Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tesco Beer - Five for a tenner...

Tesco surprised me a couple of days ago. I was searching for icing sugar and I came across a rather large selection of foreign / craft beers. The advertised offer was any five for a tenner* so I picked five, seemingly at random.

Belfast Lager, Whitewater Brewery 4.5% abv.
I decided to move from light to dark, by starting with the only lager in the bunch. The Blurb on the bottle says "Crisp and full flavoured this refreshing continental style premium lager is brewed with the finest Saaz hops giving a beer rich in aroma and taste". Hmmmm. There is some nice crispness and a little hopiness but it feels a little dialed back. I think needs more flavour and more alcohol. It's not bad but it's not enough.

Marco Pierre White The Governor 4.1% abv
As above, not bad but not great. It's a light, amber ale with some nice flavours. As above it's a little underwhelming,  I think it could do with a bit more jizz (not literally). It goes down easily but is not especially memorable.

Greene King IPA Export 5% abv
Hmmmmm. IPA, eh? Not really. I thought this was half IPA and half normal ale. Certainly the colour is a lot redder than I would have expected. And the taste didn't really work for me.  At least it was strong.

Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier 6% abv
"This beer is an institution: the Oktoberfest Bier® from Paulaner, with its full-bodied, pleasant taste definitely pairs beautifully with the hearty delicacies along with Hendln or Schweinshaxen. Its alcohol content of 6 % volume makes it somewhat stronger than the usual lager beer. The original gravity of the Oktoberfest Beer is also slightly higher, starting at 13.5 %. With a hint of malty sweetness the Oktoberfest Beer possesses the perfect balance."

Hmmm. Not quite sure what to make of this. It's pleasant, and as described there's some a malty, fullish flavour. Not a huge amount else but pretty decent. One for the beer drinker who is not too adventurous, I'll wager.

Weihenstephaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel 5.3% abv
"Soft, malty and full bodied. The well balances taste is our weiss beer's great strength"
I've had bad experiences with Dunkel (dark) beers before, there was an episode involving the card game spoons (for shots) and a couple of real life drag queens (shudder).
Update - I don't know why I bought this as I don't generally like Weiss beers and I didn't like this. So there you go...

*I had actually paid full price for each beer (€2.69 each) at the till, before noticing this on the receipt**. It turns out the Paulaner wasn't part of the deal (or something) but Customer Service graciously refunded me the difference anyway. Nice one.

** I obviously picked up something in Scotland...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Cider De-cider Part 3 - More "Non Craft" Ciders (2/2)

This is the last part of my ongoing cider tasting, the rationale for which is here...

Part 1 - Craft Ciders is here
Part 2 - Non Craft Ciders 1 is here

Scrumpy Jack Classic Premium Cider - €1-69, 6% abv (Dunnes)[Can]
Dark lager/off-orange colour. Slight whiff of apples. Surprisingly drinkable despite a slight aftertaste.

Strongbow Cider - €1-39, 4.6% abv (Dunnes) [Can]
Lager colour. Crisp flavour. Slightly dry. Not bad overall and cheap as chips. 

Bulmers Special - Spiced Apple and Rhubarb - €2-59 4% abv (Dunnes)
Interesting flavours here. Standard Bulmers plus some spices and odd fruit flavours. I liked it but I'm not sure it's something all would appreciate.

Kopparberg Wild Strawberry and Lime  - €2-59, 4.0% abv (Dunnes)
Ugh. Sickly sweet pink medicine sort of alcopop. Drank it though...

Lastly I got this yesterday in Dunnes, It's priced as a premium cider so not sure if belongs here but..(come to think of it the Kopparberg and the Bulmers Special are a similar price, hmmm...)

Rekorderlig Premium Apple and Blackcurrant Cider - €2-63, 4.0% abv (Dunnes)
A similar, if slightly more purple colour, to the Kopparberg. Quite sweet but much much nicer, with a more natural flavour. I wouldn't drink more than one, but a good buy if you like this style of sweet fruity cider.

