It was lovely to see globetrotting Beer Geeks Chris and Merideth back in Dublin last week. Thursday was Merideth's birthday and a bunch of us bravely crossed the ice floes of Smithfield to gather in L. Mulligan. Grocer for some excellent food and a few beers. The guys had brought some bottles of interest over from California for us to try.
First up was Saison Ale from the recently-established Odonata Brewery in Sacramento. Paler than I would have expected from a saison, this put me more in mind of a witbier, albeit a very very good one. Lots of lovely gunpowder spice on the nose and lovely zesty Belgian yeast flavours on a light and breezy body. There's just a touch of earthy funk on the end which brings it back into more familiar saison territory, but on the whole I'm theorising that this is what witbier used to taste like before the industrial breweries got hold of it.
Firestone Walker Union Jack was my favourite of the set. This is a very heavy, sticky IPA of 7.5% ABV. The aroma sings loudly of golden syrup and sherbet and the opera continues on tasting: a massive malt backbone overlaid with oodles of sweet Californian hops. There's very little of what I'd call bitterness in this: no trace of acidity or harshness, but there's bags and bags of citric flavour, incorporating more pineapples, mangoes and tangerines than grapefruit. Hefty, totally unsubtle, but wonderfully balanced.
The Russian River Blind Pig which followed it was an interesting contrast. It's a wonderful beer (a previous donation from Chris and Merideth was reviewed here), though lighter, paler and bitterer than Union Jack. Proof that American IPA is just as broad a genre as the English ones.
We finished the tasting with Denogginizer, a stonking double IPA from Drake's Brewing. I loved the nose on this: fresh American hops and plenty of them, but the flavour was just overpowering -- a harsh burn from the hops, goaded on by the heat of nearly 10% ABV. There's plenty of toffeeish malt in that deep amber body, but nowhere near enough to carry all that bitterness. It's a beer for people who like their hops in indiscriminately vast quantities.
With these out of the way it was on to dinner (mushrooms and Cashel Blue cheese on toast followed by juniper-spiced beef with roasted vegetables), and a sublime birthday cake for afters, made with Trouble Brewing's Dark Arts porter -- a beer I'm well overdue telling you about properly.
Thanks to Chris and Merideth for the beer and for being excellent company despite what must have been some chronic jetlag; and thanks also to the Mulligan's crew for looking after us on an evening when Dublin's winter water shortages would have crippled many a less tenacious establishment. We beer people really are troopers when we need to be.