The wife and I took the day off on Friday and headed down the coast to Bray, a town we hadn't visited in several years. This is where The Porterhouse began, before the building of their (now dismantled) Temple Bar brewery, and it still retains a more traditional vibe, with Guinness and Heineken on tap. The annual Belgian beer festival is on across the chain at the moment, and in addition to some lovely draught Belgian ales (Abt 12, Tripel Karmaliet, et al) they've brewed up a new batch of their wonderful Chocolate Truffle Stout normally only seen in the spring. Chocolate, Belgian: geddit? A couple of pints of that in the front yard, overlooking the sea, made for a fine start to the weekend.
Saturday was brew day at home: an uncertain attempt at a dubbel. After the clean-up we headed for the Bull & Castle where the cask of the moment is Carlow Brewing's Curim Gold. I've never really been a fan of this in the bottle: it's a little bit bland and soapy. They'd never casked it before, but did so on request from the Bull & Castle who wanted something light and summery for the handpump, after a succession of stouts. Good thing they did, because it was fantastic. Belgian witbier is the closest approximation, and it has that spicy yeast character on top of refreshing zingy lemon flavours enhanced by some supreme sparkly conditioning -- so good you'd nearly think it was from a keg. Between four of us, we had the barrel drained by closing time.
There was just one deviation to the wheatiness -- a recently-arrived strong red ale from Hilden called Cathedral Quarter. It's the second in their series named after districts of Belfast, and I have to say I wasn't keen on the first one -- Titanic Quarter. However, the pour from this 5.3% ABV beer was promising, offering up summer fruit aromas and more than a hint of a Fuller's-esque toffee effect. The first sip was a major let-down, then. Stale, musty and cardboardy: a shame because there's clearly a good beer under it. As I drank, I found it mellowed a bit and the toffee returned accompanied by milk chocolate and butterscotch. I was getting quite into it by the end, though Níall who was drinking one beside me was less impressed. Can't really recommend this, I'm afraid.
It can be a bit swings-and-roundabouts with Irish beer sometimes, but with a gorgeous chocolate stout and a delectable cask wheatbeer in exchange for a musty red, I reckon I'm still up on the deal.
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