre bottle. This was at the Belfast beer festival a few weeks back. 

I like Dave and his beers ever since I went to visit him at the woolpack. Since he sold the pub and moved the brewery to Millom, production has upped and his beer is now available around the UK, though I imagine sparsely as his brewery is still very small.
They are still not available in Ireland sadly.

Dark energy is is like static electricity. You know the type, when you wear nylon clothing and you keep getting shocked.
The aroma is a sort of fizzy sherbety sour concoction. Not what I was expecting from a stout but did fit the name.
The taste was odd, I found it incredibly gassy. It was also rather oily and I got a lot of lemon. To be honest, I did not get a whole lot more. I suspect I got a dodgy bottle because I got none of the expected chocolate or roasted notes. By all accounts this is a much more interesting beer.

Far more interesting to me was Code Black. This is a black IPA and all arguments about the stupidity of naming a pale ale; black aside, this is a beautiful beer.
Yes it tastes like hop juice and I love it for that. It may not be the most complex beer I have ever tasted, but it's big and bold and in your face. It's quite thick and has a hint of treacle mixed in with the
big hop profile.

And finally we have Vitesse Noir, a coffee, vanilla and chocolate infused; triple imperial stout. This little bottle packs a punch at 11%abv. The beer is essentially flat with almost no carbonation to speak of. In the case of this style of beer, that was quite welcome, though a little bit of fizz would not have gone amiss. Still it did not detract from the beer. 
The aroma was full of coffee, chocolate syrup and vanilla. 
It tastes like a mocha coffee with alcohol added. It's rather boozy but in that pleasant way rather than a harsh acetone. Creamy with slightly bitter finish. Plenty of treacle in the middle. It is a lovely beer but I shudder to think of the caffeine content because I avoid caffeine usually. 

Monday, 26 December 2011

And now for something completely different: Computer Games = Mega Money

I have not done a non-beer related story in a while and there's no better time than the day after Christmas to do one. Christmas is a quiet time for bloggers as we are far too busy drinking in the festive cheer. Don't worry, I have a number of beer related articles lined up.

For Christmas, I got a copy of the new game in the Elder Scrolls series. Called Skyrim, it takes Oblivion like graphics, turns them up a few notches and leave you with a rather polished and beautiful to behold open world to wander around. Like the previous games, it's open ended. You can ignore the main game plot and do whatever you like. If running around and murdering every living creature is your thing, then go for it.

In terms of how good the game is? Well for starters, this game seems to be in reverse. Previous Elder scrolls games were designed for PC and ported to console but the opposite seems to have happened here. That means that the interface is clearly designed for a console and is not as good as previous games due to the limitations of using a game controller compared to keyboard and mouse.
There are also issues or bugs with the game, namely that changing your keyboard layout does not work very well. You can play the game just fine, but the screen will always tell you to press the default key and does not know that you changed it. This makes dropping items in your inventory a challenge until you figure out that it's the "sheath weapon" key you need to press.

The PC version also has another flaw. It uses steam; even if you buy the physical game in a shop, you still have to install steam. I ran in to problems. Firstly, my email address had already been registered with steam but I could not log in. I also could not reset my password as each time I did, steam sent me a code to unlock my account and it failed. This is a common problem with steam it would seem. I logged a call with the helpdesk but wanting to play the game, I just registered a new account with a different email address and thought I was good to go.

Not so, there is another issue. Steam then decides it needs to go off and download about 3.5GB or more of game data as it does not realise I have a physical disk with the bloody game on it. So more internet trawling to discover a method of forcing it to install off the disk.

A 3rd flaw with steam is that as far as I know, if my internet connection drops at some point, my game will come to an end? I don't know for sure as I have not tested it but it seems that's the case from what I have read. A bloody cheek when I own the game, have a physical DVD in the drive and it's a completely offline game that does not use the internet in any way. Again, there are ways around this but it should not be the case.

Sorry about this post, it was going to be short and mention the immense amount of money made from games these days and it ended up being a sort of game review. Don't let the negatives put you off getting the game though, it is an astoundingly beautiful and immersive game.

