Friday, January 31, 2014

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - Final

Black's Kinsale Pale Ale 5.0% abv 33cl €2.69
O'Hara's Double IPA 7.5% abv 50cl €3.89
Mountain Man Hairy Goat  4.5% abv 33cl €2.69
Porterhouse Hop Head 5.0% abv 33cl €2.10

So here we are at last in the final. It has been pointed out that these beers represent very different styles of ale, and this is true. The entry criteria were that it had to be Irish (sorry Boom) and it had to have the words "pale ale" or "IPA" in the name. Hence we have a strong Double IPA, and three rather different styles of "pale ale". If I had, in fact, limited the competition to "actual" pale ales, it wouldn't have been much of a competition, numbers wise.

It's been said before, but it bears repeating. This is not, nor could it ever be, an empirical test of ales. All winners have done so based on my own personal tastes (or lack thereof) and if you yourself ran the competition you would probably get wildly different results. Here's how they all got here...

I feel sorry for the Full Sail which would probably have made the final if it had been in two of the other semi-finals and the Trouble Brewing which I like but tasted not at like an IPA at the time of tasting. I have discovered a couple or three "Pale Ales" that I might have included; McGraths IPA, Killegar Rustbucket Rye Ale, Franciscan Well IPA and others which I may review in due course.

As always, the final will be a blind tasting and I had herself do the pouring and preparing.  I hope colour won't be factor but I think at least one of them is quite dark. Anyway, here goes...(end Part 1!)

The contenders (after finalist 1 had been sampled)
Ale 1
YHB: Strong and sweet, this is almost definitely the O'Haras. Tonight I'm finding it a little sweet. Guess - OHaras
Herself: Interesting and she likes it.

Ale 2
YHB: Lots of hops, but not enough balancing sweetness. Nice but not a winner I think. Guess - Hairy Goat
Herself: Like it but prefers first

Ale 3
YHB: Yes, lovely, well balanced, hoppy. Ticks all the boxes. Guess - Kinsale Pale Ale
Herself: Really likes this, her fave of the four.

Ale 4
YHB: The only one with any head.A full deep rich flavour with some nice bittereness, halfway to a traditional ale I'd wager...
Herself: Doesn't like it.

For once, I got them all correct. I thought the O'Hara's would win, as I love a strong Double IPA and I swooned for it in the QF, but I'm finding it just too sweet tonight; perhaps the standard O'Haras Irish Pale Ale would have fared better tonight. The Mountain Man just doesn't have enough malt to balance the bitterness for me, so we're left with two...

As much as I like the Hophead (and I love it on draught in the Porterhouse) it's just not IPAish enough for me. So that leaves the Kinsale Pale Ale, and it's a worthy winner, it's suberbly balanced with just the right amount of hops and malt. I look forward to their forthcoming IPA and Double IPA. Well done, in fact, to all the finalists...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - SF4 - I can't think of a snappy title with a pun in it based on the locations of the brewers, sorry.

Semi Final 4
Galway Bay Full Sail IPA 5.8% abv 50cl €3.29
Black's Kinsale Pale Ale 5.0% abv 33cl €2.69

I really liked both of these so I suspect this will be a close one. The Full Sail is one I have had regularly at the various pubs that Galway Bay own, whereas the Black's Ive only had twice, to my knowledge. By the way, the picture at left of the Kinsale Pale Ale is the old label. The new label looks like this.

Black's Kinsale Pale Ale
Yep, still got it. A good dollop of citrus fruit, a hint of malt and some delicious bitterness at the finish. A suggestion of tropical fruit around the edges completes the picture.

Galway Bay Full Sail IPA
Much darker in the glass this, almost a red ale colour. The hue is a clue to the flavour, which has much more earthy malts than the Blacks and a lot less citrus to the bitterness. But it is very well balanced and has a dynamite finish.

Winner - Again, there is nothing in it between these two and I'd be well happy with either but I'm gonna give it to the Kinsale Pale Ale.

The Line up for the final is as follows:
Porterhouse Hop Head
Mountain Man Hairy Goat
O'Hara's Double IPA 
Black's Kinsale Pale Ale 


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - SF3 - Galway or bust, on the double.

Semi Final 3
Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale 4.4% abv 50cl €3.19
O'Hara's Double IPA 7.5% abv 50cl €3.89 

Probably my favourite IPA from the QF, The OHara's against probablay my least favourite, The Hooker, which beat the very poor Smithwicks Pale ale in  QF7.

Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale
This isn't bad. It has a nice little bit of hops, could maybe do with more alcohol/oomph/malt but it's a decent effort. It probably benefits from going first and so be it.

O'Hara's Double IPA
Yes. Full, rich, malty and strong. No contest.

Winner - O'Hara's Double IPA

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - SF2 - Boom vs the Hairy Goat. **Updated**

Semi Final 2
Stone Barrel Boom IPA 5.0% abv 50cl €3.59
Mountain Man Hairy Goat  4.5% abv 33cl €2.69

I expect another close run thing here. Reviewing the Quarter Finals (here and here) it appears I quite liked both of them. Both were moderately hopped and well balanced, so I guess it's down to which one I fancy on the night, not that that strategy hasn't got me in trouble before, mind you. I always drink the two contestants in alphabetical order, btw. That way there can't be any bias, intentional or otherwise. Who does this favour? I Dunno.

Stone Barrel Boom IPA
Yum, still good. Some nice hops and maybe a hint of malty sweetness and a little bitterness at the finish. It's nicely balanced and it works for me.

Mountain Man Hairy Goat
Now this is a different beast. It's a bit hoppier up front, but it doesn't have any balancing sweetness, but there's a little tinge of fruit coming through at the back of the tongue. It's less subtle but it's pretty tasty too.

Winner - Em - It's desperately close again and there's not more than a hair between them. I'm gonna go with my's the Boom, because that's the ale that's working for me tonight. Your mileage, of course, may vary. Mountain Man Hairy Goat!

Kev from Stone Barrel DM'd me to let me know that they had decided to remove themselves from the challenge. Boom is currently contract brewed in the UK and as such does not meet the competition criteria of being an "Irish" Pale Ale. It's an honourable thing to do and I respect their honesty and wish them well in the future when the beer will be produced in Ballymount, I think?

So congrats to the Mountain Men and we'll see them in the final.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Irish Pale Ale Challenge - SF1 - Donegal Farmhouse Vs Dublin Porterhouse

Semi Final 1
Kinnegar Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale 5.3% abv 50cl €3.69
Porterhouse Hop Head 5.0% abv 33cl €2.10

While both of these were victorious in their respective Quarter Finals, I didn't love either one. It should be an interesting match-up which I hope will not result in the lesser of two evils going through to the final.

Porterhouse Hop Head
This a  a deep amber colour in the glass with a frothy long lasting head. Smells good, some hoppiness and maybe a hint of fruit. I have to say this is tasting really good right now. I'm digging the bitterness and this beer is working for me at this moment. Maybe it's because I haven't had any beer in 72 hours, who knows?

Kinnegar Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale
More of a cloudy lager colour with lots of fruit on the nose. This is a different beast altogether. Much more subtle but also well balanced. Ooh, this is a tough one.

Winner - Porterhouse Hop Head. It was very close, and it might have gone either way but I'm giving it to the Hop Head. Ceteris paribus, I'll always go for the bigger, stronger ale...