Monday, December 16, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF8 - The republic triumphant

Quarter Final 8
Black's Kinsale Pale Ale 5.0% abv 33cl €2.69
Trouble Brewing Sabotage IPA 5.5% abv 50cl €3-59

I suspect this will be a close run thing. I could maybe have drawn these apart but if an IPA is going to succeed in this endeavour, it will need to beat all comers, including some stiff opposition.

Black's Kinsale Pale Ale
There's a lovely citrussy nose here and some good solid bitterness up front. A decent amount of grapefruit but not as much tropical fruit as I remember from last time. Still, I like it, and while it's not one for the faint of heart, its right up my alley,

Trouble Brewing Sabotage IPA
This is much darker in the glass and the nose has more of a red ale aroma to it, with some yummy toasty caramel notes. This is delicious but it tastes to this reviewer like a red ale with some hops added, which is an attractive combo, but is not what I'm looking for in this competition...

Winner - Black's Kinsale Pale Ale

Friday, December 13, 2013

A bunch of (mostly) UK only IPAs from Sainsburys

I decided to take a break from blogging IPAs (7 QFs down and 1 to go) and blog some wine, and to that end I asked Herself to buy a couple of Spanish reds in Aldi that I had heard good things about, while she was buying a bunch of useless crap there. I then discovered that I had actually blogged both of them before; the lovely Ribera here and the not quite so lovely Rioja here.

Anyhoo, I was in Norn Iron a couple of days ago for work and decided to pop into Sainsburys, mainly to look for Whiskey bargains but also to see what beer they had. First up - Whiskey. Boom! - Highland Park 12yo for £26. I freakin' love this whiskey, I really freaking love the 16yo and as for the 18yo, don't get me started. The last Highland Park I bought was the duty-free only 1998, which I didn't really care for.

I came across a bunch of IPAs and bought one of each. As I drink them I'll blog them. They are (l-r)

Greene King IPA Reserve 5.4% abv £1.97
Never had this before - should be better than its little brother (below)
- Not bad. I liked this a lot more than than its little brother below but I wouldn't go running to buy it.

Greene King IPA 3.6% abv £1.77
Had this a few times on draught in the UK and it's fine for what it is. Blandish mass-market IPA.
- No, don't like this at all. It has that harsh aftertaste of weak ale that I don't like.

Marston's Pedigree Pale Ale 4.5% abv £1.99
Got this in Aldi and didn't love it. But I'll give it another crack of the whip, so to speak.
- As before, this is not doing anything for me. It's not unpleasant but...meh, just meh.

Marston's Pale Ale 2.8% abv £1.39
2.8%!!! I didn't notice that tragic number when I bought it. I'm not hopeful as I've never had anything like a decent beer below 4% abv. 
- Awful. Dishwater.

Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Tap Room IPA 6.3% abv £1.79
This guy liked
- I'm not so sure. All I'm getting is a slightly burnt aroma. It smells hoppy, but tastes of very little. I hope this didn't taste like it was supposed to. Disappointing.

Sainsbury's Taste The Difference American Pale Ale 5.3% abv £1.79
Also liked this
- This was pretty decent and light years ahead of the Tap Room above. Exactly what I would expect from an American Pale Ale. Moderately hopped and nicely balanced.

Sainsbury's Taste The Difference India Pale Ale 5.9% abv £1.89
But suspiciously quiet on this one...
- I was a little underwhelmed by this initially but I warmed to it after a while. Not a lot of hoppiness on display but it wears its alcohol well and has a touch of malty sweetness that I appreciated. Not one for the hop afficianado but good value as priced. It's brewed by Marstons, who have a couple of other beers in the frame - see above.

Titanic Quarter Beer Irish Pale Ale 4.2% abv £2.29
No idea. Pure punt.
- I have just discovered this is brewed by Hilden, who have form with IPAs. Looking at the abv I  wasn't hopeful but I like this. It's not massively hopped but it is clean and refreshing (I agree with the bottle on those terms), and would work well when something lighter is fancied.

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF7 - If it were done...

Quarter Final 7
Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale 4.4% abv 50cl €3.19
Smithwicks Pale Ale 4.5% abv 50cl €2.80

To be honest I haven't been looking forward to this match. The Galway Hooker underwhelmed me last time out and the Smithwicks I've only had on draught, when I found it too cold and fizzy. Let's begin (sigh).

Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale
Meh, not bad. Easy drinking and probably fine as the first drink of the night but it would taste like nothing at all after any kind of hoppy IPA. Could work if you were transitioning from lager...

Smithwicks Pale Ale
No -  I don't like this at all. Bland and soapy. Down the sink.

Winner - Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale (by default)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF6 - Karma bites my a$$

Quarter Final 6
Porterhouse Hop Head 5.0% abv 33cl €2.10
8Degrees Howling Gale Ale 5.0% abv

I found a bottle of McGrath's IPA in Molloy's earlier, and I was planning to replace the Howling Gale with it (no loss I reckoned as I didn't expect it to progress) but the universe had other plans. The McGraths was corked/skunked/off  - I don't know what, but it wasn't right. So I went back to plan A...

Porterhouse Hop Head
I had this from a cask in The Black Sheep last night and I liked it, although it was in a blizzard of
IPAs so my memory might be fuzzy. Anyway, in bottles this is...OK. It's quite hoppy but I'm not sure the bitterness works, and the fancy peel-cap bottle top took a huge chunk out of my finger, so negative marks there.

8Degrees Howling Gale Ale
I don't think I'll ever forgive 8Degrees for not making any more Cylone or Amber Ella but lets see how this ale stacks up. To be honest it's a bit mild. Not unpleasant but not a huge amount going on, not much hops just a gentle tickle. Perfectly fine but not a competition winner.

Winner - Porterhouse Hop Head

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF5 - Boom! goes the hammer

Quarter Final 5
Whitewater Brewery Hoppelhammer IPA 6% €3.47
Stone Barrel Boom IPA 5.0% abv 50cl €3.59

Stone Barrel Boom IPA
A solid initial offering from the Dublin 4 brewers. A more easy drinking style of IPA, rather than a hoppy beast. Not massive amounts of flavour but well balanced. It's described as a session ale so perhaps that's the appeal of this ale. The more I drink of this the more I like it, it's a bit of a grower.

Whitewater Brewery Hoppelhammer IPA
I'm not loving this. It's strong and hoppy but the bitterness isn't well integrated into the overall flavour and it feels a little unbalanced...

Winner  - Stone Barrel Boom IPA

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF4 - A twisted sail, full of hops

Quarter Final 4 
Hilden Brewing Co Twisted Hop 4.7% abv 50cl €3.49
Galway Bay Full Sail IPA 5.8% abv 50cl €3.29

I've had both of these before and I enjoyed both of them. The Hilden I had last summer and I liked it but I didn't love it, although it did win a big competition last year, so what do I know. The Full Sail I had recently on draught in Against the Grain, and it was a tasty drop.

Galway Bay Full Sail IPA
This is yummy, lots of hops (I guess from the dry hopping) and a lovely bitter finish. Just enough malt to give it a bit of balance.