Back on point, when I started looking up how to sort my installation issues, I discovered that Skyrim had only been out a month and already had earned $650 million. Yes million!!

I then discovered that Modern warfare 3 earned even more. 1 Billion in 16 days? Those numbers are stunning. Modern warfare made more money than avatar and I would hazard a guess that it cost a lot less to make. Now I see why blockbuster movies usually have a computer game version as well. If the avatar game had made the sort of money that modern warfare 3 did, then James Cameron would be very happy indeed.

Anyway I hope everyone had a great Christmas day. Try not to over eat too much today, I could barely sleep last night while digesting all that food.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Yuletide Greetings

I thought I would celebrate this Christmas eve by mentioning two Irish winter warmer from one of the Irish independents. 
8 degrees brewed A winters ale using only the finest ingredients, and where possible they used ingredients from local sources such as the spice mix which came from Green Saffron.

It's was a mix of toffee with coves and other spices which give a real kick to what is essentially just a strong porter. I found it a little thin but the liquorice middle and spicy finish along with warming alcohol made up for it.

More seasonal specials from the Irish craft breweries please.

Yesterday I picked up my Christmas beer selection from Drinkstore. A mix of winter warmers, standard Irish craft beers and some new world beers. It seems the day before, a shipment of Yule Ól (white gypsy) arrived in the store so the good folks at drinkstore added it in for free.

It was the first beer I drank last night, and the only non standard one. The rest were O'Hara's IPA and Stout.

This is interesting because Cuilan, the former and sometimes current brewer for Messrs Maguire (depending on if they have a current brewer), used to brew Jul Ól. No longer, a new brewer is in messrs by all accounts and he brewed their batch of Jul Ól so Cuilan has changed a single letter in his version.
I doubt they are the same beer, Yule Ól certainly casted nothing like last years Jul Ól.
The in question pours a beautiful rich ruby red/mahogany with a fluffy off-white head. There is a strong toffee on the aroma as well as a shertbety fizz indicating that it will be pretty carbonated. It is quite gassy, perhaps a little too much for my liking, especially in a winter warmer. The alcohol is obvious, though not harsh. It does give a very drying quality down the back of your throat. A toffee and caramel; malt driven body with chocolate and a hint of coffee, a little plum and other dark fruits. I got the slightest hint of cloves but not a lot and there may not even be any in the beer so it could have been a yeast produced flavour.

All in all, the beer is quite nice but too gassy for my liking. You can pick up a bottle in drinkstore of course, or if you want to sit in a pub today or over the Christmas period then The Bull & Castle also got a couple of cases in.

Merry Christmas to everyone and enjoy your beer this Christmas.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Salthouse - Galway

My first (and as yet only) trip to The Salthouse was a few weeks back for the second Beoir AGM. We had the whole bar to ourselves for over an hour while we held our meeting. Our generous hosts provided their bay brewery beers to us for free. What lovely fellows.

I did of course have to buy some beer while I was there. Free beer is all well and good but there were beers I had not yet managed to try. Alternator by the Metalman brewery was on tap so I just had to give it a go. The beer is packed full of carbonation as you might expect from a German & Belgian hybrid wheat beer. The aroma was straw, a little sourness and some bubblegum. In the mouth, the carbonation is very lively. It was fairly wheaty with that nice sourness you might expect from a Berlin styled wheat beer; and a Belgian like spiciness with coriander and pepper. I thought the body was a little on the thin side, which in this case was probably a good thing. I also thought that there was a hell of a lot of flavour, not complex or especially interesting, just plenty of it. The slightest hint of acetone was the only real flaw. A brilliant summer beer I reckon and I'm glad I got it before it was all gone for the season as it's an Autumn special.

The Salthouse itself is tiny, the bar consists of one room; similar in size to the Bierhaus in Cork. It is more American style beer bar than Irish pub, not a bad thing. As the day wore on, more and more locals came in and since I had to get the bus home, I could only stay till about 6ish so I reckon the place gets pretty packed at night. VelkyAl from Fuggled loved Galway the last time he was over and I know this is the sort of place the two of us would happily spend an entire Saturday from opening till closing time.

