It should be a bad thing that I can walk along the shelves of Redmond's and name the importers and distributors on a beer-by-beer basis. I mean, there ought to be more people in the game than that. Anyway, I had been talking to Jonathan in the pub back here, and had set out to get hold of some of his new listings, as well as an old favourite or two.
Blue Frog's DIPA had really hit the spot when I sampled it a couple of months ago, but it wasn't in stock so I settled on a bottle of Red Frog Ale. Mostly out of curiosity, I have to say. "Red ale" is one of Ireland's core beer styles. As far as I can tell (mostly from Iorwerth, pp.110-111) it's what you get when you adapt English-style bitter for mass-market kegging and made with the minimum of pricey ingredients. You end up with something relatively thin, low in alcohol and brimming with crystal malt sweetness, because, y'know, nobody likes bitter beer. What would one of the world's greatest beer producing regions do with that trainwreck of a style?
Red Frog's body is light, certainly, and there's a crunchy-grainy caramel sweetness to it as well. But there's also hops. Hops of the kick-ass aromatic west coast variety. This is a big-flavoured beer in the way Irish reds aren't -- it reminds me a little of Porterhouse Red, though without the horrid nitro blandification. The taste lingers for ages, filling the palate and nose cavities with all that malt and all those hops. Brilliant stuff.
I hadn't been expecting another Irish-red-a-like quite so soon after, but that's what I thought of Osprey, a pale ale brewed by Wychwood as a Sainsbury's own brand. It pours a deep and hazy red with a smooth foamy head glooping out of the bottle after the beer in a most unattractive way. The aroma is soo-weet: the artificial syrupyness of lurid red ice cream sauce. Texturewise it's quite heavy and sugary, with that strawberry undercurrent in the flavour. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Beamish Red. The texture helps with the simulation. It's odd: now that Beamish Red has been delisted by new owners Heineken and, like their other Irish ale possession Murphy's Red, will be produced at foreign breweries only, I think I'll probably miss it. It was, I guess, the best of a very bad lot as mainstream Irish beer goes and it was always a delight to see the Beamish Red tap in the handful of Dublin pubs which sold it, including the one nearest my front door. But the same basic flavour profile in an English ale leaves me very disappointed.