Hilden Brewing Co Twisted Hop
Oh, this is quite different. Lighter in colour then the Full Sail, it's much more subtle. The hops are less pronounced but the malt is fuller so it's nicely balanced.

Winner - Full Sail
I like the Twisted Hop but the Full Sail is bigger and butcher and that's how I likes it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF3 - Carlow Crackers

Quarter Final 3
O'Hara's Double IPA 7.5% abv 50cl 
O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale 5.2% abv 50cl

This is going to be tough. I love the standard Irish Pale Ale. In my first (I)PA competition it was beaten in the semis by Punk from brewdog, which was a tough call at the time and probably even tougher now. I also like Pale Ale on draught on the odd occasion I can find it.

The Double IPA I know nothing about, although I do love a strong hoppy IPA so I reckon this could be close if the Double IPA is on its game.

By the way the O'Hara's website lists the IBUs of the two beers as follows: Irish Pale Ale (50 IBU), Double IPA (60 IBU).

Double IPA
Plenty of head (steady) on show, this is a slightly deeper amber colour. Oh God, this is good. Plenty of hops, a touch of balancing malty sweetness and a long dry finish. Reminds me of those strong American IPAs that have won the last two competitions.

Irish Pale Ale
Medium amber colour and another decent head. This is a very solid pale ale, some nice hops, decent balance and a lively bitter finish.

Winner  -  Double IPA
It had to be this way. As much as I like the Irish Pale Ale, the Double IPA knocks it into a cocked hat. At the moment it's a serious contender to be the big Kahuna, the way the draw is looking. That reminds me - I'd better do the draw, TTFN.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF2 - From the wilds of Donegal

Quarter Final 2
Kinnegar Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale 5.3% abv 50cl €3.69
Kinnegar Limeburner Pale Ale 4.7% abv 50cl €3.69

I met the lovely people from Kinnegar at the Craft Beer fest this year and I tried their Amber and Rye Ales of which the Rye (Rustbucket) was the pick of the bunch. A while later I tried the Limeburner and it was OK. Now it's time to try the Pale Ales against each other. For a change, Herself was about so I got her reviews too.

Herself - She wasn't a fan - "Boring." It's certainly true that in recent years she needs a bit more oomph and complexity to satisfy her. "Vanilla" beers just don't do it...
YHB - Not bad, some subtle citrus flavours, but maybe a little underwhelming. Not a lot of hops here, but pleasant and easy drinking. 

Scraggy Bay
Herself - better. Complex, but wouldn't drink a lot of it.
YHB - Good, a little more complex but not a lot of finesse, with a decent bite of hops but not a massive offset of malt.

Winner - Scraggy Bay
Probably only because I tend to prefer a beefier ale. The Limeburner would do a lot of people well. With hindsight I should have included the Rustbucket as I'd say it might have the beating of both the ales above. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - QF1 - On the Mountain

Quarter Final 1*
Mountain Man Green Bullet 4.0% abv 33cl €2.69
Mountain Man Hairy Goat  4.5% abv 33cl €2.69

I reviewed the Green Bullet before and liked it although I did opine that the flavour was quite delicate and that the Hairy Goat might be a better bet for the gentleman (or lady) who prefers a bigger bolder pale ale. Let's see if I was right...

Green Bullet
This ale is quite pale in the glass, a slightly cloudy lager colour.  As before the flavour is subtle but pleasant with some gentle hoppy notes, but the finish is a touch bitter. I suppose this would be a session ale at a light 4% abv and it's probably something you could drink a lot of, if you had a mind to.

Hairy Goat
This presents with a deep amber hue in the glass and there's a lot more going on here. Bigger, hoppier and with a fuller and more integrated hoppy finish. A solid IPA from the Corkmen.

Winner - Hairy Goat
There's not much in this, I have to admit but I'm going to go for the Hairy Goat because I prefer the bigger, beefier ales.

My next task is to assemble the 16 (currently 15) beers into a draw, and attempt to seed a few of my favourites...

*Both beers purchased from Baggot St wines

Friday, November 22, 2013

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - Intro **Updated**

Hola Amigos, I know it's been a while since I rapped at ya but I'm three weeks into a new job and I'm working my ass off and traveling to the farthest reaches of the planet (well Bristol, anyway).

Anyhoo, I've been thinking about another beer competition and given the recent explosion in Irish craft beers (see posts passim), and my love of Pale Ales, it behooves me to make the next contest one for Irish Pale Ales.

I think I'm going to allow multiple entries from one brewery, so where two IPAs are available, I'm going to run them off against each other in the first round. This might mean that one of the favourites, OHara's Irish Pale Ale could be out in the first round!

Note: It's obviously impossible to choose the best Irish pale ale. What I'm really trying to do, I suppose, is to find my favourite Irish pale ale. If your tastes in Pale ales are similar to mine then you should enjoy the journey, if not, well, I don't know what to tell you.

**Update - I've found a 16th Irish Pale Ale  - Boom IPA from the Stone Barrel Brewing company

So far I've got the following, and have provisionally paired them as follows:

Smithwicks Pale Ale 4.5% abv 50cl €2.80
Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale 4.4% abv 50cl €3.19

Kinnegar Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale 5.3% abv 50cl €3.69
Kinnegar Limeburner Pale Ale 4.7% abv 50cl €3.69

Trouble Brewing Sabotage IPA 5.5% abv 50cl €3-59
Black's Kinsale Pale Ale 5.0% abv 33cl €2.69 

O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale 5.2% abv 50cl €2.99
O'Hara's Double IPA 7.5% abv 50cl €3.89

Whitewater Brewery Hoppelhammer IPA 6% €3.47
Stone Barrel Boom IPA 5.0% abv 50cl €3.59 

Mountain Man Green Bullet 4.0% abv 33cl €2.69 
Mountain Man Hairy Goat  4.5% abv 33cl €2.69

Porterhouse Hop Head 5.0% abv 33cl €2.10
8 Degrees Brewing Howling Gale Ale 5.0% 33cl

Hilden Brewing Co Twisted Hop 4.7% abv 50cl €3.49
Galway Bay Full Sail IPA 5.8% abv 50cl €3.29

Other beers considered/discarded

Metalman Pale Ale (available in bottles?)
Galway Bay Voyager IPA (seasonal?)
Franciscan Well IPA (If I can find it)
Hilden Brewing Co Headless Dog (Is a Pale Ale?)

I'll be drinking them over the next few weeks...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The one in which I go mad for the hops

I got all  of the above in Baggot St Wines, apart from the Big Job, which I think came from Tesco, cos that's where I have previously purchased its little brother - Proper Job. The only new brewery to me here is Founders Brewery, from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Founders All Day IPA 4.7% abv  €2.99
Pours a deep amber colour. Wow! surprisingly big and hoppy; and delicious with it. Not sure I'd drink it all day but it's a solid entry in the Pale Ale pantheon. Probably one for those who dig American style IPAs, I reckon. 

Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale 5.4% abv  €2.99
Well this is totally different. Subtle citrus hop flavours and a little malt to balance it out. To be honest, it's not doing a lot for me. I thought dry hopping added hoppiness but this seems a bit gentle for my rough and ready palate. 