The Salthouse is owned by the same people who bring us The Oslo in Salthill (Galway) and Against the grain in Dublin. The layout and vibe is similar. No TV, and music is played at a low enough level so you can talk without issue. There are some great beers on tap and plenty more in bottle as well as a cask beer engine, possibly the only one in Galway? 

If you find yourself in Galway and enjoy good beer, then it's somewhere you must get to. In fact it's working making a special trip to Galway to enjoy the fine beer in a friendly environment.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Random Britishness

My wife was over in London a few weeks back and was nice enough to bring me back some beer. She bought them at a market and they purveyor said she was having a Brit fest

First up is Caskade by the Oldershaw brewery in Lincolnshire. The aroma is a lager like biscuit and cereal with a grapefruit citrus bite. On tasting I got a bitter hit up front with a crisp citrus finish.A very dry and bitter beer this and I quite liked it. It's not an interesting beer, it is simply a good sessionable thirst quencher (and generator).

Hmmm A brightly coloured label and a beer called Scotch Madness. The camp label aside, the Madcap brewery have put together something that is quite simply; mad. The beer pours a dark brown and starts off with a fluffy white head but this disappears in moments. It's a little winey with prunes being prominent; some ash and liquorice; brown sugar and olives? Where there hell did the olives come from? 
The beer is very fizzy and also quite thin on body. It's a bit of a malt bomb and the most interesting thing is that there is a saison style sourness to it. The overall effect is a fizzy; sour prune juice concoction. I did like it but it's 8.5% and you can drink it like it's juice. That may just be what makes it Scottish come to think of it as it seems more Belgian to me.

Ebulum elderberry black ale is from the reliable Williams Brothers. Well known for their traditional style herbal infused beers, the Williams boys have produced a nice fruity elderberry porter. It's not especially interesting but that's not the point of the beer. It's simply a very well put together beer that is very pleasant to drink. Lovely stuff.

The Loddon brewery is another one with a camp label. Hullabloo is a British best bitter. There is nothing camp about the beer however. It's a cracking beer actually. The aroma is nutty, a little wine like with dark raisins and other dried fruit. There is a strong caramel malt backbone to this beer with a beautiful earthy hop profile from the fuggles. It tends to lean more towards the sweeter end of the scale. A lovely beer I thought.

The Lancaster brewery use a simple naming system. This is their Black and while dark ruby red is closer to the mark, you can see where they are going with it. The aroma is all molasses; chocolate, fruity, caramel and liquorice. The taste is bitter at first, somewhat thin but packed full of flavour. Molasses, bitter dark cocoa, herbal hops to finish. A lovely beer by any standards.

And finally is Double swan from Elgoods. This is a rather simple pale ale and there is little wrong with that. A crisp nose with earthy hops and caramel. It starts off with a bitter hit down the back of the throat and then moves on to a slightly metallic and dry finish. A good quaffer on a warm day.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A brewdog Christmas.

How do you make a Christmas Porter? Well the method Brewdog used was to take their existing Alice Porter and add some festive fun. They needn't have bothered because this beer just seems wrong for some reason. It's not a terrible beer or even a bad beer, there is just something lacking, something that leaves you wondering why they bothered? For a start, there is little about it that leaves me in a festive spirit. I want a Christmas beer to remind me of Christmas and this did not even come close. It starts off promising with a smoky aroma with hints of coffee, fizzy sherbet and caramel. It suffers when you taste it and are instantly assaulted by an overpowering bitter orange pith, a sort of Jaffa Cake beer but without the sweetness that backs up a Jaffa cake. It was just plain weird for me, I still enjoyed it but it was just a weird beer. My advice is to just drink Alice Porter and not this Bastardised version.

Old word Russian imperial stout. That's a bit of a mouthful. The interesting thing is that there is no mention of brewdog on this beer at all. In fact the only indication it was made by them is the signature of James and Martin on the back. In actual fact this is Rip Tide in a pretty frock. It's Brewdog creating a stores own brand so to say. Most of the 10,000 bottles went to Total Wine in the US so that's the most likely place you will find it, other than on the brewdog website for sale.

