Too late I noticed a tweet on the Friday inviting me to the press room for a beer tasting. Not to worry though, I was invited up again on the Saturday. After the convention was over, I headed up to the press room for some beer with Will Hanrahan from Alltech along with some other beer bloggers and brewers from around the world.
Bear with me here because there's a lot of beer in this post.
Technically, I had Cascade Pale Ale by the Saltaire Brewery earlier at one of the other convention sessions but I'm sticking it in here because, well I just am. Quite bitter up front and then a nice citrus kick a few moments later.
It's a good low ABV American Pale Ale at 4.8%. Don't let the name fool you, there's more than cascade in the beer, they also use centennial. Those are hop varieties by the way, just for those who don't know.
And now for something sort of special, though only because it's not available in Ireland and there's such a mythical status to the brewery, or at least to one beer in particular. This is not that beer unfortunately, oh and the beer I'm talking about is called Dark Lord. There's a load of bollox attached to getting your hands on it. A bit like Westvleteren 12 actually. This beer is Blackheart, an English style IPA from the infamous Three Floyds brewery in Indiana. There's quite a sweet orange. It's very bitter, partially from the hops but also a bitter orange pith sort of thing. A strong caramel body and all around lovely beer. The orange citrus hop bitterness lingers for a considerable time. It might not be Dark Lord but it's a fantastic beer nonetheless.
From Ommegang, we have Hennepin. It's a sort of a saison but I thought it was a bit of a mess. Lavender aroma with lemon and banana esters and a peppery finish. It's pretty strong too at 7.7% but I'm not sure I liked it. I think the lavender out me off. It's not something I appreciate in beer but other tasters around me did and beer being subjective to the drinker means that it's probably worth trying to find out if you like it or not.
Three Philosophers on the other hand was far more to my liking. Here's a little Spiel about it.
Three Philosophers is a remarkable limited edition strong ale brewed by Brewery Ommegang in response to a home brewer’s description of his dream beer. Realbeer.com, the internet’s largest beer website, hosted a contest called “Create a Great Beer.” Brewery Ommegang was chosen by Realbeer.com to brew the Belgian-style ale for the winning essayist. Noel Blake, a home brewer from Portland wrote the winning description for what his “dream beer” would be like.Isn't that fantastic? To write a description of your ideal beer and then a brewery goes a brews it for you. Three Philosophers is a real sipper, it's approaching wine strength at 9.7% so you want to savour it slowly.
We start off with a little cherry sweetness before a slight sour tang kicks in. As you might expect, it's pretty sweet but I didn't find it cloying or overpowering. No doubt there's a little more complexity going on than I was able to detect. Remember, I had been essentially drinking beer since 11am and it was now about 6pm so my palate was getting somewhat fatigued. A beautiful beer though.
Ah Founders, one of my favourite Michigan breweries. Dirty Bastard often appears on lists of interesting beer names. It's one I have had before at the brewery but it was great to have it again. It's classed as a Scotch ale and I wonder is that more to do with the peaty smokiness than the style itself? What we have here is a malt bomb with barely a hint of hop bitterness until you get to the end, there it starts to make its presence known. What a wonderful beer.
From the Boulder Beer Company we have Mojo IPA. Amarillo is the hop of choice here which lends it a real orange citric character with a little lemon thrown in. It's incredibly orange pithy before mellowing out with a little passion fruit. There's the tiniest hint of ammonia which made me think of citra but if there's citra in here, they are not saying.
Now we have three beers from the Spearhead Brewery in Canada. The first one was a Belgian Stout, yes it looks like a bottle of homebrew where even the homebrewer couldn't be arsed with a decent label. It was a good effort but I think it suffered somewhat from the heat by the time I had it. I would like to try it in better condition.
Moroccan Brown is a lovely beer with an almost saison like quality. A little bit of sourness and plenty of dried fruits like raisins along with a bit of dark chocolate. I found it incredibly easy to drink and moreish.
I was a little dubious about Hawaiian Style Pale Ale because in Ireland, a very popular pizza is Hawaiian style where pineapple is a topping. Some Asian takeaways also stick pineapple in some of their dishes. I don't think pineapple as any place in food, especially on pizza. Imagine my horror to find a beer with pineapple juice in it. In actual fact, I didn't hate it. I rather enjoyed it if I'm honest. The pineapple was subtle and didn't interfere with what was a rather tasty pale ale.
It seems all of the Spearhead beers use some sort of additional ingredients other than water, malt, hops and yeast.
Old Guardian from Stone is a beer that elicited a certain wow factor in me when I tasted it. I tasted it again to make sure and I was still somewhat in awe. Citrus and prunes up front and while the warming alcohol is there, it just doesn't seem like 11%. This is a beer to sip and enjoy, ideally while sharing with someone else.
I don't really have any better notes than this because I was deciding I should just enjoy the beer and let others write better notes.
By now, taking notes was becoming a chore. My note for Birra and Blues: Double Malta was "err...". Hmm... That's not helpful so either I couldn't be arsed with the note taking or it was a terrible and confusing beer. I'm leaning towards the latter.
I rallied myself a little for Nota Bene from the Ben Middlemiss Brewery in New Zealand. Drinking a load of water and eating some sandwiches to cleanse my palate. Notes of chocolate, caramel and a little lactic sourness made for quite a nice beer. I believe I have a bottle at home and that makes me happy.
From the same brewery is Hodgson IPA. This was a bit of a stand out beer, one of the best beers all day in fact. Another "wow" beer. It's a marmalade bomb with a little spiciness and some serious fruit flavours. The word heavenly comes to mind when I think back on this beer. I suspect I might have to go to New Zealand to ever try it again.
Jopen Adriaan witbier is actually more a gruit. Herbs and spices are used instead of hops and the interesting thing is that the hops aren't missed. It tastes like a bog standard wit, perhaps better than some. Coriander, lemon and a peppery spiciness combined with a very pleasant mouthfeel, slightly more full than most wits. I was pretty impressed.
Bronckhorster's Nightporter is a wonderful foreign extra stout. It's 8% but didn't quite seem it. Strong coffee and vanilla but also quite sweet. I thought it was a lovely beer.
Also an excellent beer was Royal RHA IPA. It was a pleasant mix of citrus and pepper.
Bayernbräu Dunkel was rather interesting. It was a bog standard dunkelweisse with some nice banana and clove notes but that's not what's interesting. It actually hails from Mexico of all places. That's not very apparent on the bottle.
I don't recall what this tasted like at all. I didn't take any notes and it was the last beer before we left the press room. Tintin Toit is from the Toit brewpub in Bangalore of all places.
Some of these beers I managed to leave the press room with in my bag. 20 bottles in all so I'll get to taste some again but the rest were beers I either didn't get to try or just wanted to drink again.
My thanks to Will for hosting us thirsty bloggers and brewers for the evening. And of course my thanks again to Alltech for being putting on a great convention.