Next Up - The Dunnes French Wine Sale 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Cider De-cider Part 2 - "Non Craft" Ciders (1/2)

For this post (and Part 3 ) I have made an executive decision - rather than just review each of the below ciders on their merits I'm going to benchmark them against Bulmer's. Why so?
  1. I'm guessing it's the market leader.
  2. It's of sufficient quality (IMHO).
  3. I am quite happy to drink it when called upon to do so.
Also - I had a few pints of Bulmer's at the Leinster game in the RDS recently (with Grandad D) and it went down very well, doubtless helped by the occasion and the warm sunny conditions. You could argue that it doesn't taste hugely like apples but hey ho..

Part 1 - Craft Ciders 1 is here
Part 3 - Non Craft Ciders 2 is here

Kopparberg Naked Apple Cider - €2-39, 4.5% abv (Tesco)[Can]
A pale golden colour. I found this a little sweet. With not enough fruit/crispness/structure etc to balance this out, and also not a huge flavour of apples. A drink aimed at the younger section of the market, methinks.

John Keppler's Premium Irish Cider - €1-15, 6% abv (Tesco) [Can]
Another pale Orange cider, and being the cheapest of the bunch, I was not expecting much here. I was pleasantly surprised; it's slightly sweeter than Bulmers and with the slightest hint of an aftertaste, I still found this a very pleasant tipple and good value as priced ( I saw it priced 4 for €5 in Dunnes yesterday). 

Linden Village Irish Cider - €1-49, 4.5% abv (Tesco) [Can]
Similar slight orangey hue (like Bulmers but paler). Slightly sweet and with a bit of an unpleasant, chemically aftertaste. Not for me this one. 

Stella Artois Cidre -  €2-99, 4.5% abv (Tesco) [568ml bottle]
This comes in a large (one imperial pint) clear glass bottle and also has that strange orangey colour. I liked this initially as it has some nice tartness and a subtle appley taste. However as I reached the end of the bottle I found it a bit cloying and had to force myself to finish it...

Note: I found this review of various inexpensive ciders which was not dissimilar...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cider Decider Part 1 - Craft Ciders (now with added Craft Beer festival)

Given that I am off the beer, I decided to explore cider as an alternative for the month. Previously my only experience with cider, like most people I guess, was a pint bottle of Bulmer's in a pint glass with ice, on a sunny day.

I decided to split my samplings into two sections, "Craft" and "Non Craft". I'm not quite sure what the dictionary definition of "Craft" is for cider but I suspect the ciders above meet it handily.

Note: I tried to be scientific in my tasting; all ciders were drunk at the same temperature (whatever "5" on my beer fridge equates to), from the same kind of glass and without any ice (as per instructions on at least 2 of the bottles).

Longueville House Cider - €4-49, 5% abv (Baggot St Wines)
Dark amber in the glass, this resembles my other favourite tipple, an IPA. Some nice complexity and flavour here, however this is the first of the craft ciders I'm tasting so I'm not sure what to expect. I like this but I don't love it. It's billed as "medium dry", but I'm finding it quite (pleasurably) dry with a long finish.

Tempted Medium Sweet Irish Craft Cider - €4-49, 5.7% abv  (Baggot St Wines)
A pale straw colour. Sweet, but not cloyingly so. Like the Wyld Wood below, it's nicely balanced. I don't think I'd buy this, my taste would be for something drier, but it's perfectly pleasant to drink.

Orpen's Cider - €4-49,  5.5% abv  (Baggot St Wines)
I'd say this is medium, not too sweet or dry with a lager-like colour. This cider has a nice crispness on the palate and a clean fresh flavour.  Note: this cider was only launched in June 2012, so I wish them well.

Stonewell Dry Irish Cider - €3-99,  5.5% abv  (Baggot St Wines)
Starts off well with some nice tart fruit and finishes nicely with some lip smacking dryness. The problem (as I find with some wines) is that there is nothing in the "middle". This, for me,  is not a balanced cider; I think there is something missing in the flavour balance such that this doesn't suit my palate. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Wyld Wood Premium Organic Pear Cider - €2-75, 6% abv (Tesco) [Not Pictured]
Slightly sweet style but still crisp and fruity. 6% abv but it belies its strength and is very moreish. I have recommended this to Granny G as an alternative to the Kopparberg Pear she drinks.