Unlike Christmas Porter, this beer (Rip Tide) is shockingly beautiful. The aroma starts off on a high with liquorice and caramel morphing into milk chocolate, vanilla and a hint of espresso. It's hard to believe that the wonderful aroma can be topped but from the first sip, this beer draws you in and surrounds you in a blanket of comfort. Silky smooth, luscious chocolate and caramel prove a sweet backbone to what is actually a rather bitter beer. Plenty of bittering hops are used and the effect is a burnt coffee bean finish. The whole beer just comes together perfectly with almost none of the 8% abv making itself known. There is only the slightest hint of booze, hidden behind the complex rich body.
An astounding beer. Get this one for Christmas instead and don't worry about Christmas spices that would just ruin the experience if beery excellence.

Thanks to Steve for the bottles.

Friday, 16 December 2011

When brewers go mad for Christmas

I mentioned last month, the secret Christmas ale I was asked to brew for a large Irish brewery. It was never to see the light of day, just an internal competition for brewers. It could be anything they liked but the idea was to make it festive. I was given a recipe that was never brewed, and with good reason because it was rubbish and made no technical sense.

Well I got the finished product. And in fairness it looks the part. Theirs is on the left* and mine on the right. They filtered theirs and it looks quite appetising. I am comparing theirs with my bottle conditioned version as the keg is long gone and the kegged version was of course a lot clearer, though not as much as their filtered batch. 

They decided that my Christmas cheer was too subtle, as in they could not taste it. Weird because it was pretty obvious to me and most others that tasted it, though they were beer geeks like me. Anyway they wanted more cheer so they went a little overboard with spices, especially the cloves.

What they ended up brewing was a clove bomb. It was almost undrinkable but I did battle through my two bottles. I had been intending to bring the second one up to Steve last weekend but I forgot it. He does however have a bottle of my bottle conditioned version so maybe he can leave a comment with his thoughts. Was there enough Christmas cheer for you Steve?

Baring in mind, the recipe I put together was as close to the boring recipe they gave me that I could make and still have it in some way worth drinking. Had I been brewing a Christmas beer of my own accord, I would certainly be using more interesting ingredients, starting with a more interesting yeast instead of a Neutral one.

As it turns out, they did not win the competition with their beer. They would have failed on the beer alone but in fact the best beer does not necessarily win, it's the best overall presentation so labelling and spiel behind the beer goes a long way. Interestingly when I gave them the bottle conditioned version, I was told that had they brewed my recipe exactly, they might have won it. When I gave them the samples from the keg, it was only a day old and force carbonated at that. The kegged version did condition nicely and after a couple of weeks it was beautiful.

Moral of the story? Professional brewers in mega breweries should listen to small scale brewers a bit better.

*If you zoom in a little, you might figure out the brewery in question. No names though.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Oh for something sessionable...

This is my first outing with Norwegian beer full stop. Nøgne Ø is a microbrewery that seems to have a bit of a reputation for making some very fine beers. I love that drinkstore stocks them but they are shockingly expensive. That said, the good folks at drinkstore said that they have had Norwegians enter the store and be pleasantly surprised that the beer is so cheap. It's far more expensive in Norway it seems. Finally some revenge for the fact that I can buy Irish whiskey in almost any other country, far cheaper than I can in the county it was produced.

Starting off with the Pale Ale. At 6% this is the lowest abv of all the beers. And so begins an ever increasing alcohol level for me to get through. This is your typical American style pale ale, though it's more like an American IPA. The beer is good, well made and is exactly what I would expect from an American influenced pale ale. It is not worth the price though, and considering the beer is even more expensive in it's native Norway, I wonder where you have to go to get it at a reasonable price?

Taking a jump in the abv scale, the IPA is almost the same as the pale ale, except for the 7.5% abv starts to show with a little booziness. Other than that, I think I preferred the pale ale.

An Imperial India Pale Ale next? Why not. This 10% monster makes a mockery of the term pale ale. It's as dark as a porter or dark mild. I'm not getting much of an IIPA vibe off this at all. It's more like a barleywine but no where near is IPA like as Bigfoot for instance. Dark fruit of the forest, port wine and toffee dominate this beer once you get through the booze. Don't get me wrong though, this is a beautiful beer and very nice to drink as a winter warmer. Imperial IPA though? Well it's not like any I have ever had before.