St Austell Big Job 7.2% abv  €??
I really wanted to like this; I've had their Proper Job and it's OK, nothing special. Unfortunately this tasted like a slightly stronger version of the Proper Job, which is to say it didn't taste of a whole heck of a lot. Not offensive but a bit bland. 

Mountain Man Hairy Goat  4.5% abv  €2.69
I bought this because , although I liked their Green Bullet, I found it a bit delicate. The Goat is a bit beefier, a bit more flavoursome and I liked it too. Again, not an ale if you want a hop-bomb, but perfect when you want an Irish ale that's a touch subtle. 

BrewDog Dog Wired Imperial Pilsener 6.8% abv €4.39
This was a bit of a curates egg. A strong Pilsner with lots of atypical hops (Nelson Sauvin and Montueka). It wasn't unpleasant but it didn't work for me. Your mileage may vary.

Odell St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale 6.5% abv  €4.15
Perfectly fine but nothing to write home about. Some tasty hoppiness and good mouthfeel but there wasn't enough oomph for me, which I tend to expect from strong Odell ales. I had their IPA again recently and it is just divine.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Three new Irish Pale Ales

I bought these three pretties in Baggot Street Wines last week and am only getting around to trying them now. Herself is out, the boy is in bed and Moonrise Kingdom in on the telly.

I'm starting with the weakest in strength, which seems to me to be the logical and indeed the fairest approach. I'll freely admit that for me with IPAs, stronger is better. Not by definition, but historically I tend to prefer stronger IPAs to their weaker cousins.

Mountain Man Green Bullet 4% abv €2.69
With the above admission I'm not holding out much hope for this ale. However, I'm enjoying this. It's delicate but well balanced. The blurb on the bottle mentions "subtle notes of pine and lemon", and I'll buy that. It's not a beer for those who want a big hoppy citrus bomb (see previous posts) , but could be a welcome change of pace when something lighter is required. I must try their Hairy Goat which is an English style IPA, at a decent 4.5% abv and with hindsight would have made a better match for the two ales below.  

Kinnegar Limeburner Pale Ale 4.9% abv €3.99
M'colleague and I tried a couple of Kinnegar's beers at the recent Craft Beer fest and loved their Amber and Rye ales respectively. As expected, the extra alcohol gives this a little kick. It's slightly sweet, the fruit is understated; the hops, present and correct, but not bitter. I like it, it's light and refreshing but, if I had the choice I'd go for their Rustbucket Rye ale. 

Black's Kinsale Pale Ale 5% abv €2.69
Wow, lots of tropical fruit on the nose, and not a little on the palate, unsurprisingly. I like this style of pale ale (like Thornbidge Kipling and Kona Big Wave), but it may be too fruity for some.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The International Lager Challenge - Grand Final

So it's come to this - I've decided to blind taste the four lager finalists. A quick reminder of how the finalists got here.

Poland - The Zywiec had an easy Semi against the relatively unknown Warka and squeezed past the Tyskie in the regional final.

Germany -  The Krombacher had perhaps the hardest road to the final. I was able to find eight German lagers so the Krom had to win a quarter Final, a Semi Final and a Final. In the QF it handily beat the upstart Warsteiner. The Semi was a tougher affair, with the much fancied Veltins being narrowly dispatched. In the Final, I was tired and elected the winner more or less on a whim.

Czech Republic - The Budvar was always a favourite of mine so I never expected it to meet much opposition on the way to the final. Staropramen was defeated in the Semi and the Budvar came through in a tight contest against a resurgent Pilsner Urquell in the final.

Netherlands - The Grolsch - vanquished the surprisingly popular (in Amsterdam) Bavaria in the SF and then beat the southsiders fave Heineken 5% in the final.

So I asked Herself to pour the four finalists into identical glasses. I expected not to be able tell anything from the visuals - colour, head etc. and thus it proved. BTW I asked Herself to chime in also, she knew what the beers were but she wouldn't have the same prejudices, preconceptions and outright biases that I maintain. I know they aren't beer glasses but those were the only glasses I could find four of...

Lager #1
Herself said that she found it "gentle", I found it delicious and subtle, if I had to describe it, (and I guess I do, given that's the raison d'etre of the post). If I'm honest, it took until the second round of tastings that I really got this...
Guess - Krombacher.

Lager #2
Hey Mikey, she likes it!* I liked it too. Full falvoured and well balanced. I suspected it wasn't the Krom or the Bud so..
Guess - Zywiec

Lager #3
Herself preferred #2 and so did I. After the first two this came across as a bit bland.
Guess - Grolsch

Lager #4
Big, bold and beautiful.
Guess - It can only be the Budvar.

I'm batting .500 with 2 out of 4 correct. I mixed up the Grolsch and the Zywiec, speaking of which the Zywiec did not come across well. The Grolsch was pretty good, in third place, and surprised me by kicking some Polish ass.

Which leaves us with the Krom and the Bud, beauty and the beast, and I have to choose between them. Or Do I? Its my ball and I'll play with it as I see fit. In this case, I'm giving them joint first place.

If you want a delicious but subtle lager, Krombacher is for you. If, at another time, you need a big beefy, full strength lager lager then Budvar is your man.

Apologies for my equivocation, but when in doubt, do both.

* A very popular TV advertisement when I was growing up, on the "other side of the pond"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Netherlands - Final 4 (of 4)

Grolsch 5% abv
Heineken 5% abv

So back to the lagers. After drinking lots of lovely ales at the Craft Beer fest, I'm hoping these lagers don't seem underwhelming. It seems to me (and maybe this is just stating the bleedin' obvious) but there is much less variety in the world of lagers compared to ales.

I'm trying both of these from cans, for the record.  I've never seen the 5% Heino, in this country, in anything but cans and the fancy shmancy Grolsch bottles aren't that widely available, IMHO. I should say that in most of these rounds I've had a fair idea who was going to win. But here, no idea. Touch gloves and come out fighting...

I'm really digging this beer tonight. It's crisp and clean, refreshing, not a huge finish,but quite moreish. Maybe it's cos I haven't had a beer for 48 hours but this is yummy.

Heineken 5%
Hmmm, a little meh tonight. Smooth, with a decent finish, but not much else going on.

Winner - Grolsch.
To be cynical, it probably doesn't matter which I choose as I don't think either has a ghost of a chance in the final, but I'm going for Grolsch, it has marginally more cred than the much maligned Vitamin H, seeing as I've probably lost all my Ale cred doing all these mass produced lager posts.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irish Craft Beer (and Cider) fest - report

This time last year I was in the middle of an ill advised beer-free (but not booze-free) period when I attended the Beer and Cider fest. That time, all I drank was cider. This time I wanted to drink all the beer. Alas, the only night I could go was Thursday, and I had work the next day and a stag in Killarney to deal with the following night, so moderation was required.

Me and m'colleague NP, arrived early at 5-30 and had the run of the place for a while. We  did a circuit of the stands and had lots of interesting chats with the various punters manning the pumps, apart from one, but more of that anon.

I kept a record of the ales sampled but not any tasting notes so the following is from memory...

1. McGraths IPA
Lovely hoppy ale, well balanced.

2.Galway Bay Voyager IPA
Tasty and strong as balls. Didn't try the Full Sail on draught unfortunately, as I love it in bottles.

