Number 8 in the Baltika series was not a beer I had seen before, so naturally I had to buy it and try it. It is the Russian brewery's wheat beer, and is unfiltered and cloudy with a fair bit of yeasty sediment in the bottle. Tastewise it tries to emulate its German rivals, and comes closest to Franziskaner. The sediment makes it a more bitter experience, though, lending overtones almost reminiscent of a northern European witbier, but not quite. Falling between these two stools, I can't imagine that anyone would prefer this slightly rough Russian to its more refined western neighbours.
The supermarkets have knocked a few cent off the price of the Carlow Brewing Company's three beers, so I thought a reappraisal was in order.
O'Hara's is their stout: a straightforward, easy drinking, traditional black beer with no fancy texture or flavour. It's quite pleasant and refreshing for all that, very much a pint of plain and your only man.
Moling's red ale is the best of three, and a contender for Ireland's best ale now that Revolution is sadly out of the picture. It has a caramel-candy sweetness coupled with a mild smokiness adding up to a complex and interesting flavour that keeps you turning it over on your palate the whole glass through. Porterhouse Red probably still has the edge on it, but in the take-home stakes, Moling's is the bottle to beat.
Finally, Curim Gold is the brewery's wheat-beer-in-place-of-a-lager. It certainly is gold: a deep amber hue and slightly cloudy. Like its red brother, Curim has a complex taste, with hoppy bitterness to the fore, but tempered by a soft wheat flavour. It's a little bit cloying, and therefore maybe not the best session beer, but ideal as an accompaniment to spicy food.
So that's the round-up. Support your local small brewery and happy St. Patrick's Day.
On a recent trip to the UK I conducted a selective raid on Sainsbury's and came away with three new finds: Theakston's Old Peculier is a familiar name, but I hadn't actually tasted it before. I'm a big fan of the normal Theakston's and was very interested in trying the premium product. It's very good and has the wonderful round warmness of England's best ales. Duchy Original is a bit of a gimmick: an organic ale made with ingredients which may (or may not) have come from the Prince of Wales' Highgrove estate. The label is striking and of a very high quality. The beer, alas, is not. When it comes down to drinking, this is a very ordinary bitter. I'm generally in favour of organic produce on principle, but I have yet to encounter an organic beer which is better than its non-organic competitors: sad but true. Lastly, Meantime Chocolate from the Greenwich Brewery comes in an interesting ship's-decanter-style bottle and, as the name suggests, is a chocolate beer. It's not a stout, though. It's a strong ale with an equally strong concentrated chocolate flavour - rich and bitter, with coffee overtones. Not something one would get through lots of, but an interesting variation on the usual chocolate theme.