Ecclesiastical Spirit

Another week, another Tweet Tasting and today we're treated to a selection of Abbey Whisky's wares. They arrived lovingly packaged in straw and wax dipped, certainly some of the most pampered samples I've received to date. We tasted these on 20th November. Review after the obligatory group shot...

Range of colours, producers and ages.
Up first is Caperdonich's 17 year old whisky. Caperdonich 17 Year Old Refill Bourbon – Vintage: 1995 – Bottled: 2012 57.8%
Pale blonde in the glass with spicey woody notes, caramel and some alcohol in behind. Fairly fiery, grainy, sweet. Oils shimmer across the surface on adding a drop or two of water. Still fairly hot with lip drying finish. Little change to aroma too. Its a bit one dimensional and wasn't really a fan tbh.

Bunnahabhain 23 year old up next and noticeably
less alcoholic on the nose. No peat smoke here so probably one of its unsmoked variants. Vanilla and butterscotch bourbon wood character. Slightly vegetal, chartreuse like with bonfire ashes and a meaty finish. water in this one really dulls the nose but really sweetens the palate. goats cheese too? This would work well as an accompaniment to hearty game dishes, with just enough complexity to cut through the rich meat flavours. Ginger comes through in the finish, certainly one that delights long after the glass is drained even if unassuming up front.

Ben Nevis 16 y/o is 55% and noticeably darker on the pour an attractive chestnut brown from its time spent in an Oloroso Sherry Hogshead. Vintage: 1997 – Bottled: 2013.  Pledge and an underlying musty cellar with perhaps a hint of cider vinegar. Fairly boisterous on the palate with copper sulphate and plenty of warmth. Dry coffee roast notes in the finish. water rounds out the nose allowing caramel and orange flower water to the party but the alcohol still singes the nostrils. it makes the body fuller but also highlights the eggy sulphur notes. After that dissipates there's some lemon peel and plasticky notes, the nose opens up on standing and palate calms a bit too but its still a bruiser of a whisky. Blackcurrant ribena notes appear right in the finish.

The final dram is a mystery, the darkest of the lot an enticing copper red. turkish delight, apple cinnamon doughnuts and madeira sweetness, certainly the most interesting nose thus far!warm and spicey, orange marmalade, full bodied, oily finish. really enjoayble even without water. definitely saved the best for last! Turns out it was a 1993 Glen Dronach  again aged in Oloroso Sherry Butt, 20 years old. At £89.95 worth the money if you can spare it!

For me the GlenDronach was the standout star, with the bunnahabhain also enjoyable. I could take or leave the Ben Nevis and wasn't a fan of Caperdonich at all...goes to show that all whiskys are different and reinforces the statement "if you don't like whisky you just haven't tried enough yet!"

Cheers to Steve as always for organising the tasting and Abbey Whisky for sending out such interesting samples. Call by again next week for my summary of Monday's Arran tweet tasting.


82nd #TheSession Announcement: Beery Yarns

I last hosted communal beer blogging event #TheSession back in November 2011. 24 Sessions on and I've volunteered again. I can reveal the topic now that Nitch is done with hers, cheers for hosting! Date for your diaries is Friday 6th December (though expect plenty of reminders nearer the time!). That's two weeks guys and gals.

Image from Kent Online's article on real ale and real fires
The nights are drawing in, there may even be snow, what better way to enjoy a beer than in front of a log fire. Turn that TV off and talk to your drinking compatriots. Maybe you're just at home with some friends or maybe in a decent local boozer chatting to complete strangers. This month I'm going to give you plenty of scope for originality by setting a wide-open theme. I want to hear your beery tall tales, yarns, recollections (in a Grandpa Simpson stylee) or otherwise, delivered in the manner that you befits sitting around a log fire, favourite beer in hand. Only proviso is that it has to involve beer in some way, whether that be a particular beer jogging your memory of a previous event or beer taking a bigger role in the recollected tale. Its up to you. Interjections, corrections, addendums can all be contributed the assembled masses in your comments section.

A suitable December topic I think (though of course there are some bloggers for whom it is now summer; so imagine that you're sharing beers on the beach around a camp-fire.)