3. Kentucky IPA
Had it once before on draught and it was super this time too. Tasted the bourbon ale but found it a little sweet for my palate.

4. Kinnegar Devil's Backbone Amber Ale
Had a nice chat with the lovely people here and decided on the amber ale as a break from the IPAs. Very smooth and easy drinking. NP had the Rustbucket Rye Ale, which I also sampled, and it was fantastic - I love this style of ale. 

5. Trouble Brewing Deception Golden Ale
An old favourite of mine, yummy on draught. They had various funky beers but I wimped out and played it safe. 

6. Franciscan Well IPA
A 7.5% beast, I left it 'til last on purpose. Big, hoppy, and the last nail in my coffin.

The only disappointment of the night was that we didn't manage to sample any of the 8 Degrees brewing beers. I particularly wanted to try the Cyclone IPA on draught and the limited edition Amber Ella. However, on our first circuit of the hall, we waited in vain to be noticed at the 8 Degrees taps for a few minutes and eventually left thirsty. We returned during the evening not once, not twice but three times. However on each occasion we were roundly ignored by the gentlemen behind the stand, who on at least two of the four visits appeared to be chatting idly with a single individual. Perhaps it was because he was on his own, or perhaps because he didn't like the look of us (he wouldn't be the first), who knows? At every other stand we were received graciously, and they patiently listened to my inane, and frequently ill-informed opinions on their proudly produced ales, and were offered many samples and tasters.

I thought perhaps I was being paranoid, but after I left NP stayed on and returned a fifth time to the 8 Degrees stand. Still no dice, (or beer). It's a pity, as I really like their beers and would have liked to sample them on draught.

Next year, I'm not going to plan any other events on this weekend and I'm going to literally drink all the beers.  By the way, I'm sure the ciders were fab, they were great last year but I had to narrow my focus.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Germany - Final 3 (of 4)

Final - Germany

Krombacher  4.8% abv
Beck's 4.8% abv

Ach - I'm tired of the format of these posts; I'm just gonna drink a half a glass of each and declare a winner. I'm too tired and lazy to try and be witty, informative or even accurate, about these beers. I'm just gonna taste, judge and decide, somewhat arbitrarily.

It's Krombacher - deal with it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Poland - Final 2 (of 4)

Final - Poland
Tyskie 5.6% abv
Zywiec 5.8% abv

The Polish Semi-Finals are here, by the way

In a change from our published program, this time out the Tyskie is in a can and the Zywiec is from a bottle. I should mention the other Polish beers I rejected to get to the four that competed in the semis. Karpackie - a bit cheap and cheerful;  Tatra - not bad, and nicely strong; Lomza Export - not great.

I've already said enough about these in the semis so let's see if anything has changed, my bet is on the barely pronounceable Zywiec.

I still like this, it's clean and well balanced.

Yep still very good. Well balanced, lots of malty goodness. Not as much fizz as from the can but

Winner -  Zywiec

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why all the beer posts? Make with the wine, already...

A lot of readers (Ed. - really?) have been wondering why I've been doing so many beer posts of late  and so very few wine posts. There are a couple of reasons for this, the most obvious reason is that I am in the middle of the International Lager Challenge (tm). There are a total of 17 rounds and 20 lagers involved. The current status is below; we are now at the semi final stage of each country and I'm really enjoying the competition element.

The second reason is that I'm (mostly) bored with the wine that I'm drinking, I buy pretty much all of the wine that we drink at home and I don't accept samples, as I don't have it in me not be influenced such largesse, and secondly, one of my reasons for starting this blog was to attempt to identify value for money, harder to do if you get the goods for free. (Full disclosure: I haven't been offered that many freebies; for the last couple of years, what with working abroad and then redundancy, I haven't been putting myself about like I used to, at tastings and whatnot, so sample offers have been few and far between.)

Most of the wine that Herself and I drink is in the €8 - €13 range. 1 wine out of 10 is pants, 1 out of 10 is delicious and 8 out of 10 are "meh", and these are the problem. I don't know why but I'm not really enjoying these wines. It's not that they're bad, they are totally "drinkable" (I know, that's a loaded term these days) but they are forgettable. There are a couple of things that might be happening here.

One is I'm just bored with wine (most wine) or two, my tastes are getting more expensive/rarefied, it has happened before. I'm not sure which, maybe a little from column A and a little from column B. On the beer front, I think it's the whole craft beer thing (which is relatively new, in this country) that has me genuinely excited every time I walk into an off-licence and even mildly excited in supermarkets, even they are getting into the act, albeit slowly and in a limited fashion.

By the same token I should be excited whenever I walk into an off-licence, as there are always many many bottles that I have never heard of waiting to be sampled. Not so much in Supermarkets (Tesco and Dunnes anyway) as I pretty much know every bottle on the shelves.

It may be a function of cost. In offies the wines I want to try generally cost between €15 and €20, it's a not inconsiderable sum to wager on a bottle. However, most craft beers are between €2-50 and €3-50, even if it's piss, you are only out a couple of quid. Experimenting with craft beer is cheaper and less risky. And I'm nothing if not cheap.

There is also a surprising variety of flavours, not so much with lagers, but in spades with ales. I'll probably get shot for saying it (in a wine blog) but there is at least as much (if not more) variety in ales than there is with red wine. There's also the fact that there is an ever increasing number of Irish craft beers, it's gratifying to support Irish brewers and to be able to talk to them on Twitter.

I'm rambling. Long story short, beer is exciting me at the moment, wine, not so much. I'm sure I'll get my wine mojo back at some point. Until then, Beer me!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Czech Republic - Final 1 (of 4)

Final - Czech Republic
Budweiser Budvar 5.0% abv  €2.49 
Pilsner Urquell 4.4% abv  €2.99

So here we are, all the quarter finals and semi-finals are now done, time for the first national final, and it's coming live from the of the Czech republic. Anyhoo, this should be a close final, I'd say the Budvar is a warm-ish favourite but who knows.

BTW I am still debating the format of what happens after the four regional finals, I had originally planned to pit the winners of each country against each other in two semi-finals and then have those winners face off in a super grand final, but, I am now considering a four-way blind tasting, as a more equitable option.

Budweiser Budvar
Oh holy jeebus, that's good. Lots of hops and flavour and a super finish. Yep, hot favourite now.
Pilsner Urquell
Still good,  slightly sweet but well balanced and refreshing. Lovely but not a winner today.

Winner - Budvar

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Germany Semi Finals 1 & 2

Semi Final 1
Krombacher  4.8% €2.95
Veltins Pilsener 4.8% abv  €2.99

Germany Quarter Finals 1&2 are here, Germany Quarter Final 3&4 are here

Veltins is very much the underdog here, it was a surprise winner in the QF against the fancied Spaten but I think it will have its work cut out against the mighty Krombacher, which as I mentioned in the QF, I have loved for a long time. The Krom won fairly handy against the mid-table Warsteiner and if I were a betting man I wouldn't wager against it.

Still very good, smooth, creamy and delicious.

