Showing posts with label Ale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ale. Show all posts

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Quart of Ale± #61. On the craft journey with a mixed session, rounded off by a superb Yellow Belly "Red Noir"

A Quart of Ale± #61

On the craft journey with a mixed session, with this superb Red Ale the final can of the four. 

Yellow Belly “Red Noir” Dark Red Ale 4.5%, 440ml can Bradleys

They say it’s a dark red and it is, very dark, more black than red with a slim milky-coffee coloured head (shortlived). Aromas, caramel and toasted malt, are pleasant, if modest. You get much the same but more intense on the palate, caramel, chocolate prominent here. It is very smooth, very flavourful, very dark. Just wondering have Yellow Belly come up with a new style here, the dark Irish red ale?

They say: How a Red Ale is supposed to taste. Mild aromatics of sweet toasted malt and light smoke entices the drinker to this dark decadent red ale. What follows is a velvety smooth beer with a complimentary combination of chocolate and dark forest fruit flavours on the tongue. 

Style: Dark Red Ale

The Wexford brewery didn’t quite realise that it had a big hit in this one in its earliest incarnation, regarding it as a seasonal if not a one off. But popular demand has its way and, since early this year, they responded to demand and now Red Noir is part of their core range. I can understand why and very happy that the Belly took notice! Tending more toward the simple than the complex yet simply superb!

Geek Bits 

Malts - Irish Pale, Cara Gold, Wheat, Roast Barley

Hops - Cascade, Huell Melon.

Mescan “Seven Virtues” Lager 4.9%, 330ml bottle O’Briens Wine

It’s got the nice golden lager colour and billions of bubbles rising up to the soft white head. A bit of citrus and grass (not that grass!) in the aromas. On the palate, it is a bit more than your usual lager - it is after all dry-hopped. But it is crisp and refreshing, easy-drinking. Well worth a try!

They say: Virtues lager is the first in a series of one-off brews. Crisp and slightly dry hopped, a nod in the direction of both tradition and innovation.  Serving Temp 2 - 4 °C. Note that serving temperature, somewhat lower than usual.

Mescan always pay attention to matching their beers with food and last year even invented the Mescan Food-Pairing Wheel, designed to take the angst out of matching beer and food. It’s an easy way to pair each Mescan craft beer with the foods that complement it. It’s available on the website and is easily printable from a pdf format. It’s a useful resource for all the home chefs who are exploring new options in their kitchens during the pandemic.

The Mescan Food-Pairing Wheel was developed by Inge Roels, a Belgian expert in food-pairing who has worked with the brewery since its early days. She has produced a guide for nine Mescan beers so far – Mescan Blond, Westporter Stout, Mescan White, Mescan Red Tripel, Mescan Extra, Mescan Saison, Mescan Special Reserve, Seven Virtues Lager and Seven Virtues Lambik.

“Mescan craft beers are exceptionally suited to enjoying with food”, said Cillian Ó Móráin of Mescan Brewery, “We were inundated with queries as to the best pairings from consumers and from restaurants and bars. We wanted to create something simple yet effective that would help people enjoy our beers with the optimum foods – hence the Mescan Food-Pairing Wheel was born”.

Check it out here to see what goes with this lager. 

Rascals with Hopfully “Siamese Dream” Pale Ale 4.5%, 440ml can Bradleys

This Pale Ale collaboration between Rascals and Hopfully brings you a bagful of Far Eastern flavours, specifically coconut, pink guava and lime zest (all listed as ingredients).

There’s a hazy yellow colour. Aromas are rather modest. But it certainly delivers on the palate reaching, as promised, every corner with aromatic sweet pink guava, lime zest and coconut. A delicious easy-drinking ale, nicely-timed for the summer!

They say: The beer is brewed with Sabro and Sorachi Ace hops. The latter is a Japanese hop known for its lemon, coconut and even bubblegum properties. Meanwhile, Sabro hops offer fruity and herbal flavours and aromas, with noticeable coconut, sweet citrus and tropical fruit characteristics. Overall you’ll get a nice coconut hit up front, followed by a gorgeous tropical sweetness from the guava, and then in the finish there’s a spirited citrus payoff from the lime zest. Oat malt and Vermont yeast ensure a smooth mouthfeel and enticing hazy appearance.