As per usual, please let me know when you've done a post, either by leaving a link in the box below or tweeting me @beersiveknown. Or both if you're that way inclined. And if you don't have a blog of your own but still wish to contribute then fear not; I can post your thoughts for you, just drop me an email beersiveknown AT gmail DOT com. I'll post a round up the week following.

I look forward to reading everyone's tall tales!


Ivory Festival (BBF 2013)

The 14th Belfast Beer Festival is almost upon us starting next Thursday (21st) and running until Saturday (23rd). In fact, as you read this a tireless band of volunteers are getting the stillages erected in preparation for the casks arriving over the next few days.

 As usual plenty of beers from Northern Ireland and the UK but this year we also have three breweries from the south, Dungarvan, Metalman and White Gypsy with a handful of beers in cask between them.

The festival also sees the launch of three new local breweries and a handful of new beers from other Norn Iron brewers. There's free tasters of some of these from 1pm-4pm on Thursday with the brewers on hand to ask any questions.
Innishmacsaint have been quiet for a while and they return with their Lough Erne Porter.
New brewer Clearsky have their fulcrum wheat ale
People from Nicholson's will be handing out tasters of Nicholsons Pale (brewed by St Austell).

Other Northern Ireland beers to look out for are Hilden number 4 which was well received at the spring Wetherspoon beer festival, Innishmacsaint's dry-hopped special with home-grown hops (bramling x, fuggle, east kent goldings and northern brewer) and a number of interesting things from Ards.

Some other interesting UK beers I'm looking forward to trying are Mordue's Imperial  raspberry stout, Dark Star's Art of Darkness and a new Imperial IPA from Outstanding. 

For those who prefer fruit to grain there are 20 ciders and perries from across the UK, including new releases from Macs, Tempted and Toby's.

There's still spaces left on the tutored tastings at an excellent value of £10 for 5-6 beers, book via the websiteI'll be there from about 6pm on Thursday through until Saturday evening. Hope to see you there!

Follow @BelfastBeerFest on Twitter for more details!.


Waterford Wondering

One of the Irish brewers I most enjoy whenever I find it on cask is Metalman. Perhaps it helps that Gráinne and Tim are extremely friendly and helpful beery people but their beer is what counts and I'm yet to have a duff pint, if only the bottled it! So when there was an opportunity to visit the brewery before the beoir AGM I jumped at the chance.*

HLTs and mashtun
Shiny stainless
More bright steelwork
Beorites rapt with attention for Tim's tour
Waterford's other brewing giant

The brewery itself is on an industrial estate which looks a little run down, though the brewery unit is spick and span. Space wise there's room to expand, though they're limited by their length of brew at the moment. There are a variety of fermenting and conditioning tanks which are juggled to give the best results!

Tim put on a keg of their (then) new seasonal Sahara. Brewed with a mixture of hops including centennial and sorachi ace this poured a clear amber brown with off white fluffy head. Medium carb with gentle toffee and citrus notes on the nose. Starts off with subtle sorachi hops balanced by malt, followed by noble hop bitterness. Tangerine pith and custard creams build through beer to give a very long hoppy finish. I was really impressed by this one and hope it makes a return next year. Indeed I could still taste it 30mins later as we reached the AGM!

The AGM itself was in the Phil Grimes pub where pints of Pale and Windjammer were enjoyed alongside Dungarvan Blackrocks on cask..my pint was perhaps on the turn but the sour edge actually increased the complexity of the beer to something even more enjoyable!

After that a pizza was enjoyed then off to an early bed after the previous evening's excesses at Reuben's house.

Thanks to Tim and Gráinne for hosting us and maybe see you up North again soon?

*Yes I'm a bit tardy getting this written up, its still the same brewery though!


Tweeddale Tweet Tasting

The start of October saw another Whisky Wire tweet tasting, this time with 4 samples from Tweeddale, all at 46% ABV. The concept is interesting as the whisky was tasted in age order, with each subsequent whisky having undergone an additional year (or two years) ageing in a different finish cask with further tweaks batch to batch. Take a look at Tweeddale's tasting notes for more info.
"An indulgent small batch, limited edition blend drawn from nine single casks*; an aged single grain whisky and eight individually selected aged single malt whiskies, with a high malt content (50% grain, 50% malt). In keeping with the original blend it has not been chill filtered and has been bottled at 46% alcohol by volume. This ensures a balanced, full bodied and full flavoured whisky with pronounced sweet, sherry notes."

