The festive season has been a busy one for me recently. There's been something on pretty much every evening since I got back from London. Between pub crawls, the work do, catching up with people I've not seen in ages, I'm just about partied out. Tragically, I didn't even have time to dig out some pics for Alan's photo competition this year (it'll be double the quality for 2010, Alan -- wait and see). Just two more events -- tonight and tomorrow -- and that's it, I'll be hanging up the humbugs and barricading myself into the house with just my beer stash to keep me company.
However, I'm immensely proud that at none of these engagements have I had to stoop to drinking bad beer. Beer I didn't especially like, perhaps, but nothing from the Big Two or otherwise undesirable has crossed my lips in quite a while. When one doesn't get to choose the venue for these things, that's quite an achievement in my book. Though socialising with beery people does tend to help with the steering clear.
Wednesday's pre-Budget search for low-cost quality in the Dublin on-trade finished up in the Bull & Castle, where they'd just taken a shipment of Sierra Nevada Celebration. This is a relatively powerful winter beer -- 6.8% ABV but warm and heavy enough to pass for even stronger. The intense hopping has made it extremely bitter, and to my taste it's all a bit too much: whatever's being Celebrated here, it's not a cause I support. And before I get called a hop-grinch, I'll note that the stronger and hoppier Torpedo IPA from Sierra Nevada is much more enjoyable than this is. So there.
As I photographed my beer like the weirdo I am, one of our merry band of pub-crawlers (hi Richard!) asked me if I'd be rating it based on that one single tasting. Of course I said that I would, in full recognition that it wouldn't necessarily give me a definitive opinion on the beer, and adding that more fragile brews, like cask ales for instance, are much harder to get a full impression of with just one glass. But nowhere does this blog claim to offer a full and fair evaluation of every beer mentioned. Really I'm just making this stuff up to fill space.
However, it just so happened that the following evening saw the last Deveney's Beer Club tasting session of the year. The theme, funnily enough, was winter beers and Ruth had Celebration in the line-up. So I got to try it again on a fresh palate, and I can categorically state that it's not for me. I hope you're happy with that, Richard.
Also on the roster on Thursday was the 2009 edition of Anchor's Our Special Ale. This was much better than the 2008 one I had back in the spring -- loaded with zingy seasonal spices set on a cosily warm dark malt base. Goose Island's Mild Winter is rather less of a full-on sort of a sensation. Yes, it's dark and has some lovely smooth and subtle caramel tones in it, but it keeps itself to itself, with no major exciting flavours jumping out. Mild indeed, and quite the converse of the Goose Island Christmas Ale. This is a big 7%-er in a 65cl bottle, and like the Anchor version it's made to a different recipe each year. Again, like San Franciscan, the spices run amok on the palate creating a whole sequence of piquant sensations. But right next to them there's a hefty wodge of those oh-so-typical sherbety Goose Island hops, the ones which should be familar to anyone who's had their IPA (which should be everyone). An adorable beer, and possibly my favourite of the many seasonals knocking around at the moment.
Soon, I will find the time to give them a proper tasting. And adjust this post if I need to...