There are few things that make me happier than the arrival of a new Irish beer on the market. While it would be fantastic if more of these were permanent, I'm happy to settle for seasonals and special editions when they come my way. So I was delighted to see that the Porterhouse have eschewed the Kölsch which they normally bring out this time of year (though there's not a thing wrong with it) in favour of a new Porterhouse Alt. I was even more delighted when they invited me along to the press launch last week.
I'm not exactly an old hand at this top-fermented German style which is particularly associated with Düsseldorf -- I've had the Frankenheim version and found it well-made but quite serious in its dark bitterness. The Irish take on it won't leave you rolling in the aisles either, but it's still a damn fine beer. Sourness is its first characteristic, but this is followed quickly by a long dryness, redolent of crunchy grain husks. The whole thing is lip-smacking and satisfying, and incredibly drinkable. I wish the brewery well with it and hope to see it again. And if you have a Porterhouse near you, I'd strongly advise giving it a go before the festival ends on Sunday week.
As usual, Porterhouse Oktoberfest comes with a range of subsidiary German beers, and they've done particularly well this year in my estimation (though a return of Andechs Dunkel wouldn't have gone amiss), including three on draught from Weihenstephan. I used to enjoy pints of Weihenstephaner Hefe in Dublin's Long Stone pub back in the early days of my beer obsession. It has only recently come back to the Irish market in bottles, so it's wonderful to see it on tap as well. I find it a difficult weissbier to describe since it balances all of its fruity-hoppy-grainy characteristics so wonderfully. Yes there's bananas and cloves and candy floss, but none really dominates the palate. The texture is a marvellously smooth and fluffy one, causing the beer to slip down with the greatest of ease. I'm really not doing it justice with this review, but take my word that it's streets ahead of the more common Bavarian weissbiers we see on draught in Ireland.
Vitus is the second of the family now available in the Porterhouse -- a beer I really enjoyed back here, and a perfect warming brew for the season that's in it. The last newbie is Weihenstephaner Festbier, a clear golden number I'd never heard of before. It's very much in the Oktoberfestbier style, being heavy and sticky with only faint bubbles working their way through the viscous body. Bizarrely, I got a major hit of sweetcorn from the aroma, but the flavour is definitely properly grainy. The malty Märzen alcohol is present in a big way, but it doesn't cloy or get overpowering as the beer is sunk -- another technical exercise in balance by the brewmen of Weihenstephan which has produced a superlatively drinkable beer.
Oktoberfest at all (I assume) Porterhouse branches kicks off today and runs to the 19th. There's much more to be had among the specials, including Aventinus and that fantastic Schneider/Brooklyn hoppy weissbier collaboration. But go for the Irish Altbier first. You'll be glad you did.