Radikale Radical Brew
This article was first published in the Irish Times, Wednesday 30th March, 2016
I featured the delicious Belgian-style Radikale Rubenesque last September, and gave a brief mention of the Radikale Curious Ale, a beer that had been made in collaboration with Blackwater Distillery in Cappoquin. When I say collaboration, they added the botanicals used for the very tasty No.5 gin instead of flavouring hops. “I really the liked the Blackwater gin”, says Alain Dekoster, the Belgian behind Radikale, “and just wondered what would happen if I used the botanicals to make beer. We didn’t know what to expect, but it really exceeded my expectations.” Customers liked it too; it was voted fourth best beer by Beoir members in 2015. The name of the beer has now changed, due to legal threats from a UK beer company, to Radical Brew.
This is a rye beer, giving it a nice spiciness. You certainly get the juniper, plus a few other herbs, but the main flavour is hops. When I tried it at the RDS last year, I wasn’t that gone on it, but I really enjoyed sipping this one evening last week. Dekoster hopes to finish his new brewery later this year, and have a few new beers ready for the RDS beer festival.
First published in the Irish Times online, Wednesday 23rd March, 2016
Galway Hooker Sixty Knots India Pale Ale
Galway Hooker was one of the first craft brewers in the country, set up in 2006 by cousins Ronan Brennan and Aidan Murphy. Murphy is very happy with the boom in new craft brewers. ‘It’s a funny kind of thing; the competition elevates the whole craft beer market so it is mostly positive. The more beers, the more momentum we all seem to get.’ Originally set up in Roscommon, they moved to a bigger new brewery in Oranmore two years ago. ‘It is certainly a lot more comfortable’ says Aidan.
Sixty Knots was launched about a year ago, and is now a permanent fixture, alongside the original Irish Pale Ale, Stout and Amber Ale. ‘Basically we were trying to produce a traditional India Pale Ale with high alcohol content and a high level of bitterness (it has 60 ibu). It is a little bit different from other Irish IPAs in that it has a combination of the punchy citrus of American hops combined with the earthy spiciness of European hops’. Sixty Knots certainly has a lively bitterness, but it is very nicely underpinned by pine resin and a broad maltiness.
First published in the Irish Times, Wednesday 16th March, 2016
Children of the Revolution India Pale Ale, Wicklow Wolf
The Craft Brewers of Ireland love an excuse to come up with a seasonal brew, preferably with a pun or two in the name. A combination of St. Patrick’s Day and the 1916 celebrations has provided plenty of scope.
Children of the Revolution ‘salutes the bravery and vision of our countrymen and countrywomen who made possible the Ireland we live in today’. I am not sure they had today’s Ireland in mind back in 1916, but the politicians had better watch out – as Marc Bolan sang in 1972 ‘you won’t fool the children of the revolution’. This is a medium-bodied (5.7%) pale ale with a really enticing aroma and flavour of mandarin orange alongside a nice citrus bite and a smooth hoppy finish. Nice beer. ‘We were lucky enough to get a smallish amount of Amarillo hops, so we thought ‘let’s do something special, lets dump it all in to the IPA,’ says Quincey Fennelly of Wicklow Wolf.
Apparently someone took offence to the name of the beer, arguing it encouraged underage drinking. After an appearance on Joe Duffy, it went viral online. Quincey Fennelly says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. ‘We are all our mother’s children whatever age we are. I don’t think the name would persuade teenagers to pay €4 for a bottle instead of several cans of cheap larger.’ As the label says, the bitterness ends here!
First published in the online Irish Times, Wednesday 9th March, 2016
World’s End Chocolate Vanilla Imperial Stout, Blacks of Kinsale
Sam and Maud Black have been brewing since 2013, making them old hands as far as Irish craft brewing is concerned. We have been here before; Imperial Stout is not a session beer unless you want a very heavy session. It is typically 8-12% in volume with fairly full-on flavours of roasted malt, dark chocolate and sometimes loads of hops too.
Last December saw the first release of World’s End, but it will feature every year from now on. Sam Black recommends keeping a bottle of the 2015 for a year to try against the 2016. That may not be easy, as stocks have depleted rapidly; a few shops still have it though.
“Every craft brewer should have a good imperial stout”, says Black. “We made the Model T before, and this time we took it a step further”. World’s End is made using Fairtrade cacao husks and Madagascar vanilla pods. “It is very unusual to get the cacao husks; normally it is chocolate nibs or plain chocolate. We got ours from bean to bar producer Clonakilty Chocolate. It has only ever been done once before as far as I can see, but we gave it a go and it worked very well. To be honest it was a shot in the dark as to whether it would give any flavour, but it came out great. The vanilla rounds it out and sweetens the flavour slightly giving the perception of chocolate”
World’s End is full bodied and powerful with masses of roasted coffee and dark chocolate flavour. The vanilla does stop it getting too severe; think 85% dark chocolate. This is great beer, one to sip and savour slowly on a cold evening.
First published in The Irish Times, Wednesday 2nd March, 2016
We move outside the country this week to Belgium, home to so many of the world’s greatest beers. Dupont is a small family-run brewery as well as a farm, that now produces bread and cheese as well for sale in their café/shop. The farm part of the business goes back to the mid 18th century. Beer production started a few years later, brewed mainly to quench the thirst of busy farm hands. The original Saison beer was fermented in the winter for drinking later in the year. Often the beer began a secondary fermentation in the barrel as temperatures rose; nowadays carbonation takes place in the bottle. Until recently the bottles came with a champagne-style mushroom cork and wire. Saison almost died out in the twentieth century until beer nuts in the U.S. began to take an interest. Today it is made in most beer-loving loving countries, including our own.