Sample #1 is the 10 years old release which pours "pale fields of gold" according to my description! Fairly gentle on the nose with a woody spiciness and fresh baked shortcake. Extremely smooth, quite sweet, a fiery punch but with a sultanas and redcurrants on the finish. After the initial heat subsides a touch of phenolics and honey, expertly balanced. adding a splash of water brings green apple to the nose and mellows the heat allowing the spiciness in the nose to show. Available for a very reasonable £26.99

Second for the evening was the 12 y/o papery, wood pepperiness, impressive legs again sweet rhubarb and custard sweets, dusty gooseberries. The nose really evolves on warming to a summery fruit compote of peaches, raspberries and pears, quite soft. Heat sneaks up & hits the back of your throat...eye wateringly so! After that subsides those fruit berry flavours come out adding water really emphasises that islay addition..iodine dryness and salty barnacle encrusted ropes dipped in vermouth. Really great blend this one.

Up next, the 13 year old. is such a pale blonde,as if someone dumped water but still has the legs to prove otherwise long nosing of this ,fairly subtle on the nose, a bit of pear drops and pure ethanol very fiery and peppery, peardrops on adding waterits really sweet on the palate, almost unfinished..unfermented out, sweet italian vermouth with added canderel.
Fourth and final whisky is 14 years old and had quite some kick on the nose! very peppery, lemon peel definite root ginger more of the spicy notes in the taste, alongside wine gums and some rounded sweetness. Well balanced but not quite my bag. Finishes wine gums dissolved in ginger ale... could make for a good cocktail spirit.

For me the 12 year old was the most accomplished with the 10 year old also enjoyable. I wasn't keen on the 14 year old and the 13 year old didn't sit right with me at all...guess 13 is unlucky for some after all! Thanks as always to Steve for organising the tasting and Alasdair from Tweeddale for providing the samples!


A Few New Irish Brews

2013 has certainly been a good year in beer south of the border and I've had another few tasty morsels arrive since my last Dublin visit.

First up is Eight Degrees Amber Ella brought to me by The Beer Nut. Cheers! Its an amber ale very much in the vein of 5AM saint, but with a fairly different hop character bought to you courtesy of new star Ella (aka stella...) ably supported by fellow antipodean hop Galaxy.
Its a dark hazy ruby with fluffy amber head which collapses to a lacing. Rich peaches and mango from those Aussie hops on the nose. Medium carbonation and body, fruity gooseberry, fairly bitter but balanced by digestive biscuit malt and red berry flavours from hops. The strength (5.8%) is expertly hidden and I could easily have had a few of these or drunk by the pint and I hope it joins the core range. Here's Reuben's thoughts on this one

The other newbie for 2013 (and just released in bottle) is Carlow O'Haras Double IPA. This was launched on draught at Irish Craft Beer Village in March this year and is the first Double IPA to appear on the market. At 7.5% its certainly one of the strongest though at the lower end of the DIPA spectrum. Thanks to Patricia and Julie a carlow for the sample bottle.
Pours slightly hazy mid amber with minimal lacing of head. Some pineapple and lemon cheesecake on the nose. Overwhelmingly sweet at first, fairly heavy body, low carbonation. As it warms some lemon pith and mango comes through with a touch of balancing bitterness, but very much a bulked up UK style malt led ipa and a sipper. Its good to chill this one down then see how the flavour evolves as it warms up. Great to see a complex beer like this emerge amongst the usual reds and blondes.

Launched yesterday in bottles is seasonal beer Winter Star (4.3%). I tried this last year at the Irish Craft Beer Festival in Dublin. Its a fairly interesting brew with cinammon, orange juice and for some reason coconut. On keg its a hazy medium brown beer with a fairly full body. Coconut is the dominant flavour on the nose and in body, with perhaps a touch of cinnamon. No sign of the orange to me, but perhaps teh bottles will be different anyway?

And finally the third in O'Hara's Barrel aged series is due out next month. Details are under wraps as yet, but if its half as good as the aged Leann Folain's we have already seen it'll make for a great Christmas beer.

I particulalrly like Carlow's website which has plenty of information on each beer plus some useful food pairing tips.