I thought I might be in for something a little different after all these pale ales. I was wrong. #100 as you can probably guess, is/was their 100th brew. It is another Imperial IPA meets barleywine but it was a little more interesting. Rum and raisin chocolate bar, prune juice, toffee and sherbet dominate this one. It's also easier to drink as the booziness is more subdued leaving your tongue to enjoy the flavours instead of being raped by acetone.

Oh for feck sake. Do we really need a porter with an ABV of 7%?? Really?? Toffee, vanilla, brown sugar and a hint of coffee are the main players in this one. A slight acetone finish just ruins it for me. It's a nice beer but 7% is just too strong for a beer that should be sessionable.

The Saison on the other hand I was expecting to be high in alcohol. Surprisingly it was less than the porter at only 6.5%. I think this might have been among my favourites as it was incredibly drinkable and the 6.5% was not much in evidence. A yeasty fruity bouquet in the aroma with a hint of sour candy. I thought it tasted like a cross between a German wheat beer and a saison, but what is a saison really? It could be anything when all is said and done. Banana, yeast, spices (perhaps not clove though), digestive biscuits. A tart sourness complements it nicely. Weirdly though, I thought it had a very oily finish. It was like an oil slick down the back of my throat, or maybe some cough syrup. I don't think that detracted from the overall beer though. I loved it.

An imperial stout, just what I need. This one is 9% and thankfully it does not show it as much as some of the other beers. It pours like bottled oil, perhaps bot as viscous of course but certainly the same colour. Absolute black, the sort of black that you expect dark matter to look like. Perhaps that's why we can't find any in the universe? The Norwegians have bottled it all, either that or drinking this beer will have Nibbler like fecal results. Anyway, enough shiteing on about... well shite. The beer is certainly not that, it's rather lovely actually. A sort of fruity cocoa concoction with a hint of coffee. A little vanilla is hiding in there somewhere as well as a slightly lactic sourness to keep things interesting. I did think it was a lot thinner than I expected, considering the that time and space was being drawn in to the glass. That just made it easier to drink.

And finally comes the Christmas beer. A bit of a bah humbug here I'm afraid. Only in the sense that I could not detect any Christmas spice nor captured Christmas cheer. Of flavour though, there was plenty to keep me interested at any time of the year, though this was perhaps my least favourite of them all. It's a sort of fruity porter style with chocolate, prunes and coffee dominating. A little vanilla and some booziness finish it off. It's nice enough but a little nutmeg or cinnamon might not go amiss. Something to make it more a Chrismas beer and not just another porter.

My experience of Nøgne Ø was mixed then. On the one hand I thought they were all excellently made beers and I would happily drink any of them again. Just so long as someone else was paying of course. The cheapest of them was €6.50 with most being closer to €7. There are a few more available in drinkstore and I'm not sure I will try them. I have already used the word booziness a record number of times in one post so I think I will try some normal earthbound abv beers now.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fullers vintage ale compare

A number of weeks ago (October), I did a comparison of two bottles of Fullers Vintage Ale. One from 2000 and the other was 2010. I wanted to see how the beers had changed over the last decade (and over).
I held off on writing about it because Steve Lamond from BeersI'veKnown invited me up for a vertical tasting from 1999 through to 2011 (with the exception of 01 and 03).

We did that this weekend and Steve's full report is here.

For this I will just deal with the difference I found with my two.

Darker with a woody, fruity aroma. It tastes sherry like. Strong woody, more bitter, a little boozy. Lovely stuff. 

A little lighter in colour, an aroma of strong fruit, caramel malt, prunes. All the aroma is packed in to the taste with the addition of a little liquorice.

Both beers were fantastic of course but I preferred the 2000 vintage. The most amazing thing was just how drinkable they all were, apart from an infected bottle from 2008. Since I have had a 2008 before and it was perfectly fine, it shows it as a once off and not a batch issue.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The second European beer bloggers conference announced - Have you booked your place?

While Burton upon Trent may have been on the cards, it seems that next year the location will be Leeds.
I did spend a month in Leeds many years ago but that was during my non drinking hiatus so I have no idea what the place is like for beer, however it according to the announcement, a lot of people put it forward as an excellent location.