Pro - I really liked 4 out of 5 of these ciders
Con - 4 out of 5 of these ciders are alarmingly expensive. Three of the five were €4-50 for 500ml which is pricey in anyone's book. I am quoting the prices I found in Baggot St Wines, but I suspect (and after a cursory look on teh intertubes), similar prices prevail nationwide.

I don't know if the plan is to entice your regular Bulmer's drinker into changing their regular tipple, if so then that's not going to fly, OR, if the plan is to set up these ciders as a premium/luxury item to be quaffed occasionally, akin to a craft ale, then that may work. At these prices I'm not sure how often  I'll be dipping in, I have to say.


Last night, under duress, I attended the Irish Craft Beer Festival. I had been promised Cider and lo and behold there was cider. I didn't take detailed notes (we came straight from the nearby Leinster game where the closest bar ran out on Bulmer's at half time - you do the math) but here are my recollections:

McIvors Traditional Dry Cider 5.6% abv -  I liked this, reasonably dry with nice apple flavours. Not as dry as I would have liked but with a lovely finish.

Stonewell Medium Dry Irish Cider 5.5% abv - After not liking their Dry cider (above) I figured I should give the Medium Dry a chance, and this proved to be a much nicer and more coherent beast. Pale yellow in the glass, some nice fruit flavours and some gentle sweetness.

Tempted Medium Dry Irish Craft Cider 5.7% abv  - The last cider drunk on the night so recollections are hazy. I pretty sure this was tasty, another well balanced cider from DJ.

Note: I now know the reason I shouldn't drink cider all night, I discovered it at about 5am this morning. Enough said.

Part 2 - Non Craft Ciders 1 is here
Part 3 - Non Craft Ciders 2 is here

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's The End of the World as I Know it...

No really, it is. You see, for the month of September (well, until the 28th when I am hosting a poker game), I will be forgoing my favourite* thing in the entire world - BEER. I had intended to do this experiment at the same time last year, but I ended up back in Edinburgh, on another long stint, and the thought of being away from home and beer-less was too much to handle.

My reasons for the temporary cessation of my hop-releated activities are manifold, not the least of which are the following sample exchanges from recent years...

Me: I feel fat.**
Herself: It's all that beer.

Me: My stomach's not well.
Herself: It must be the beer.

Me: My teeth are full of holes.
Herself: That'll be the beer.

Me: I've got a nasty rash on my...
Herself: Did you ever think about drinking less beer? ***

Secondly, I'm curious myself what a month without the amber nectar would do for my ever expanding waistline. I suspect I'll drink less as a whole, which can only be a good thing (?!??). And, if it turns out to be easily do-able and has some positive health aspects, I would consider doing it a couple of times a year.

Right now, some readers are thinking "He's only giving up beer? Not all booze? WTF?" Yeah, I know a lot of people give up the sauce for a month (or more) at a time and fair focks to them, but that's not something I'm keen on at the moment. I did three days dry last week while suffering with a nasty flu and it nearly broke me.

What will I replace the beer with? I'm not sure yet. More wine probably, maybe some cider and maybe an increase in "Ton" **** consumption; we shall see. I do like alcoholic Ginger Beer (like Crabbie's) and I think this might be acceptable as it isn't beer per se, I think.

On a more on-topic note, I got some more of the Gerard Bertrand Domaine de Villemajou Corbieres  2008 in O'Brien's earlier. It's still on at €14-99 and I urge you to try it, especially at this bargain price. I have been decanting it since 4pm so I expect it will be rather nice, later on.

* A couple of other things spring to mind, but this is a family blog.

** She has a point here.

*** Three of these four examples are real.

**** My Gin and Tonic - Pour 2 American shots of Bombay Sapphire into a tumbler containing  3 cubes of ice and a partially squeezed quarter of one lime. Top up with 150ml (one small can) of Schweppes tonic. Enjoy with some Meanies (yes, really).