30 June 2007

Mad limey

The beer blogging world's eye on London, Stonch, reported recently that Fuller's had been touting the notion of serving their organic Honey Dew ale over ice and with a slice of lime. He wasn't in favour of the idea. Despite my many past reservations on organic beer and honey beer, I felt that an experiment was in order. So I'm taking advantage of a brief cease in the hostilities of the June weather to write a post from here in the lavish grounds of Beer Nut Towers where I am joined by a bottle of Honey Dew and two glasses: one with ice and lime, and one not. The aim is to determine whether Fuller's are onto something with this, or whether they're just running out of marketing ideas.

Against my better judgement I'll try the ice-and-slice one first... It could be that I overdid the ice, but I'm not getting very much by way of flavour at all -- just wateryness and fizz. There's a vaguely beery hint somewhere in the background, but no honey and no notes to even indicate what style of beer this is. Refreshing, yes. In the way a glass of iced mineral water is refreshing.

The raw product, then... OK, so there wasn't much flavour to start with. This has to be one of the blandest ales I've ever encountered. Sharply fizzy and very much dry rather than sweet. At the end there's a sort of beeswax stickiness, but nothing like the honey-in-your-face of St. Peter's Honey Ale, for example. It's getting better and sweeter as it warms, but too little too late.

Perhaps the point of the lime was to impart some kind of flavour. We'll never know.
I doubt if I'll be buying any more Honey Dew and I very much doubt that I'll be flinging fruit and frozen water into any other beers (unless instructed to by the marketing department of a large brewery, of course, and only then in the interests of scientific reportage).

This is The Beer Nut, adulterating my beer as per the brewers' instructions, so you don't have to.

23 June 2007

Getting German with it

I've been writing a lot recently on Irish, English and American beers, so I thought it's time I went back to basics: random selections from the shelves of Redmond's. Today, feeling the need for things vaguely lager-ish, my first selection was Hacker-Pschorr Braumeister Pils. My only prior experience of this Bavarian behemoth is their Oktoberfestbier. This one is as smooth as one would expect from a Munich lager but carries an uncharacteristically hefty hoppy bitterness which I found a bit off-putting. I suppose when you're making lager that's as smooth as science will allow, you have to go somewhere with it. Between two stools, this one, I think.

From the same stable, in a wonderful swing-top bottle, comes Sternweisse: a dark weissbier, attempting perhaps to emulate the likes of Schneider Weisse. It lacks the oomph, though: the spice and heat of the mighty Schneider. This one doesn't do enough to keep my attention.

Getting darker, we have Erdinger Schneeweisse, a deliciously full-flavoured variation on the standard German weiss. Scheeweisse is only slightly darker in colour than normal Erdinger but drops the fruit in favour of no-nonsense grain. It's Erdinger for men.

Away from Germany, I couldn't resist picking up a bottle of a beer I've been seeing in Redmond's for more years than I care to remember: Poperings Hommel Beer (AKA Poperings Hommel Ale). This hails from the Belgian town of Watou and is a heavily sedimented golden beer. It's not lager and not what I'd call an ale. It's closest in my mind to a spicy witbier, but it's not one of those either. There's a delicate, warming hops flavour and skeins of yeasty sediment floating through it. It tastes rich, heavy and satisfying. I think I'll be coming back to this guy in the winter.

There's no doubting that German beer is great and deserving of its reputation. But it's very much a case of doing a handful of things and doing them well: I'm just glad there are other countries out there doing strange stuff with exotic ingredients. Long live German purity, and let weirdness thrive.

13 June 2007

It's all about paint

As a seasoned connoisseur, I know that the way to tell a really good beer from the dross is to check for a painted-on label rather than one simply glued to the glass. US brewer Rogue's big painted bottles indicate that they make very fine produce indeed.

Dead Guy Ale is a seriously heavy, sticky red-gold brew with touches of spice in amongst the caramel and toffee. There's a certain hollowness to it which I feel would have been best filled with more hops. But what do I know? It won't be going on my regular rotation (Inasmuch as I have one).

Similarly dense is Rogue Chocolate Stout, deep black with a head like espresso crema. The chocolate is laid on thick, with only the faintest vestige of a dry stout left in the background. The end result is a wonderfully smooth, rich beer, not at all cloying and with a satisfyingly silky mouthfeel. It's one for taking big gulps of and, with the 65cl bottle, you can do it again and again.