Saison Dupont is one of the most highly rated beers in the world, with a distinctive character said to derive from a unique group of yeasts used in brewing. It is medium-bodied and complex with refreshing fruit, a light bready, yeastiness, and a thirst-quenching bitterness. Great beer.
Geoff FitzPatrick of Jack Cody’s
Duxie Grapefruit Tea Pale Ale, Jack Cody’s Brewery
First published in the online Irish Times on 24th February, 2016
Yes, you read it correctly. A beer that lists pink grapefruit , lime and earl grey tea as ingredients alongside the usual barley, hops, yeast and water. The label says drink in the sunshine, something that is currently in short supply, or with salads, smoked mackerel or Thai red curry. I had none of these to hand, but gave it a go anyway. It has aromas of candy and orange peel, and a light, refreshing, lightly bitter palate of fruit and candy again and some grapefruit. It also has the slight yet definite soapy perfume and flavour of earl grey tea. I liked it but could see how others wouldn’t.
Set up in Drogheda by Geoff FitzPatrick, Jack Cody’s has been going since the summer of 2014, making a good name for itself with Smiggy Amber Ale and Puck Pilsner. The brewery also has Hail Glorious Saint Patrick Extra Stout out for the coming national day.
The Rotation Series Episode 4 Oatmeal & Coffee Stout
Stone Barrel Brewing Company
First published in the online Irish Times Wednesday 17th February, 2016
What do bankers do when they tire of taking our money? Make beer if Stone Barrel is anything to go by. Niall FitzGerald and Kevin McKinney had been friends for a long time. “We both worked in financial services in the glory days. We were low level though” stresses Kevin, “if we had been real bankers we have a really fancy brewery by now.” For the moment they brew in Craftworks, the brewing facility in Broombridge. However, they have now bought their own kit and hope to set up their own operation in the next eight to ten weeks.
“We were home brewers for a long time and like a lot of people, always wanted to have our own brewery.” Their first beer, Boom, was released in November 2013. “We made a conscious decision to develop one product and push it as much as possible. We are hugely proud of the result; it is our bread and butter.” The oatmeal and coffee is the fourth in their rotational series. “Whenever we have a bit of spare capacity we try a once off to keep us and the beer drinkers interested,” says Kevin.
The label is not the easiest to read. “We had a mishap with the printers and the label came out a lot darker than we anticipated”, says Kevin. “But we needed to get the beer out there before Christmas so we went ahead. Label aside, this is a very nice beer, with plenty of dark roasted coffee and dark chocolate too, alongside some hoppy fruit. All of this darkness matched my mood, as I watched Ireland go under in Paris.
Connemara Cascade, Independent Brewing Company.
I am not sure Kevin O’Hara is talking to me. When we met at the Alltech Craft Brews Fair last week, I told him his label was boring. What looked like a tree on said label turned out to be maerl, a coral-like seaweed found at nearby Trá an Dóilín. Independent Brewing is based in Carraroe in the Connemara Gaeltacht, a mile from the beach. Kevin set up the business two years ago. ‘I came from a science and then home brewing background, and then I did a couple of courses to get me up to speed professionally’. The beers are widely available around Galway and in Dublin and they are exporting across Europe, mainly to Italy.
Independent Brewing do the usual range of craft beers, a stout, a red ale, a gold ale and an IPA, along with seasonal brews that have included a whiskey stout, and two barrel-aged barley wines. At the stand, I tasted his latest brew, Connemara Cascade made from the classic American hop of that name, and melba, a new Australian hop. ‘The melba brings a bit of fruitiness and is not as strong as the cascade,’ says Kevin. ‘Certainly the cascade is certainly more dominanting this one.’ The Connemara Cascade, released in October, has plenty of grapefruit, citrus and even pine, countered nicely by a smooth malty base. Nice beer.
Published in the online Irish Times, Wednesday 10th February 2016
Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve Oak Rested Gin
I like the phrase ‘oak-rested’. It seems more civilised than oak-aged, and indicates that this small batch distillation Burrough’s gin spent weeks rather than years in oak barrels. The barriques concerned were from Bordeaux, and spent some time ageing the vermouth Lillet after Bordeaux wine. Last Friday afternoon, I met up with master distiller Desmond Payne to try out the gin. It is a sipping gin according to Desmond, to be drunk without tonic water or any other mixer. I shared a few sips with Payne (a master distiller who has been making gin for almost fifty years) in the bar of the Merrion Hotel. A very enjoyable way to spend Friday afternoon.
He had always been opposed to ageing gin in casks. ‘Gin is fresh and clean and new’ he said. But then he tried a barrel-aged Negroni in Portland, Oregon and saw possibilities. ‘Its what you age it in that counts’ says Desmond, ‘logic would seem to indicate used bourbon casks, but they impart a strong flavour’. Instead he headed to Bordeaux and to Lillet, who age their reserve vermouth in used Bordeaux barriques. He used second or third fill casks, and aged the gin for four to five weeks. They used an historic small still in Chelsea, which ‘had been gathering dust there’, according to Desmond. He sees it as a digestif to be sipped after dinner or with desserts or even cheese. He has been working with former Blur member, journalist and cheesemaker Alex James to find matches. This is the second edition of Burrough’s Reserve. Edition 2 Batch 01 has strong notes of juniper (‘it is a gin, it must have juniper’ says Desmond) orange peel, lemon, and subtle sweet vanilla oak that comes though on the finish. It lingers for hours; I can still taste it twenty minutes later. Limited quantities will sell for around €60, although most will go to upmarket bars.