For the geeks

Malt: Pale Malt, Torrified Wheat, Oat Malt

Hops: Sabro, Sorachi Ace

Yeast: Vermont

Other: Lime Zest, Coconut, Pink Guava Puree

ABV: 4.5%

Otterbank Brewing “Mates Rates” Tart Session IPA 4.9%, 440ml can Bradleys 

Poured this a little too vigorously and got myself quite a head, a head that was slow enough to sink. Actually a fingerful of that head gave me the clue that citrus would be a factor. Light gold is the colour and there’s no shortage of carbonation activity. And citrus is a key feature on the palate; refreshment’s another. A sour for sure but a well balanced one. Sour is not my favourite style but the balance here keeps me onside.

Otterbank are described as a brewing and blending outfit and the brewer is none other than Declan Nixon of Yellow Belly, themselves known for their sours. Otterbank is a bit on the side. By the way, this was brewed at Third Barrel by and for Otterbank who are based in Muff, Donegal.

The label also informs us that the malts are Pils, Cara, Clair, Wheat, and Oats while the hops are Pacifica and Citra (used in the dry-hopping).

By the way, Session is also used on the label. I’d have thought that the abv would have to be at 4.5 or under to earn that tag. What do you folks think?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Quart of Ale± #28 Moving on over to craft. With A Variety of IPAs

A Quart of Ale± #28

Moving on over to craft. 

With A Variety of IPAs

Kinsale Black IPA 5%, 500ml bottle via O’Donovan’s Mayfield 

A hybrid beer, according to the Kinsale brewery, giving us the best of the IPA and Stout styles where West Coast US meets South Coast Cork. 

And that about sums it, this dark beer, another with a short-lived head (coffee coloured). Hints of the coffee and cocoa to come in the aromas. But the big ambush comes with the palate experience, the light touches from the IPA side, the dark deep stuff plus the creamy mouthfeel from the stout side, complex fruity elements holding their own as the coffee and chocolate notes push forward. Somehow there is a harmony right through the dry and very satisfactory finish. This has been spot-on since day one (2016), and a favourite here since first tasted.

They say: This bad boy is a beer lover’s dream come true. We have taken the amazing hoppiness of our IPAs, tuned it to perfection, and fused it together with the roasted malt backbone of a stout to create a hybrid beer that represents the best of both styles. Expect citrus, pine and berry notes to be suddenly ambushed by flavours of coffee, cocoa and liquorice. Pair with Blue cheese, Chocolate brownie. Hops used are Centennial, Citra and Vic Secret. The IBU number is 60.

Sierra Nevada “Northern Hemisphere” Harvest Wet Hop IPA 6.7%, 12 fl ozs bottle via Bradley’s

They promise hops and they deliver with a punch in a dark amber robe, an off white head quickly sinking to a lacy disc. And there are bubbles galore rising. Quite complex in the mouth, earthy and fruity and then a long and bitter finish. 

Quite a concentrated shakehands (it is 6.7% abv) from this Nevadan, one to remember. It took me a few sips to get comfortable with it but soon we were hanging like long-time buddies.

Easy enough to promise hops if your source is the Yakima Valley (Washington state) as it, according to Wikipedia, produces 77% of all hops grown in the United States. Sierra Nevada get theirs shipped to the brewery within 24 hours to “capture hop aroma and flavour when they’re most profound”.

They say: Northern Hemisphere drops you into a hop field, the beer’s profound flavor like strolling under the lush canopy. This year, we picked Centennial hops at their peak, rushing the harvest into our brew kettles the very same day to make a wet hop IPA loaded with notes of citrus blossom, rose, and pine.

Malts: Two-row Pale, Caramelized malts

Hops: Wet Centennial

Yeast: ale yeast

IBU: 67

Whiplash “Northern Light” Micro IPA 2.8%, 440 can via Bradley’s

Hazy mid-gold is the colour of this Whiplash IPA and yet another short-lived head. It may well be micro in terms of abv but nothing shy about the hops, both in the aromas and on the palate. There’s a full-on blast of the more exotic fruits thanks to the generous input of Vic Secret and Mosaic hops. Big on flavour, low on alcohol, an excellent beer and ideal for a session.