The Veltins is also good, it's less smooth but it has a hint of hoppiness that I'm liking. This is a tough call; both are very tasty

Winner - Krombacher (by a nose)

Semi Final 2
Beck's 4.8% abv  €1.75
Grafenwalder 5% abv €1.09

The Grafenwalder has it all to do. It's the only "cheap" beer to win a round to date but it's up against a "premium" lager in Becks, which I know I like. I brought down a sixpack of The Graf on hols and had no complaints, but I also brought a slab of Finkbrau, so I don't know what to tell you.

Yep, still good. Crisp and clean, not earth shattering but solid. There's body to this lager and a tiny bit of malt.

Hmmm, there's some little hoppiness here but not much else, still it's quite drinkable.

Winner - Becks

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Netherlands Semi-Finals 1 & 2

Semi Final 1 
Bavaria 4.3% €1.39 (can, Tesco)
Heineken 5% abv (can)

I didn't realise it, but Bavaria isn't a cheap Heineken knock off. It was founded in 1719, apparently. Papa Willie used to buy this by the case when I was growing up, there were two varieties; the weaker Green can and the stronger Yellow can. We always assumed they were inexpensive but when we went to Amsterdam earlier this year , you couldn't escape the stuff.

Growing up in D4 I feel culturally conditioned to love the 'ol Vitamin H. I will admit I used to drink a lot of it, and still do occasionally on draft. mostly when I'm very thirsty, the selection of beers is poor and I don't fancy a Guinness. Having said that, I don't tend to drink the regular (4.3%) stuff from cans, but I do like the European (or 5%) version. Having tasted them back to back, accidentally, I can confirm there is a big difference. BTW Heineken is only around since 1873!

Not bad, it's smooth and perfectly drinkable and refreshing in a cold beer flavoured drink way.

There's a lovely zing to this beer. In the weaker version this can come across as unpleasant bitterness but as it is here, I quite like it.

Winner - Heineken

Semi Final 2
Grolsch 5% abv   €1.89 (can)
Dutch Gold  4% €?.?? (can)

I can't imagine this is going to be much of a competition but for form's sake we'll do it by the numbers. I've never sampled the pleasures of Dutch Gold, famous as it is with a certain crowd in Dublin. Grolsch is one of my "go to" lagers (along with Becks and 5% 'Ken), so let's start.

Dutch Gold
You know what, this isn't offensive, it's a bit bland but if I was handed a glass of this on a hot day, I'd probably drink it, and suffer the social opprobrium afterwards.

Better, it's crisper, cleaner with a light hoppy finish.

Winner - Grolsch

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Poland Semi-Finals 1 & 2

Semi Final 1
Lech 5.2% abv
Tyskie 5.6% abv €1.65 (Lidl)

I've done this before, although not for a while.        
Lech eh? Not much to say here. I've purchased it in occasion and it was...unremarkable. Nothing wrong with it but nothing lodged in my memory banks. Tyskie is a love/hate thing. Not a bunch of pretty Dublin gangsters but a memory of a legendary Tyskie induced hangover. I foolishly drank eight cans playing poker, along with lots of whiskey and a couple of stogies. At 6pm the next day I had to retreat to my bed with a crippling headache,  hoping to reboot.

Still nothing going on here. It's not watery piss like Bud/Coors etc. It has more body. But there's not much malt, no hops. Grassy, easy drinking but bland.

Better. There's a tiny bit of caramel sweetness and a little hoppy bite at the finish and maybe the extra alcohol helps.

Winner - Tyskie

Semi Final 2
Warka 5.7% abv €1.84 (can, Dunnes)
Zywiec 5.8% abv €1.65 (can, Lidl)

I like Zywiec, I like it a lot. It's quite strong but it's got lots of flavour. I'm not sure about the Warka. There wasn't a lot of other decent Polish beers around. Karpackie anyone? Although I did find some cans of Tatra (6% abv) somewhere and it was ok. Could have been a last minute replacement for the the Warka but eh, no.

Hmmm, not great. Quite like the Lech, not much going on here.

Much better, some nice maltiness, good balance and a nice finish.

Winner - Zywiec.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Holiday Beers - Update 2

After a couple of pints, and a torrential downpour, at a nearby Parish "do", I squelched my way into Baggot St wines with a view to purchasing some quality craft beers for m'hols. I had previously been to Lidl where I bought a load of cheap beer and wine, so I was only after the good stuff now.

From left to right they are:

Dungarvan Comeragh Challenger Irish Bitter 3.8% €3.49 
Very bitter. Too bitter for me, alas.

Trouble Brewing Sabotage India Pale Ale 5.5% €3.69
I liked this although it was unusually dark red in the glass for an IPA and had a more red ale fruit thing going on. Very different to what I normally drink but well worth a punt.

Curious IPA 5.6% €3.49
Decent IPA. Nothing to shout about in this company. I'll probably have to buy this again to give it a fair shake.

Mikkeller Green Gold 7.0% €4.69
This was too much for me. It was very big and very full of flavour. I like a fuller flavoured IPA but this was a bit OTT for me, for some reason.

8 Degrees Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner Lager 4.0% €2.49
Finally an Irish lager I really like. Although it's only 4%, and I don't normally liked weak lagers, I loved this. It's crisp and has a nice bit of hops going on.

Franciscan Well IPA 7.5% €4.99
The pick of the bunch. I haven't had a beer from this brewery since Herself bought me an Alpha Dawg IPA a while back. Since then the brewery has been bought by Molson Coors, so it was with some trepidation that I opened this bottle. I needn't have worried, this was fantastic. Lots of hops, but well balanced, I'll have to blind test this against my favorite US IPAs...

Hilden Brewing Co Twisted Hop 4.7% €3.49
A good solid IPA from our Northern friends. Good hops, good malt, a lovely well balanced ale. I'm not surprised it won a prize (see below). I have to say that my favourite IPAs are the strong (mostly) American IPAs, but I would buy this again...

The Twisted Hop has just won top prize at the first Dublin Craft Beer Cup, so I got 2 of them. I was invited to this event by the lovely people @BaggotStWines, but alas I couldn't go due to work constraints.

I'll be drinking the rest over the next couple of weeks and will report back in due course.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Czech/Slovak Semi-Finals 1 & 2

Semi Final 1
Pilsner Urquell 4.4% abv  €2.99
Zlaty Bazant  5.0% abv  €2.19  (Slovak)

Look at the picture at left. Notice any similarities between the two beers?  Gold foil at the top, green font on a white background and a red rosette/symbol above same?  I did a quick qoogle and Pilsner Urquell has been made since 1842, Zlaty Bazant since 1967.

Zlaty Bazant is marketed in the U.S. as Golden Pheasant, and there's one on the label. There you go. It's owned by Heineken and I found some sniffy reviews on the intertubes as a result of this.

Pilsner Urquell
Nice, very nice. Crisp, full flavoured and a hint of bitterness and hops. This beer is apparently the original Pils (from the town of Pilsen, natch). 

Zlaty Bazant
It's not bad.. It's dry, with a little something or other going on at the finish. I'd drink it if I was given it but it's not at the races today.

