I've whined lengthily in the past about Marks & Spencer not bringing their good beers over to Ireland, but they've really raised their game over the last year or so, since they launched their re-branded line. Sure, they never have everything all at once, but the good ales are turned over frequently and it's great to see. I always look forward to checking what they've got for us any time I go in. On previous mentions on this blog, commentators have drawn my attention to their Cornish IPA, brewed by St Austell and alleged to be a straight re-badge of their excellent Proper Job. At long last it showed up in Dublin and off I went with a bottle.
Glad I did too. We don't get Proper Job over here, so to have it in M&S clothes is extremely welcome. I'd only ever tried it on cask before and was a bit worried about how the bottled version would work as too much fizz would destroy its charms. But my fears were groundless: it's beautifully smooth with a level of carbonation that's firm enough to push the hops out while not interfering with the more delicate flavours.
It starts with a chalky mineral base, on top of which is set a crisp hard-toffee sweetness overlaid in turn by lightly bitter stonefruit hops. Where some beers would finish at that, all sweetness and smiles, Cornish IPA sends you on your way with a rogueish yet good-natured smack of marmalade bitterness. The word "balance" was coined for beers like this.
The only downside is the price. €3.19 is just a bit high for a half-litre bottle of English beer, when the independent off licences are carrying plenty of British beer of similar calibre for 40-50 cents less. But if you're tempted by M&S's 6-for-5 offer, a sixer of this would be well worth considering.