19 April 2017

A few social beers

My Easter weekend began last Thursday afternoon with leaving work and heading straight for the Open Gate Brewery at St James's Gate. I'd been invited, with Will from 5 Lamps Brewery, to talk to staff about beer and brewing. With that out of the way it was over to the bar to see what was new on the roster.

They've added two new lagers to the line-up. From the in-house brewery there's Amarillo Pilsner which, as the name suggests, is a pilsner using Amarillo hops. Not too many of them, mind. It has that same soft whisper of new world varieties that you find in the likes of Smithwick's Pale Ale and Hop House 13. It's not an exciting beer (and I am the sort that can get excited by really good pils) but it's clean, crisp, refreshing and decent.

Its twin is one for the "outreach" taps -- the Open Gate branded beer lines that have cropped up in pubs around the country. Like all such beers, it isn't brewed at Open Gate at all but at the main brewhouse at the north end of the campus. Open Gate Pilsner is the name and this time the hops are Cascade and Citra. The volume knob has been turned up a lot louder in this one, with a heavy, greasy dank funk on top of the light and clean malt base. It's certainly more characterful than the Amarillo Pilsner which I drank alongside it, but didn't meet my requirements for the style quite as well.

The latest stout is the portmaneau'd NitrOatmeal, which looks innocent and creamy but packs 8.4% ABV in there. That's not immediately apparent on tasting. It's smooth, obviously enough, and also sweet, with a big hit of ripe strawberries front and centre. Only after swallowing does the reality of the strength kick in, with a sharp and hot alcohol burn which is shocking at first but becomes more pleasingly warming as it goes down. While enjoyable, it's still a beer to have just the one of, I think.

The Open Gate IPA series, with its now de rigueur "v" numbering sequence, continues with number four: Pretty Citrusy. This is a heavy beast, amber coloured and 6.4% ABV. The citrus is the olde worlde sort, more oranges and lemons than lime or grapefruit. The hops are more than balanced by a heavy biscuit malt making an IPA that straddles the Atlantic, too zesty to be English style but with a bready weight you rarely find in an American. It's nice though, but not exactly thrilling.

My one for the road was the brand-new Open Gate Ginger Beer. I confess I didn't detect the ginger straight away but felt silly for it because the ginger is really obvious. What I did notice is its beautiful refreshment powers, akin to an ice-cold bitter lemonade. The ginger doesn't give it heat; it's gentler than that, flavoured like a ginger biscuit or cake. The big fizz adds to its cleansing qualities and tie off a light package which provides everything required of summery ginger beer.

I said my goodbyes and made for the second engagement of the evening, 57 The Headline where a Rascals Brewing tap takeover was in full swing.

The main act here was the release of Project Sour #4: Blood Orange Sour. It's a sour beer with added blood oranges. Rather than spritzy tartness, it's quite heavy and savoury, giving an almost gose-like saltiness. The oranges give it their flavour but not really their juice. It's fine, but I think I'd prefer if it were tuned a bit higher, with either more fruit or a punchier sourness. No pleasing some people.

Though not part of The Project, I guess, there was another sour beer on tap: Pilot Brew Sour with strawberry and black pepper. They've gone soft and heavy again, though it's less surprising in this one, with its 7% ABV. The strawberry is laid on jammy and thick, then spiced, quite beautifully, with coarse and oily black pepper. It's a strange combination and it works really well, though more cleansing sourness would be an improvement, as I think lowering the ABV would be as well.

Last of the the new ones, for me, was Pilot Lager: only 3.9% ABV and once again infused with oranges. It's a very pale yellow shade and nicely crisp with the orange coming through subtly on a low carbonation. It's clean, refreshing and just flavourful enough, reminding me of an evening drinking Bavaria lager with a dash of Pisco, once the house special at The Abbot's Ale House bar in Cork. Unorthodox, perhaps, but a great way to jazz up an unremarkable pale lager.

So endeth my evening. Cheers to all at Open Gate, The Headline and Rascals for the entertainment. After the Good Friday hiatus -- hopefully the last -- Easter's festivities continued on Saturday down in Cork...


  1. I'm surpised that Oatmeal Stout is 8.4% ABV. I thought they weren't allowed to brew a Stout stronger than Special Export.

  2. Could be that's an agreement too old or too vague to enforce. Or they just forgot.