16 December 2010

...on a such a winter's day

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.


  1. Ah the Blind Pig is a good beer alright. It's the only one of these I have had the pleasure of. Course I had Blind Pig fresh from the brewery along with a sample of all of their many many beers so.

    Off hand Denogginizer sounds like something I would like. Might see if I can pick some up in Alabama over Christmas.

  2. All these bottles would be illegal in Alabama, AFAIK. 16oz is the maximum size. Until last year beer over 6% ABV was illegal and home brewing is still against the law.

    It doesn't sound like the happiest hunting ground for beer.

  3. Always interesting to read your take on California beer. Odonata Saisson and Union Jack are two I'm quite found of back here in California. Thanks for the warning about Denoggizer, which I haven't tried yet. I highly recommend Drake's regular IPA if you haven't tried that one yet.

  4. I'll get my people onto it immediately...

  5. I'm somewhat less than proud to reveal you've got me drooling again...

    Any clue as to a UK source for any of these marvels?

  6. Yes: friendly Californians.

    I get the impression that these beers don't get out of their local areas much. So much for globalisation.

    But there are plenty of great American and American-style IPAs available in the UK. Drink those rather than drooling over ones you can't get hold of.

  7. "Lots of lovely gunpowder spice"

    that is a great descriptor that I've never heard before.

  8. Indeed!

    In fact, I'm due to featuring the EIPA from Brooklyn Brewery tomorrow.

    I guess that's kinda why I was in the New York state of mind.

  9. Thanks for joining us!

    The best bet of finding these beers is to come to California. None will be in Alabama

  10. I saw them the night before and got a bottle of Saison and Union Jack - looking forward to opening them! Great people to drink with.

    I had the Denogginizer in California and it nearly ripped my tongue in half with the bitterness. I loved it of course.

  11. Thought that would be your sort of thing all right.

  12. Sounds like a really good session, I'm really envious!
    What's the bit about a water shortage in Dublin?

  13. Then let them drink beer!
    (With apologies to Marie Antoinette).

  14. (and all the other people that line has been attributed to)

    Drinking beer is one thing, but it has put a bit of a damper on making it.

  15. Odonata Saison was amazing; I can easily seeing it going head to head with some of the best Belgians. I was also surprised at how drinkable the west coast IPA where, lovely, lovely beers