Winner - Pilsner Urquell

Semi Final 2
Budweiser Budvar 5.0% abv  €2.49 
Staropramen 5.0% abv  €2.49

I know that Budvar has a complicated and litigious history, which I won't rehash here. Suffice to say I won't ever be drinking it's namesake.

After they took the Krombacher tap out of the Stillorgan Orchard I started to drink Budvar in bottles. I still buy it sporadically,  when I'm feeling flathuileach. Staropramen I've had the odd time, mostly when I'm in a pub and don't fancy whatever is on draught

Budweiser Budvar
Lots of  malty goodness and a hoppy finish. Well balanced and with a long finish. Altogether very tasty. This will be tough to beat.

It's good, slightly sweet and malty, but it's lacking the hoppy bite of its opponent. I'd be happy to drink it in a bar, but I'd probably not buy it...

Winner - Budvar

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Germany Quarter Finals 3 & 4

Quarter Final 3
Beck's 4.8% abv  €1.75 (can)
Holsten Pils 5.0% abv  €1.75 (can, 440ml)

Me and Beck's go way back. I spent one long hot summer in LA eschewing the weak local swill for bottles of Beck's and Grolsch. Holsten Pils used to be seen, I think, as a somewhat sophisticated beer back in the late 80's when I started drinking. It wasn't a lager, it was a Pils. Ahh, more innocent times! I honestly have no idea how it's going to hold up tonight, whether it was ever any cop or whether it was just clever marketing.

I like this, it has nice, crisp, dry flavours, and a decent finish with a hint of hoppiness.

Holsten Pils
No. Not much going on here. No crispness, just an underlying slightly sweetish hum. Drinkable but not much more.

Winner  - Becks

Quarter Final 4
Grafenwalder 5% abv €1.09 (can, Lidl)
Finkbrau 4.9% abv €0.75 (33cl, Lidl)

I've blogged (and compared and contrasted) Lidl beers before, and that time the Grafenwalder won, over its rival Perlenbacher. I've just checked the labels and both of these beers are made for Lidl. I do buy Finkbrau when I'm feeling impecunious but the Grafenwalder I haven't had for a long time. I decided to include these two just to see if you can get decent beer, cheaply. Let's see.

Pale in the glass, not much head, this is OK, if a bit grassy.

Also pale in the glass, also not much head.This has a slightly fuller, richer flavour. Nothing to write home about but decent.

Winner  - Grafenwalder

Note: At one point  I had included Satzenbrau in the eight German beers but after I googled it I discovered its not German at all. It's an erzatz Pils, made by Guinness in Dublin.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Germany Quarter Finals 1 & 2

Quarter Final 1
Spaten 5.2% abv
Veltins Pilsener 4.8% abv  €2.99

I do like Spaten, I had some recently at a gig (Hey! I'm not so old), and I really enjoyed it. I've only had Veltins once, on a recommendation from some guy in an off licence. It was OK; pleasant but unremarkable. Sounds like this match is a no-brainer, let's see...

Pale yellow in the glass, decent head. It's not bad, but not great. Some decent malt present and it's smooth, dry and drinkable but  nothing exciting here.

Veltins Pilsener
This is nice. Decent malt  and a little hops. Again not massively exciting but pretty decent.

Winner  - Veltins

Quarter Final 2
Kromabcher  4.8% €2.95 (Dunnes)
Warsteiner 4.8% abv

Back when we used to drink in the Stillorgan Orchard on a regular basis, they used to have Krombacher on tap and I bleedin' loved it, but I haven't seen it on draught it since. I buy it occasionally in bottles, but it can be pricey - three yo-yos for a bottle of lager isn't that clever. I'm sure I've sampled the Warsteiner before but I couldn't tell you when, I guess I must have tried it at least once? Anyway, here goes...

Amber in the glass with a long lasting head, this is pure class. Well balanced, sweet and slightly creamy (?) with a long luscious finish, this is utterly delicious. I suspect this will be a hard ask for the opposition here.

Tennis ball yellow in the glass, the head on this rapidly disappeared (baum). Not bad, a little bitterness but not much else going on. Fine on a hot day but not a winner here...

Winner  - Krombacher

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lager Challenge - Intro, Updated*

After the success of the IPA Challenge (so the voices in my head tell me, anyway), I have decided to attempt a larger (and lager) challenge.  This time things will be different. With the IPAs I bought pretty much every one  I could find, which wasn't that many, both cheap(ish) and dear. The problem with that method, however, was that the IPAs that won both Round 1 and Round 2 were expensive and not readily available in Supermarkets or Off Licences.

For this competition I decided to remove both the top-end and bottom-end of the spectrum. No craft lagers and no cheap muck. I intend that every lager in competition be fairly easily found, most, I hope are available in Supermarkets, which is where I think most people are buying their beer these days.

The other big wrinkle is that I am going to do initial rounds by country. So far it looks like this:
Note: all priced Beers from Molloys and are 500ml bottles unless otherwise stated.

Germany - 8 Lagers. There appears to be more decent quality German lagers about then from other territories. I picked 6 "premium" lagers and decided round out  the 8 with a couple from Lidl to mix it up a bit. The eight purchased to date are:

Spaten 5.2% abv
Veltins Pilsener 4.8% abv  €2.99
Warsteiner 4.8% abv 
Kromabcher  4.8% €2.95 (Dunnes)
Beck's 4.8% abv  €1.75 (can)
Holsten Pils 5.0% abv  €1.75 (can, 440ml) 
Grafenwalder 5% abv €1.09 (can, Lidl)
Finkbrau 4.9% abv €0.75 (33cl, Lidl)

Czech Republic - 4 Lagers. Already selected and purchased. The usual suspects I guess, and one beer from Slovakia as follows:

Pilsner Urquell 4.4% abv  €2.99 
Zlaty Bazant  5.0% abv  €2.19  (Slovak)
Budweiser Budvar 5.0% abv  €2.49 
Staropramen 5.0% abv  €2.49

Poland - 4 lagers. All four decided on now... 

Lech 5.2% abv
Tyskie 5.6% abv €1.65 (Lidl)
Zywiec 5.8% abv €1.65 (can, Lidl)
Warka 5.7% abv €1.84 (can, Dunnes)

Netherlands - 4 Lagers. Three* definites so far. The last one might be a bit dodgy...

Heineken 5% abv
Grolsch 5% abv   €1.89 (can)
Bavaria 4.3% €1.39 (can, Tesco)
Dutch Gold  4% €?.?? (can)

The idea is that one winner from each group will be blind tasted, in an ultimate final. This may take a while, so please be patient...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dial A for Aldi - and a sort of Liveblog. *Updated

A "new" Aldi opened a couple of years ago in Sandyford and I have been meaning to check out their booze for ages, but have been continually diverted by Dunnes at the Beacon and the nearby O'Briens wines, just around the corner. So yesterday, I girded my loins, and with my conscience in the back seat (Lil Bill), sallied forth to the aforementioned Aldi.

Things didn't start well. Their trolleys only take 2 Euro coins, rather than the standard one Euro coins (or tokens if you prefer) and they don't "do" baskets. I was about to leave in disgust when I managed to collar a helpful employee who sold me a token for a mere 89c. Perhaps I am not the target audience but would putting out a few baskets kill them?