The introduction of  ‘Micro IPA’ was “one of our proudest moments of 2018”, according to the brewery. And we punters  lucky to have it. “When we dropped Northern Lights at Hop City last April we thought we’d be crucified for bringing a knife to a gun fight of 10%+ IPA’s. Instead, people came to us and said this stuff is rocking, fun, and accommodating of the sesh. We thought so too. So much was the fun of drinking our 2.8% hop bomb over those weeks that we decided, fuck it, let’s keep this beer on year round. That July we rolled out Northern Lights as a year round offering and man it’s fun to have around.”

So successful has it been that they’ve “built a brewery around being able to deliver this consistently and year round. Still packing a base of German Vienna, Wheat, Oats and a touch of super light Caramalt - this short arsed banger is tasting the best it ever has thanks to all the silly kit we’ve put in to make it sing.” 

Metalman Fracture Rye IPA 6.5%, 330ml can via Ardkeen QFS

Colour is a light amber, millions of micro-bubbles rising in the cloud. Aromas are slightly sour, perhaps that kveik yeast having its say. Fruity and lively on the palate, a tang of spice as well, and then a dry finish (almost Campari like). Probably the most impressive of the Metalman beers in recent weeks (the American style Pale Ale and the Equinox Wheat Lager were the others).

They say: brewed with a Norwegian farmhouse yeast called kveik, this rye is full of soft fruit notes, combined with the spiciness of rye and complemented by Azacca and Citra hops. Ah sure go on then! It’s not pasteurised or finely filtered, so store in the fridge if possible (but not for long).

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A Quart of Ale± #23 Moving on over to craft with Red Ale

A Quart of Ale± #23

Moving on over to craft

Red Ale (Part 1)

Is Red Ale an Irish style? In the 1970s, beer writer Michael Jackson is credited with giving the tag to Smithwicks. According to World Atlas of Beer, American beer competitions started awarding prizes for the category and smaller Irish breweries started to “launch highly-hopped higher strength or even barrel aged versions”. As you can see below, Eight Degrees gave as good as they got in recent competition with their dry Sunburnt.

The recent Brew Dog books mention only the American Red, in fact they barely mention the Irish scene at all. Sláinte (2014) acknowledges that there is some “dissent” about Red being an Irish style but say some local breweries have “evolved the style”. More recent examples include Porterhouse who have “banished the sweet”.

Looks like the style is still evolving. We  have four good ones below for you and another handsome trio (Eight Degrees, Cotton Ball and White Hag) to come in Part 2.

Porterhouse “Red” 4.2%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Porterhouse, a pioneering Irish craft brewery, are the producers of this red ale. Darkish red/brown is the colour here, and the off white head has a brief span. Both Malt and Hop figure in the aromas and also on the engaging palate, engaging because of exuberant fruit and a small streak of malty caramel. Fresh and fruity, with  superb caramel finish (almost stout like), I suspect (even at this early stage in the group) one of the better ones.

They say: Irish red ales? Yes, we know. Sweet, a bit cloying and, well, no thanks. So, it was brave of us (we say bravely) to put the words “red ale” after our own moniker. Why the hell would we do that? Because this is a real red ale, ….But sweet? No way. Balanced, yes. Fresh, yes. Aromatic, yes. In fact, we say yes, please.


Malts: Pale Ale Malt, Crystal Malt, Wheat Malt, Chocolate Malt

Hops: Galena, Nugget, East Kent Goldings

ABV: 4.2% IBUs: 33 

9 White Deer “Stag Rua” 4.2%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Made with a mix of ale, crystal and chocolate malts, Stag Rua pours a very dark red indeed, with a soft off-white head. Chocolate, coffee and caramel in the aromas and also on the smooth palate. A really balanced beer with no single ingredient dominating. Quite a satisfying mouthful indeed. Easy-going as they indicate and also Gluten Free (since 2018).

They say: Stag Rua has an aroma that is rich and malty with little hops, although we use a considerable amount of hops their presence is behind the malt but there none the less. It will pour with a off white rocky head and should last all the way down the glass leaving a lacing behind. Stag Rua, an Irish Red Ale is a favourite style of our head brewer and we hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we love it. Be big, be bold, Bí Dána.

