We don't see a whole lot from California's Bear Republic brewery in these parts, so when I spotted their Red Rocket on sale last time I was in England I couldn't just walk past. They claim a Scottish ancestry for this 6.8% ABV red ale, but let's just leave that aside and spare them any blushes.
A hard one-two of big malt and big hops smacks the nose on first sniff: warm toffee infused with lemony citrus. It's a little bit sickly on tasting with the hops taking a back seat and a heavy barleywineish candy flavour at the front. The bitterness -- firm without being harsh -- kicks in shortly afterwards, and there's a concentrated floral tang, like accidentally-tasted perfume. It's a little bit more balanced in the aftertaste, presenting a twin track of caramel and bitter beeswax.
Complex though it is, I'm a little concerned that some of the finer points of this beer have been lost to time. I don't know how long it is since it left the brewery and it just didn't sing with the fresh succulent hop flavours I would have expected from a brewery of this calibre. Still, this kind of hoppy red-amber ale is fast becoming one of my favourite styles and there's plenty here for a more local brewer to learn from and steal.
And speaking of local brewers, the second Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS in Dublin kicks off tomorrow. I'll be knocking around all three days with the Beoir delegation. Come and say hello.