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Quite a lot of talk about Brett C when Eight Degrees recently launched their pair of winter seasonals, a Belgian Pale Ale and an Imperial Stout, both part of the Ballyhoura Series.
Who the hell is Brett C? I googled it and found that he is a Melbourne, Australia based photographer who specialises in sport, fashion, event and people photography.
We all know Eight Degrees have antipodean connections but this is the wrong answer. Brettanomyces is its proper name and it is a yeast that the brewery has used in each of these beers. Brett C, the yeast that is, is more likely to be noticed in the aromas than in the flavours and funky is the term regularly associated with it.
Mid-winter is a source of many legends and myths and the battle between the oak king and the holly king is the one you’ll see on the bottle labels. Various versions abound and here are two links you might explore when sipping these Mitchelstown gems.
The Oak King Belgian Pale Ale, 6.5% abv, RRP €7.95 (75ml bottle)
This Belgian style pale ale has an amber robe. There’s an almost cider-y intro to the palate, gradually getting more complex before a tart finish. Sour maybe but not crab apple sour, perhaps the oak has rounded off any extremes.
Austere is probably the single best word to describe this sophisticated offering. Don't let the “austere” put you off though. This is one of the most interesting seasonal beers this Christmas and I may well be serving it as an aperitif in champagne flutes as suggested by the brewery.
Brewery tips: Serve well chilled in champagne flutes as an aperitif on Christmas morning, with a half-dozen oysters or some smoked salmon, or take it to the dinner table to pair perfectly with your turkey.
The Holly King Imperial Stout, 9.8% abv, €11.95 RRP (75ml bottle)
As black as a mid-winter’s night in a Ballyhoura boreen, though it starts with a tanned head that, like many a tan from a bottle, doesn't last too long. The intro to the palate is intense, treacle like in flavour or maybe it’s funk, but soon more traditional flavours, including coffee, take over. Some vanilla there too, all brought together, along with Brett C of course, during the sojourn in the oakcasks (previously used for Pinot Noir). Strong start, strong finish, quite a player for the Christmas team.
Brewery tips: It's a hugely complex beer, so pour it into snifters and sip it slowly to end a meal with a slice of spicy Christmas Cake, studded with nuts and dried fruit, classic Black Forrest Gateau or a box of cocoa-dusted dark chocolate truffles.
* Both are packaged in 750ml amber champagne-style bottles and are available individually or as 2 x 750ml bottle gift packs (RRP €19.95). They are widely available, including at Bradley’s Cork; for more stockists and more info, click here: BeoirFinder App now available for Android and iOS . * And while you're on the net, check out some of my favourite funk right here