Matters didn't improve. Lil Bill refused to pick out a breakfast cereal as he didn't fancy any of their copycat brands. I was only there for the booze so that's pretty much all we got. The booze purchased is pictured below...

Not pictured is a bottle of Aldi Old Hopking Gin, €12-99 for 70cl, which is very cheap. I had heard good things about it , see this. We tried it out in a G&T later and it was perfectly decent. I intend to test against an open bottle of standard Gordon's next weekend. (I try to only drink spirits on non"school" nights)
*Update - I set up a blind test for Herself and she preferred the Gordons, just. I knew which was which and I also just favoured the Gordons; there was a little botanical extra present. Still, the Aldi gin is great value as priced, especially if you are not a gin snob, like me.

On the beer front I got some of the following:
Spaten (not pictured) €1.79. A good price for this beer which I was co-incidentally drinking on Friday night at a Harvest (Neil young tribute band) gig at the Sugar Club. Great gig, although the Spaten was €6 a pop there, ouch.

Marston's Pedigree Pale Ale - €2.09 4.5% abv, Never seen this before but as I am an IPA junkie I got some. Report on this to follow. Per the Sindo today, liking craft IPAs, the more exclusive the better is a hipster trait. I think that's my only one, unless driving a Skoda and shopping in Penney's counts?
*Update - meh, nothing to see here.

Staroslav Czech Pilsner - €1.19 Another punt here. Although at 4%, it's not off to a good start.
*Update - This wasn't too bad. Not a huge amount of flavour but what was there was pleasant enough. One for those who like cheap weak lager, methinks. 

Rheinbacher Premium Pils - €6.99 for 6. More random German beer from the budget retailers. Most of the similar beer from Lidl is piss but the Grafenwalder & Finkbrau are OK, so long as you don't drink them after a "name" beer, at which point the cheapies tend to come off second best.
*Update - Ugh. I've had two of these now just to make sure the first one wasn't a fluke. In a nutshell, it's not very nice, its watery at first and then there's an unpleasant aftertaste. I'm regretting buying six as I'm not sure I can force myself to drink the remaining four, loathe as I am to pour beer down the sink.

On the wine front I picked 2 reds.

Domaine Roussellet Pinot Noir "Vin De France" - No Vintage specified. - €6-99
We drink this last night  and it was just OK, just about drinkable. Even at this price I wouldn't recommend it, unless bargain, non-vintage, non-Burgundy, Pinot Noir is your thing.

Minarete Ribera del Duero Roble 2011 - €7-99
9pm: I opened and decanted this at 4pm before we headed out to our local gastropub The Wild Boar (where the service was a little random but the food was very, very good). Anyhoo, just tasted the wine and after the Pinot Noir yesterday, I wasn't hopeful. Surprise! This is quite nice. Some nice plummy fruit and a bit of depth to the flavour. Not bad for 8 notes.

10pm: It's still good. Not earth shattering, but solid. There's now the tiniest bit of astringency in the mix, along with some recently evolved tannins. All in all, its pretty decent and good value as priced.

I think I've gone on long enough, so I'll leave it at that. It's a mixed bag so far from Aldi. I'll probably blog or at least tweet on the various beers above at some stage over the next few days...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

(I)PA Challenge 2 - Final

Apologies for the delay, I'm finally in a position to stage the final of the second (I)PA Challenge. Some things to note:

1) As with the original (I)PA  Challenge, I decided to do it as a blind tasting, with the help of my lovely assistant, Herself.
2) I decided to skip the semi-final stage and go straight to the final four*
3) I decided to nix the Liberty IPA. As much as I liked it, it didn't qualify for the competition even under the very loose rules I'd specified.

The remaining finalists are:
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA 355ml 5.8% €4.99 [Baggot St Wines] link
Shepherd Neame IPA 50cl 6.1% €4.19 [Baggot St Wines] link
Flying Dog - Snake Dog IPA 355ml 7.1% €4.39 [Molloys] link

As before, I asked Herself to facilitate the blind tasting, and the results are below. Last time out all the beers were a similar colour so I had no external clues. This time number 3 was a bit of a giveaway.

My tasting notes are as follows:

1. Lots of hops - but nicely balanced and delicious.   Guess Rogue
2. Not so much hops - very well balanced.   Guess SnakeDog
3. Even less hops - not bad, but not at the races compared to numbers 1 and 2. Not a Guess, it's the Shepherd Neame (I can tell by the colour).

The results are as follows:

I was right, for once. The Rogue and the Snake Dog were not dissimilar, but the Rogue was a bit hoppier, better balanced and totally delicious. Funnily enough, it's also the most expensive, at €4.99 for 355ml.

Now that I have two competition winners I probably should run them off against each other, and maybe throw in something else into a blind test, to keep me honest. I recently had a Mikkeller Tomahawk IPA which was fantastic and which would fit the bill nicely.

I think I'm done with IPAs for now although I do have a yen to run off some of the more expensive IPAs against each other like Nogne, Mikkeller etc. I also have ideas for other competitions, Golden Ales, Red Les, German Lagers, Czech lagers, Polish Lagers; the list is seemingly endless.

By the way, here are the prices by volume. As before, the most expensive won:

Here are the links to the component posts...

Intro here
Quarter Final 1 here
Quarter Final 2 here

Monday, June 3, 2013

(I)PA Challenge 2 - Quarter Finals 3 & 4

Quarter Final 3
Thornbridge Kipling 5.3%  50cl  €3.99 [Molloys]  link
Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA 355ml 7.1% €4.39 [Molloys] link

The Kipling is a relatively new beer to me. I saw it when I was buying the Jaipur and figgered I'd add it to the mix for the (I)PA challenge Part deux. It's less alcoholic (and cheaper) so it's very much the little brother in the relationship. The Snake Dog is the opposite, being the bigger brother to the Doggy Style (5.5%) IPA that was beaten, co-incidentally, by the Jaipur last time out, so it's very much a revenge match, if beers were sentient and in fact, gave a toss about this sort of thing.

Thornbridge Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale
Lager colour in the glass, the first thing to notice here is the tropical fruit, very unusual in a beer. Not a huge amount of hops, I suspect your enjoyment will be determined by how much the tropical fruit work for you. I like it but do I like it enough?

Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA
Beefy and full-on. This is not dissimilar to the American IPAs from Goose Island and ODell that made the final in Series 1. Perhaps it lacks the finesse of its cousins though, there's a ghost of an aftertaste, that I'm not sure I like. This is gonna be a tough one to call.

Winner Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA

Quarter Final 4
Proper Job IPA 50cl 5.5% €2.99 [Tesco] link
Shepherd Neame IPA 50cl 6.1% €4.19 [Baggot St Wines] link

I've had the Proper Job a couple of times and it's been pretty decent so I reckoned it would be good value in this competition. The Shepherd Neame on the other hand I had never seen, before I saw it in Baggot St. I am a big fan of their Bishop's Finger (steady), so a good strong 6.1% IPA seemed like a good bet.
Proper Job IPA
Cloudy straw in the glass, this is...OK. It has some decent citrussy hoppiness but not much else. No malty sweetness to offset it. Not bad by any means but not brilliant.
Shepherd Neame IPA 
A deep  ruby colour, with a fine lingering head (chance would be a fine thing). This is the opposite of the Proper Job (sort of). Not much hops but lots of malty goodness. Totally different to the big hoppy IPAs I have been loving of late, but really tasty nonetheless.