Actually, now that I think of it, Doreleï has a painted-on label and isn't great. So much for my grand theory...

10 June 2007

The Irish diaspora

The label in front of me says:
"Brewed in the EU
Arainn Mhor Brewing Company
Árainn Mhór Island
County Donegal

So one could be forgiven for thinking that Árainn Mhór Bán is an Irish beer. But it isn't. Those in the know tell me that it, and its sister-ale Rua, are actually made some miles from Donegal, in Belgium. This kind of disingenuity annoys me, and frankly I'm surprised that there's money to be made from it. Anyway...

Marketing guff aside, what's the beer like? Bán is a cloudy orange colour, aiming for affinity with German weissbier but with more of a prickly fizz than any of them. The flavour is quite different too, with none of the characteristic fruit or spice at the centre. What you get instead is an odd earthy, mushroomy hum. The same thing is present in the Rua, but it's much less noteworthy in an ale. In a weiss it wouldn't seem weird if there was enough of a flavour to cover it, but here there isn't. In all it's not unpleasant, just a bit odd, but mainly bland.

09 June 2007

Three keys to heaven

Honey beers are something I've been stung with before, so it was with trepidation I approached St. Peter's Honey Porter. This is a flat, deep red ale with a nose full of sweet honey perfume. The honey is there in the taste as well, running in parallel with sharp hops of the foundation porter. The two flavours don't really gel until the very end, when the chocolate notes come out and compliment the added sweetness quite beautifully. Before this, however, it's a bit of a discord. I remain sceptical about the place of honey in brewing.

St. Peter's Ruby Red Ale is very much in the Irish style, with warm caramel tempered by a sharp hoppy finish. Definitely one of the better examples of the genre but when I'm after this kind of thing I prefer to buy local -- Moling's or Porterhouse Red.

Last up from the Suffolk brewer is St. Peter's Strong Ale. Like all St. Peter's beers it has a powerful individual aroma. The taste is bitter at first but soon mellows to a fruity sweetness. At 5.1% it's not especially strong, but it does carry a bock-like gravity which imparts the character of a much heavier ale.

More quality stuff from St. Peter's, but I still maintain that stout is where they excel.

05 June 2007

Dry Maoth

I'm a longtime fan of Mao, the Irish Asian restaurant chain (being Irish, the chain currently consists of just two branches in Ireland). They now sell their own brand of beer, made in Ireland by an anonymous brewer and featuring the Chairman hisself on the label (which also matches the upholstery -- see right).

My last run-in with restaurant-branded lager was in a Mexican place in Brum a couple of years ago and I wasn't impressed. Mao Beer is pretty good, however. It's overwhelmingly dry and malty with very little by way of aftertaste which gives one that palate-cleansing mineral water sensation I associate most with Fischer.

It's possible that Mao is supposed to taste like one of the common oriental lagers, like Asahi, in which case it fails miserably. But as Irish-Asian lagers go, this is far and away the front runner.

I wonder who makes it?

01 June 2007

An Seisiún

I'm late to the party on this one, but the first Friday of every month is observed by the international beer blogging community as "The Session", whereby everyone posts on a chosen theme. This is the fourth one and, rather than a style, the theme is local brews.

Unfortunately for me, the nearest brewery to my gaff is megamacro Guinness at St. James's Gate, and I don't think that's in the spirit of The Session. Lucky, then, I recently discovered that the next nearest (Messrs Maguire brewpub) now bottles two of its beers and sells them in off licences. Their Porter is deep black with a half-hearted fizz, barely bothered with constructing a head. It's a rather sweet affair, with chocolate and coffee notes coupled with a dry sour kick at the end. If it wasn't for a sad watery lack of body this would be a very fine beer indeed.

The gas missing from the Porter is more than made up for in the Bock, which fizzes into the glass and forms an incredibly tight creamy head. I'm not the world's biggest bock fan, finding it often too heavy and cloying, and I think this is a particularly bad example. There's an offputting saccharine sweetness in the foretaste which tails off into a musty, soapy effect at the end. In the middle there's that lack of body found in the Porter, but while the Porter could be happily consumed as a session beer, this one is just too sickly to encourage opening another.

I have to say I'm a little disappointed by what my nearest proper brewery is bottling, though I will be buying the Porter again. However, here in the shadow of Boss Guinness it's a miracle we have anything at all.