To make matters even better, the lovely people at Molson Coors have set up a scholarship type thing. They way I read it, the first 100 applicants who agree to write at least one article (why else would we go?) will get a refund. I'm not sure when we know if we are getting the refund but either way it will be appreciated  in my case as I have to fly from Ireland and of course stay in a hotel.

The good news is that the venue, the Metropolitan Hotel, has room rates set at £69 single or £79 double for conference attendees. Not bad for a 4 star hotel I reckon.

Hopefully this time around I will not be the only writer from Ireland heading over.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Move along, nothing to see here....

I get to be lazy today. My blog post is hosted over on fuggled so take yourselves on over there and have a good read.

I will be heading up north to spend the weekend with Steve Lamond from BeersI'veKnown. Serious beer research will be done.

Happy Friday everyone.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

It was only a winters tale....

It may not be the end of the world, Martians are not invading that I know of but the end to Summer and now Autumn have come and gone. In Ireland, winter begins in November and we are now in December. There is no better time than to drink a beer called Old Winter Ale from Fuller's. At 5.3%, this is not what you might consider a typical strong winter ale. I think I would consider myself disappointed with this beer. I love so many of the Fuller's range that it is often a real shame when I come across something I don't instantly love. There is nothing wrong with the beer, there is just nothing to make it stand out as a winter warmer. Caramel, nuts and dried fruit make up the backbone of the beer. A nice earthy hop bitterness complements the middle and a drying and crisp finish.
All in, A lovely and well made beer but a beer that can be enjoyed at any time of the year and not just during the winter. Perhaps it's only that it is slightly stronger than your average British ale that makes it a winter warmer? A Fullers Vintage ale it is not, and that's what I would rather have as a Winter warmer.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Tig Neachtain - Galway

While walking through Galway a few weeks back, I happened upon this sign outside Tig Neachtain. I knew they advertised speciality beers and had walked past many times. I had never gone in because the place was always packed to bursting. This time however, it was a Saturday morning so what better time to take a look?

I ordered my pint of Opus II which as it turns out is a dark wheat beer. It's brewed by Galway Hooker and is quite possibly the same dark wheat beer they brewed a couple of years back that tasted so fantastic on cask at Easterfest. Unfortunately it was served in a Guinness glass, and since it's almost black with a big fluffy head, no one would be any the wiser and would assume I am drinking a Guinness. 

I took my beer in to a little back section of the pub and sat at a table to read and enjoy my pint. I had a little time to kill before I was to meet the Beoir contingent at The Salthouse. Well the place was lovely, a real rustic feel. I believe they do serve food but they had a table (see image above) laid out serving hot soup when I was there. 
For the beer itself, since I have had it before and written about it, this time I will just pop in a cyclops report.
S dark with tan head. Almost like a Guinness but much lighter. Dark ruby red.
S roast barley. chocolate, sour, slight spice. 
T Thin only in the sense it's easy to drink. The sourness is lovely as is the bitter burnt coffee and chocolate. Spicy mouth tingling finish. Quite carbonated as its a wheat beer. 

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Session #58 - Bah Humbug

Well feck it anyway. Bah humbug. Down with that sort of thing - careful now. Phil Hardy has picked a rather simple theme, yet one that is very difficult to write about. This months session topic is A Christmas Carol.
Hmmmm what the hell do I write about? 

Beer of Christmas past.
Beer has never truly been a part of Christmas in my family.
The only part beer played was when my mother made the Christmas pudding, she used bottled Guinness. I of course was allowed to taste it. I hated it of course, I was only a young boy and it was far too bitter. So I suppose that Guinness is the closest thing to a beer of Christmas past I have. In my house, Sherry, Port, wine and lambrusco made up the Christmas alcoholic drinks list. We were always allowed some lambrusco, though I was never denied some sherry. It was the only time of the year I had alcohol, even after I was old enough to legally drink.