Wicklow Wolf Wildfire Hoppy Red Ale 4.6%, 440ml can Ardkeen Superstore

Colour is a dark red mix with an off-white head that doesn’t last too long. Malt plus a sniff of coffee in the aromatics and the same combo, with a stronger showing from the coffee, shows in the palate. Here too, the Sorachi and Sabro hops also figure, rather mildly though.

Indeed, “mild” is perhaps the most apt descriptor, though not in a pejorative manner. Touted as a modern red ale, I’m well pleased with it (nothing to do with its modernity or otherwise) and would love to try it in a direct joust with other reds like Roaring Ruby (from West Cork Brewing), Kinnegar’s Devil’s Backbone, Copper Coast (from Dungarvan Brewing), White Gypsy’s Ruby Red, the award winning Sunburnt Irish (8 Degrees), Costello’s Red Ale and more (including the newish Velvet Red by the Cotton Ball). Could be a long session. And I’d need food as well!

A few details:

Serve at 8 degrees.

IBU: 28

Hops: Sorachi Ace, Sabro

Malt: Pale, Cara Ruby, Melano, Oats, Roasted Barley

West Cork “Roaring Ruby” Dark Red Ale 4.4%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

This Dark Red Ale from Baltimore is indeed a dark red with a head that soon diminishes to a thin lacy disc. Aromas are caramel and toasty. And you get much the same on the palate, toffee, caramel and coffee. All a bit stout like, yet this has its own distinctive flavour and texture with its malt bill prominent. Perhaps a bit more traditional than some of the other Irish ones but none the worse for that.

They suggest pairing with Roast meats, BBQ, strong cheese, roast veg.

It is Unfiltered and Vegan friendly as only whirlfloc (carrageen moss) is used to aid in clarification. Free from fluoride, chemicals, preservatives.

Malts: pale ale malt, flaked oats,  amber malt, caramel malt, wheat malt, roasted barley.

Hops – Bramling Cross and Liberty.

Brewed using their own spring water.

Their story. Bacchus and Dionysus get some credit on the West Cork Brewery website but it is the yarns built around founders Kevin, Henry and Dominic that catch the attention. Read about the three founders here.  

Monday, November 23, 2020

A Quart of Ale± #22 Moving on over to craft. Golden/Blond.

A Quart of Ale± #22

Moving on over to craft.  Golden/Blond


Golden Ales “are the ultimate European session beer and a great opening to the pale ale pathway” according to Craft Beer for the People. Yet many of these are more than easy-drinking as you can see by tasting some of the selection below.

Mescan Westport Blond 5.50%, 330ml bottle O’Briens

This Mescan Westport Blond pours a lovely golden colour, quite an eye-catching white head too that tends to linger. One of the most refreshing beers around, its soft fruit and floral notes combining so well with the modest hops, all getting on very well with the malt in the background. All this harmony continues through the crisp and clean finish. They recommended serving at between four and six degrees - take heed!


“We only make beer that interests us,“ Mescan’s Cillian told me three years ago, “Beers that we like and find interesting. So no IPA, no Irish Red Ale. It is against our philosophy to follow a popular trend.”

That doesn't mean they don’t make popular beers! Their Blond was the first they brought out and has become a firm favourite with the public.

And one more thing about these beers, these mostly strong beers. The bottles carry a warning for lovers: “Our beer adds to the desire but may take away from the performance”. Caveat emptor. 

Blond beer, with its accessible character, combines well with most dishes. Mescan recommends steaks, burgers, chicken, sausages, also  noodles, pasta Bolognese, and Salade Niçoise. 

Heaney’s “Irish Blonde” 4.3%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Heaney’s Irish Blonde (not all blonds have an “e” by the way) pours a mid gold with plenty of bubbles rising and a white head that lingers a bit. Citrus in the aromas, floral notes too and a mild spice. A finger test on the head - just dip and taste - reveals a slight bitterness and that, along with a touch of malt, is evident on the palate where the experience is generally crisp, clean and dry, dry right to the finish.

