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.