Monday, November 17, 2014

8 Degrees Pale Ales

I have a curious relationship with 8 Degrees Pale ales.  I never really loved their core Pale Ale - Howling Gale, which I found a bit bland and not dissimilar to a bunch of other Irish Pale Ales, which are fine but nothing to get excited about. However, whenever they tried something different; the "Hop Off" IPAs - Cyclone and Hurricane, Amber Ella, Vic's Secret, Simcoe Rye Ale etc. the results are all marvelous. All were touted as being seasonal or one-offs. What I couldn't undertand was why they wouldn't make one of the IPAs, at least, part of the core range.

Since then, it appears that Amber Ella and Hurricane have been added to the rotation, hurray! Recently the Full Irish has also arrived on the scene. Hopefully they'll keep making it, as the first time I tried it I really liked it. In my mind I couldn't distinguish what made it different to the Hurricane, so I decide to buy both and compare. While I was at it I figured I'd throw in the Howling Gale, and see how it held up against it's hoppier brethren.

With Herself away in warmer climes I enlisted the help of BigBog to provide some unbiased opinion. After a couple of Grolschs to warm us up we moved onto pale ales with a Bo Bristle IPA. For some reason I didn't include this in my Irish Pale Ale challenge. Anyhoo, it was perfectly pleasant, a little light for my taste but fine and well balanced. Next up the contenders 8 Degrees...

BB was tasting blind, I was not. Here are our tasting notes, verbatim.

Howling Gale Pale Ale  33cl 5% abv  €2.25
BB: Generic. Not as distinctive as BB. Grows on you. Smells like cheese.
W: Not bad, better than expected, but yes generic. Maybe a bit soapy?

The Full Irish Single Malt IPA 33cl 6% abv  €2.75
BB: Citrsussy. Quite nice. Dry finish.
W: Yummy yummy. Grapefruit, mango and malty sweetness, full flavour, very well balanced.

Hurricane IPA 33cl 5.8% abv  €2.75
BB: Harsher than #2. Like whiskey that is not as matured.
W: Lovely, but flavour is not as full or rounded as Full Irish.

So there it is, the Howling Gale is OK, the Hurricane is very tasty but the Full Irish is just fabulous. I hope this ale becomes part of the core range.

**Update - has The Full Irish again a week later  and was surprised just how much tropical fruit is going on. Lots is the answer, lots.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Random German Beers (from Ballyogan)

Doing some shopping in Dunnes in Ballogan I noticed some new cheap lager, and  I'm always on the lookout for good cheap lager. There were three beers from Eichbaum, a Pilsener, a Weissbier (I ignored that one) and the last of the three was a huge (950ml) of "Premium" beer, which I just had to buy.. 

Eichbaum Pilsener 50cl 4.8% abv  €1.50

Best way to describe this is probably "solid". Nice balanced taste, good mouthfeel and a decent finish. Good value as priced and  I'll be buying more.

Eichbaum PremiumBier 95cl 5.5% abv €3.50  
Didn't really care for this. The extra strength and "premium-ness" translates into a slightly unpleasant heat and a touch bitterness at the back of the palate. Don't like.

I was in Molloys looking for new Irish beers and IPAs and I cam across these two premium looking German types so I decide to take a punt on them. Link 

Stortebeker Atlantik-Ale 50cl 5.1% abv €3.75
When I bought this I had no idea what kind of "ale" this was. It came out a very pale if slightly cloudy lager like colour, so I guess it's probably a pale (or golden) ale. First things first, its got loads of lovely tropical fruit, loads. Not a huge finish but there's a little hoppines to counterbalance the fruit. If you like the tropical fruit thing then this a lovely example.

Stortebeker Pilsener-Bier 50cl 4.9% abv €3.25
Quite pale in the glass with a pretty thick white head with a slightly grassy aroma. I like it. It has a crisp and clean flavour. It's very well balanced with a hint of hops at the finish. It's a pretty solid Pilsener, problem is it's not cheap at €3.25 a bottle. Is it significantly nicer than other decent euro lagers e.g. Veltins, Spaten, Pilsner Urquell, Krombacher etc? You be the judge.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

More New Irish Beers & Some Bonus Tesco "Craft" beers

Pokertree Red Earl Ruby Ale 5.5% abv €3.95
Didn't like this at all, while it had some caramel and fruit at the start, the overpowering flavour was a sharp, unpleasant bitterness. Down the sink.

St Mel's Helles Lager  (Bottle Conditioned and dry Hopped) 5% abv €3.99
Ugh. Awful nasty bitter, same as their Pale Ale. There's something wrong with their beers OR my taste buds but both were undrinkable vile, sorry.

West Mayo Brewery Clew Bay Sunset Red Ale 4% abv €3.95
Dropped this on the way to the fridge so only got half a bottle -lots of caramel and sweetness, bit light tho, need more depth of flavour, alcohol or something.

Note: I'll be reviewing the 8 degrees in a separate post

Colgan's IPA 6.0% abv (4 for €6-50)
Amber red in the glass with a thin head. First impressions - light on the hops, heavy on the sweetness. Unf. it's not the deep malty sweetness that I like, it's a tiny bit cloying and syrupy. I had high hopes for this, especially when I saw the big "ALC. 6%" on the bottle. Sorry, this one ain't for me - and I bought four of them!

Rye River Brewing Solas Red 5.5% abv €1.89
Rye River are also responsible for the McGargles range of craft beers which some people have been VERY sniffy about. I don't have that problem and quite like all three of their beers with the lager being a personal favourite see this post. Not quite sure where this beer fits in the pantheon but here goes. First taste - not bad, mild. As its warming up its developing some subtle fruit and earthy notes. Not a huge flavour experience but a decent if unremarkable ale.

BONUS - Tesco Own Brand Craft Beers

Tesco California Common Steam Beer 4.7% abv €2.99
Brewed by Marston's. I don't know much about steam beers. These are brewed using lager yeast at higher then normal temperatures, which produces a sort of ale/lager hybrid. I found this a little light and watery but I liked the taste. I'm not sure how much more I'd buy of it at €3 a pop though.

Tesco Craft Lager 5.0% abv €2.99
Also brewed by Marston's, this is apparently "dry-hopped with Admiral and Boadicea", "refreshing citrus orange flavour". I have to say, after a few sips, I am finding it quite refreshing and it does have a tang of oranges off it. While it has some good mouthfeel I'm not sure I'd buy it at this time of year, feels more like a summer sunshine beer.