They recommended serving at 6 degrees, a degree or two down on the usual, and pairings suggested are with seafood and also a “refreshing partner to a hot curry or rich burger”. Enjoy!

They say: “Our beers are for after the graft. Rural thirst quenchers” They fulfil that task very well indeed.

Brehon “Blonde” 4.3%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Refreshing, hoppy, citrus, malty, biscuity are the descriptors you’ll hear most in the chat about this beer. It has an inviting mid-gold colour and a white head that keeps it company for quite a while. Mild citrus elements in the aromas. Immediately refreshing, deeply so, just the job, superb mouthfeel as well all the way to the malty end. Another cracking beer from the Brehon.

They say: A refreshing, pale golden beer with a malty biscuity finish. Fabulous with white fish, shellfish, barbecue chicken or food from the Med, but equally as enjoyable on its own. Best served around 8 degrees. Our brewer has created a range of well balanced and flavoursome ales that reflect the changing face of the beer market in Ireland.

Refreshing, hoppy, citrus, malty, biscuity are the descriptors you’ll hear most in the chat about this beer. An impressive easy-drinking beer from a very impressive brewery.

Chimay “Gold/Blond” 4.8%, 33cl bottle Bradley’s of Cork

This Chimay, an authentic Trappist beer, has been made since 1966. The usual ingredients are used, plus the addition of sugar. Sugar? “All the sparkle of our beers comes from the transformation of sugar by our yeast, as has always been done traditionally. The refermentation in the bottle is a guarantee of quality.”

Colour is a light gold; it is clear, with plenty of that carbonation (thanks to the sugar).  Soft white head with staying power. Aromas hoppy and spicy, even notes of clove. When you drink, you immediately notice its refreshing qualities, deeply so, its terrific balance, its soft mouthfeel and the hoppy finish. They brew in the heart of Scourmont Abbey and the beer was for long reserved for the monastic community and its guests and staff. Now it’s all yours to try. Serve at 6-8 degrees.

If you are lucky enough to visit the brewery, you’ll find plenty of food to match the beer in their nearby restaurant. With travel restricted at present, you could do worse than try this recommended recipe: “ARTFUL SALAD WITH SCAMPI, TOMATO AND FENNEL”.  All the ingredients and method here. 

West Kerry “Béal Bán” 5%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Gold is the colour of this magical ale from West Kerry. Its big soft white head is slow to go. Creamy rather than crisp, yet light and refreshing with malt sweetly prominent early on, the hops making a show towards the lip-smacking finish. A distinctive beer indeed, very impressive.

Gold is the colour of this superb Kerry beer with its big slow-moving white head. It is a light and refreshing golden ale with that slight malty sweetness and a bitter finish, imparted by a generous helping of hops.

Paul and Adrienne (Ireland’s first female brewer) use water from their own well to brew the beers, both cask and bottled. The malt is predominantly Irish and the beers are brewed naturally, with no additives or preservatives. 

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne is the Irish name for the brewery in the Dingle peninsula. It was established in 2008 to make traditional yet progressive beer. You’ll find them in their brew pub: Tigh Bhric (which also offers accommodation). 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Quart of Ale± #9 Moving on over to craft. American Pale Ale.

A Quart of Ale± #9
Moving on over to craft.
American Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 5% abv, 12 fl. oz. bottle, Bradleys of Cork
The Pale Ale that sparked the American craft beer revolution in 1980!

You may be familiar with the Brewdog book: “Craft Beer for the People”. They talk a fair bit about how people come to craft beer and have a feature on what they call “Gateway Beer”. And the one they highlight is this very Sierra Nevada Pale, the gateway par excellence, “not only a gateway but a true pioneer”. “First brewed in November 1980, it has inspired countless brewers… (not least ourselves). A stone-cold classic…”. Classic because it has the 3 ‘A’s: accessibility, approachability and availability.

It’s got a mid-amber colour. A big white head that soon sinks to a lacy cover. Aromas are quite intense, fruity, cut through with pine notes. And you find all that too in the bold flavours but it’s a bit more complex than that. Lots of flavour for sure but the whole-cone Cascade hops bring much more to the party, “introducing a generation to the glory of hops”. But the beer is so well balanced that it seems nobody was turned off and the craft scene got up and running accompanied by an anthem of citrus and pine notes. And, 40 years later, we all march on! If you haven’t tried it, then you should!