Beer of Christmas Present.
I will take any decent beer as a Christmas present thank you very much.... However in terms of what beer I drink (if any) at Christmas these days? I don't recall to be honest. I think in recent years I have either gone to my own family for Christmas, in which case I was likely driving and therefore not drinking, or else I was in the US with my wife's family and drinking mostly wine. There was a good reason for the wine instead of beer. The beer my father in law bought was utter crap. Miller High Life light or pretty much whatever was cheapest. He did love his Whiskey though so we drank a fair bit of that as well. Also my mother in law is a big wine drinker. We have gone on many winery tours together. It also helps that Michigan has some fantastic wineries. 

Beer of Christmas future.
This year, we are going to my family for Christmas and since my wife is working the next day, we will spend the night. That means I can drink so I will probably be bringing some beer along and let the rest of the family suffer the lambrusco. Actually I vaguely remember that the last time I was served a load of lambrusco I felt very ill within minutes with stomach cramps. I think it's a combination of the cold temperature and the sugar. The same thing happens if I drink too may margaritas or frozen cocktails. Beer is just safer for me as it requires a hell of a lot to have any ill effects and those are managed by keeping hydrated with water.
I'm not sure what I will drink this Christmas, but it will probably be of the winter warmer variety. Perhaps a few Fuller's vintage ale or maybe a Samichlaus, now there is an idea. There is no better beer for Christmas day.

For now, why not enjoy one of the better Christmas ads on TV, topped only by the Barry's tea Christmas ad on radio and the Coca Cola "Holidays are coming" ad.

Merry Christmas and here is hoping for an unseasonably warm and if needs be, rainy Christmas. We had our white Christmas last year and I would rather not repeat the experience in Ireland, though every Christmas in Michigan was of course white, but they can handle the snow over there. Ireland can't.

I will leave you with this. Phil asked the question: Was Scrooge perhaps a beer geek? I have no reason to believe that's so. However Charles Dickens, in one of his books called The Old Curiosity Shop does write:
"Did you ever taste beer?" "I had a sip of it once," said the small servant. "Here's a state of things!" cried Mr Swiveller, raising his eyes to the ceiling. "She never tasted it — it can't be tasted in a sip!"

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Mac Daddy

I have had a beer from Mac's brewery in New Zealand before, and it was not worth writing about to be honest. That was Mac's Gold, an all malt lager that was over-carbonated and just boring. Though there was nothing wrong with it. I figured it was a one off freak occurrence in an off-license in Cork and I would never come across any of their beers again. I was wrong. 

From the same off-license in Bandon I came across 6 packs of the stuff a few weeks back. So I bought one of each, except for the Gold of course.

Sassy Red is what they call a Best Bitter. Well it's certainly not an English style best bitter, that's for damn sure. The aroma is a little meh, possibly confusing. A little caramel is all I could get, though in fairness I was drinking them from the fridge. It tastes a little more interesting and I would hope so, they use five different malts in the grist. A sort of caramel backbone with a little biscuit and buttery notes add some flavour to this watery beer. I'm of two minds here because on the one hand, I describe it as a watery uninteresting red ale. On the other, I rather enjoyed it and so did my friend so I think it makes a good session beer, if ever so slightly strong at 4.5%. 

I had higher hopes for Hop Rocker for the simple reason that although it's a Pilsner (or Pilsener as they say), it happens to be hopped with Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops. I can't think of a better hop combination for a new world Pilsner so I looked forward to it. I was only slightly disappointed with the beer, bearing in mind that I had set the bar quite low from the previous experiences. The aroma is a little citric but not a whole lot, again I did have them from the fridge so the lack of aroma is nothing to go by. When I tasted Hop Rocker I certainly experienced a good citrus bite. There was a little caramel and a very pleasant mouthfeel and a nice lingering bitterness. A slightly metallic twang was the only possible downside. I really enjoyed this beer and would very much love to try this on tap some day.

It would seem Mac's has been around for 30 years now, so they might be aiming to please the masses and accountants with slightly blander beers, while keeping the marketing fun and exciting. Of the three beers I have had, Hop Rocker was the best but none had stood out. If I was in need of a quick 6 pack then these are perfect as they were about €10 and interesting enough to enjoy compared to even a 6 pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager, but if I had a little more choice there are certainly other beers I would much rather drink.