Winner Shepherd Neame IPA

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

(I)PA Challenge 2 - Quarter Finals 1 & 2

Quarter Final 1
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA 5.8% €4.99 [Baggot St Wines] link
Left Hand Brewery Stranger American Pale Ale 5%  €3.69 [Baggot St Wines] link

Both of these are brand new to me, I went into Baggot St Wines and picked up four (I)PAs I had never seen before and these are two of them. I do have to say there is a fantastic selection of beers here, if you're tired of the beers here, you're tired of life.

Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
Deep straw colour, cloudy with a lingering head. Yummy, decent amount of fruity hops, a smidge of malt. Well balanced with a lingering bitter hoppy finish. Delicious.

Left Hand Brewery Stranger Pale Ale
A similar colour to to the Rogue but the head here didn't linger. The style here is much different. I guess this is an "American" Pale ale as opposed to an "India" Pale ale? This is light on the hops and is a bit fruitier in a classic ale way. It's certainly tasty but might be a little light...

Winner Rogue Yellow Snow IPA

Quarter Final 2
8 Degrees Brewing Howling Gale Pale Ale 5% €1.99 [Dunnes] link
Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale 5.9%  €3.29 [Baggot St Wines] link

I've been drinking the Howling Gale for a few months on and off. Whenever I needed a tasty but inexpensive (I)PA, this was my "go to" ale, especially as it's Irish. The Liberty Ale I believe is a fairly iconic American microbrewed ale, we'll soon find out if the reputation is justified.

8 Degrees Brewing Howling Gale Pale Ale
I like this. It's not a hoppy monster, it's well balanced and has nice, if refined, flavours. A beer to convert the lager drinker but probably not an (I)PA competition contender. One of the least expensive beers here and recommended.

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale
I'm not sure if this beer should be in this competition as I don't think it qualifies as an (I)PA (full disclosure: my definition is pretty much based on what it says on the bottle. If it says "pale ale", it qualifies). In a pinch I'd say this is more like a golden ale? However, it is rather wonderful. Not much in the way of hops but some lovely malty sweetness and balance and finish and yum.

Winner Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

(India) Pale Ales - The Second Chronicles

During (and after) the extravaganza that was the inaugural (I)PA challenge (final post here), I realised that there were a number of (I)PAs I had come across that I should have included and one shop that I hadn't stripped of (I)PAs (Baggot St Wines). To that end I decided to pick another eight (I)PAs and run them off against each other in the standard knockout format.

The contestants in each quarter final are listed below and pictured above. I apologise if some of the pricing is a bit inexact as I forgot to get/take a receipt on more than one occasion.

Quarter Final 1
Left Hand Brewery Stranger Pale Ale 355ml 5%  €3.69 [Baggot St Wines] link
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA 355ml 5.8%  €4.99 [Baggot St Wines] link

Quarter Final 2
Howling Gale pale ale 330 ml 5% €1.99 [Dunnes] link
Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale 355ml 5.9%  €3.29 [Baggot St Wines] link

Quarter Final 3
Thornbridge Kipling 5.3%  50cl  €3.99 [Molloys]  link
Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA 355ml 7.1% €4.39 [Molloys] link

Quarter Final 4
Shepherd Neame IPA 50cl 6.1% €4.19 [Baggot St Wines] link
Proper Job IPA 50cl 5.5% €2.99 [Tesco] link

There were also number of contenders who didn't make it...
Dungarvan Mahon Falls Rue Pale ale 5.1% - Really tasty but seasonal, so excluded.
Crew Pale Ale 5.6% €2.99- Not bad, bit fruity but not much going on apart from that.
Monteith's Pacific Pale Ale 4.6% €2.49  - My first NZ ale. Unfortunately, even less going on here.
ODell 5 Barrell Pale Ale 5.2% €3.49 This was perfectly fine but not a patch on their IPA which won the whole schmozzle last week.

Note: I have also excluded some "super premium" (I)PAs that I have come across, these go for 6 or 7 euros a time e.g. Nogne, Mikkeller, etc. I think I will do a separate, limited trial of these beasts in the future.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

IPA Challenge Cup Final

So I often begin these blog posts as follows, "So I....". This time, given the fact that this post represents the culmination of almost 2 months of conscientious and "careful" beer drinking, it would seem inappropriate to start in such a flippant manner. For those of you scoring at home here are the finalists (l-r):

Goose Island India Pale Ale 5.9% abv   
Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale  5.9% abv 
ODell India Pale Ale  7% abv 
Brew Dog Punk IPA  5.6% abv

Anyhoo, I decided to do the final as a blind tasting, I know there are pros and cons of blind tasting in general,  but given that I knew the identities of the items to be tasted I figured we'd be OK. I asked Herself to half fill four identical numbered glasses with the beers above and then number the bottles appropriately.

As luck would have it, none of the four were especially visually distinctive, so no clues there. My tasting notes were as follows:

Beer#1: Lots of hops, not much malt. Nice, but not smooth or balanced. Guess: Punk 
Beer#2: Smooth, balanced and lovely. Guess: Odell/Jaipur 
Beer#3: Wow, Smooth, balanced, lovely and some delicious fruitiness. Guess: Goose Island 
Beer#2: Smooth, balanced and lovely. Guess: Odell/Jaipur

#1 is definitely Punk; it has none of the malty sweetness to balance the bitterness of the hops. #2 and #4 are both really smooth, well balanced and very tasty; I'm guessing it's the Jaipur and the ODell but I can't tell them apart, blind.  #3 is just stonking, it takes #2 and #4 and adds some subtle fruit that elevates this ale to near mythic levels.  My guess is the Goose Island, as I have really loved this before.

Time for the big reveal, I went and fetched the now be-stickered bottles.

I got 1.5 out of four, not a good strike rate, given that I had tasted them all recently. I knew I liked the ODell but both Herself (who knew which beer was which, but hadn't tasted the ODell before) and I, clearly preferred #3 above the others.

The winner was the Odell IPA and joint second was the Goose Island and the Jaipur with the Punk bringing up the rear. The Odell is simply magnificent, but a look at the price of each beer makes for some fascinating reading. I worked out the cost per litre of each of the 16 entrants and the results are below...

So I have expensive tastes and so does Herself, who'd a thunk it?

Although it's obvious, it bears repeating, the above exercise, from 16 beers to one, is not an empirical exercise and only reflects my own perverse tastes in ale. Your mileage can, and invariably will, vary.

As I type I am finishing off the Goose Island along with a snifter of Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo, and a fine pairing they make. It has been a long week for all concerned, but hopefully we are out the woods now. Goodnight, and may your god go with you...

Update - here are the links for all of the pevious rounds

Quarter Final 1 is here,  Quarter Final 2 is here, Quarter Final 3 is here,  Quarter Final 4 is here
Quarter Finals 5 & 6 are here, Quarter Finals 7 & 8 are here

Semi Finals 1 & 2 are here, Semi Finals 3 & 4 are here