Galway Bay “Althea” Pale Ale 4.8%, 330ml can, Bradley’s of Cork

Galway Bay’s Althea, is named after the head brewer’s favourite Grateful Dead song. You’ll have no problem catching this widely available beer which is a straight take on a modern American Pale Ale. 

You get quite a large white head on pouring but not for long! The nose, with its bunch of tropical fruit aromas, is quite hoppy, very pleasantly so.  And so it continues on the palate, rich fruits from the hops and barely a peep from the malts. 

Galway Bay are one of the Irish breweries that suggest food pairings and here the tips are: chicken, lamb, and other light meats. 

Bitterness, by the way, is measured at 48 IBUs. And that number confirms the dominance of hops and the downplaying of the malt, fairly typical of the modern American Pale Ale style, but there are many variations as there are in all beer styles. Nothing stands still as innovative brewers keep your taste buds on full alert.

Malts: Golden Promise, Vienna, Melanoidin
Hops: Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe

The White Hag “Ninth Wave” New World Pale 5.4%, 330ml can, Bradley’s of Cork

This New World Pale Ale is named after the (mythical) Ninth Wave that formed a formidable barrier for anyone wishing to cross over to New York and Boston. 

Hard to believe that the IBU here is 15 IBU, a lager like reading, while that of the Althea is 48! Pity I started this quartet with the Galway Bay and finished it with this one. Must taste the two together sometime! Sierra Nevada, by the way, is 38 IBU.

Colour is a clouded amber, topped with a short-lived white head. Aromatics are mild also, apricot, mango and citrus, all from the hops, in there. 

Quite a greeting on the palate though, creamy feel and insistently fruity (citrus to the fore) from the American hops, but all is kept in check as this balanced effort makes its way towards a very satisfactory finalé indeed.  Lively, flavourful and very drinkable. Another for that second glass, or should that be can, designation!

They say: “We are a modern independent craft brewery from Sligo, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. We brew innovative and groundbreaking beers, inspired by ancient and classic styles.” 
They brew a good lot of them! The able and masterly brewers here ensure a lot of them are good.

Western Herd “Siege” Pale Ale 5.1%, 440ml can, Bradley’s of Cork

Two of the same three hops feature in this County Clare beer and again they make the running. Cascade, Citra and Amarillo are in the mix, along with water from their own farm.

Colour is touching amber, again a big head, deflating rapidly. You notice the hops straight away in the aromas, fruity and bitter, a touch of citrus also. Flavours too feature the hops though perhaps the malt gets more of a look-in here compared to the earlier beers. Still there’s no hiding the bitterness from the Cascade hops though I get the impression (after one of each) that the Siege has more character.

Good name too isn’t it? They say: “Anywhere else, Siege is a battle cry but around here, it’s a call to dance. This modern version of the classic American pale ale has distinctive hoppy aromas of grapefruit and orange, perfectly balanced with the distinctive spiciness and bitterness of the Cascade hops.”

Western Herd suggest the following food pairings: Sharp cheese, Thai Curry and Steak (not all together, now!)

White Gypsy “Woodcock” American Pale Ale 5.8%, 500ml bottle, Bradley’s of Cork.

Colour here is amber. Head is off white and inclined to hang on for a bit more than the earlier beers. Hops and malt in the aromas, the hops not as dominant as in the Althea. Fruity and refreshing with the hops and malt in excellent balance, each contributing to the pleasant journey through to the dry finish. 

Hops used are Citra and Mosaic, both American, yet this beer has more character than many American ales, both east coast and west. That probably goes down to the malts and, indeed, the Marris Otter Malt is “world renowned for its deep rich flavour.”

The superb harmony of the Woodcock is a pleasure to enjoy and the ace Tipp beer would be difficult to top in any company.

The Gypsy invites you to follow your fortune to this independent Irish craft brewer in Tipperary and the ale is named after a local legend: “The Woodcock Carden”.

Did you know that White Gypsy make a food pairing range of beers in 75cl bottles. Well worth checking out, more info here.