Ale in Dublin: Mit Schuss?

‘Vanil­la is a Bean’ by Chris­t­ian New­ton, from Flickr, under Cre­ative Com­mons.

The Dublin­ers who took to ale showed what seemed a clear con­tempt for the stuff by sprin­kling fruit cor­dial into it – a row of cor­dial shak­ers stood on every bar and the choice includ­ed rasp­ber­ry.

That’s a claim made by ‘Dublin boy’ Ger­ard Fay in a 1965 arti­cle about Guin­ness called ‘My Good­ness…’ and includ­ed in The Com­plete Imbiber Vol. 8 edit­ed by Cyril Ray.

This is the first we’ve ever heard of this prac­tice and it sounds very… Un-Irish.

Can any­one con­firm or deny? And is any­one else up for giv­ing it a go?

St Austell Strawberry Blonde

St Austell Cornish Blonde fruit lager.

Christo­pher Hutt’s The Death of the Eng­lish Pub (1973) is full of grim prophe­cies, but he saves this dystopi­an vision for the very end of the book:

Pro­fes­sor Hough of the British School of Malt­ing in Birm­ing­ham Uni­ver­si­ty pre­dict­ed in 1972 that we would soon be drink­ing rasp­ber­ry, straw­ber­ry and oth­er fruit-flavoured beers. On cue as always, one of the big six was already test-mar­ket­ing an orange beer, and this is now gen­er­al­ly avail­able. A pint of orange today, a pint of straw­ber­ry tomor­row.

St Austell, the biggest of our local brew­eries, has been exper­i­ment­ing with fruit in the last year. The rasp­ber­ry porter we tried at the brew­ery bar was excel­lent and the lat­est effort, Straw­ber­ry Blonde (4%), was… a lot bet­ter than we were expect­ing.

It comes in a clear bot­tle and looks very much like rosé wine, though the mar­ke­teers have admirably avoid­ed the temp­ta­tion to write FOR GIRLS! on the label. Among the ingre­di­ents, as is the fash­ion, are straw­ber­ries from a spe­cif­ic Cor­nish farm, along with crys­tal malt, corn and hop extract. So, that’s a clear bot­tle and dodgy-sound­ing ingre­di­ents: hopes were not high.

Note, how­ev­er, that no straw­ber­ry flavour­ings are list­ed. That fact, which we kept check­ing and recheck­ing in dis­be­lief, made the bold aro­ma all the more impres­sive. This beer smelled like a big pink milk­shake, straw­ber­ry chews, or a four-year-old’s birth­day jel­ly.

The flavour wasn’t too bad, either – crisp, rather neu­tral, with just a hint of under­ripe sour­ness – but couldn’t pos­si­bly live up to the per­fume. Per­haps future ver­sion of this beer would ben­e­fit from a more inter­est­ing base beer? Some­thing with more body and more tang? Cloud­ed Yel­low, St Austell’s clever faux-Bavar­i­an wheat beer, might work.

We bought our bot­tle of Straw­ber­ry Blonde in the Great West­ern Hotel in Newquay.

Fruit beer that works

Get­ting fruit flavour into beer is hard­er than you might imag­ine.

Some fruit beers are too sweet, oth­ers are too sour. The fruit flavour can be over­pow­er­ing, or bare­ly per­cep­ti­ble. Worst of all, it can some­times be just too pink.

Saltaire’s Black­ber­ry Cas­cade and Rasp­ber­ry Blonde get it exact­ly right. They both taste enough of fruit that you can tell it’s there with­out being told (we test­ed this the­o­ry on unsus­pect­ing friends). They’re a lit­tle sweet, hard­ly at all sour, and un-dyed.

We’re not 100 per cent sure but we sus­pect the trick might be to get over the purism which says fresh fruit is best: these beers are ‘infused’ with ‘flavours’, which to us sug­gests extracts or syrups. Who cares, though? It works.

Black­ber­ries are Boak’s favourite fruit, which is why Black­ber­ry Cas­cade has edged it as our beer of the week.

Lesser spotted Badger beers

We some­times strug­gle to see the appeal of Hall & Wood­house, aka Bad­ger, but they’ve been exper­i­ment­ing quite a lot recent­ly, so there’s often some­thing new to try. Harvester’s Ale is mere 2.5%, and I’ve been inter­est­ed in try­ing it for a while for that rea­son. At the oth­er end of the strength scale, Poacher’s Choice (5.7%) is made with liquorice and dam­son.

poacherschoice

Our local Turk­ish super­mar­ket has recent­ly start­ed sell­ing ale as well as East­ern Euro­pean lagers, although they only offer the usu­al sus­pects from  Shep­herd Neame, Hall & Wood­house and Wych­wood.

We some­times strug­gle to see the appeal of Hall & Wood­house, aka Bad­ger, but they’ve been exper­i­ment­ing quite a lot recent­ly, so there’s often some­thing new to try.

Harvester’s Ale is mere 2.5%, and I’ve been inter­est­ed in try­ing it for a while for that rea­son. To com­bat the sweet, watery flavour you get with low-alco­hol beer, the brew­ers have added plen­ty of hops, and the result is very drink­able. It’s almost lager-like in its fizzi­ness, but real­ly not bad at all. The kind of thing you might down a pint of as your first beer after work, before get­ting onto the prop­er stuff. Would prob­a­bly be good at sum­mer bar­be­cues, too. There was a slight acrid flavour some­where at the back but that might well be because a beer this weak is even less capa­ble than oth­ers of stand­ing up to the flu­o­res­cent lights and vari­able tem­per­a­tures of the local cor­ner shop.  If you want a sec­ond opin­ion, Melis­sa Cole reviewed it here.

At the oth­er end of the strength scale, Poacher’s Choice (5.7%) is made with liquorice and dam­son. Its won­der­ful fruity aro­ma filled the room as soon as we opened the bot­tle. The fruiti­ness is not “sub­tle” as the bot­tle claims.  In fact, we would clas­si­fy this as a fruit beer, in the same ter­ri­to­ry as JW Lees’ Plum Pud­ding. The fruit is fair­ly well-bal­anced with the spice and the hops, though. In all hon­esty, we couldn’t drink much more than a pint of it – it is a bit rich and sick­ly – but it’s def­i­nite­ly an inter­est­ing beer, and well worth try­ing if you see it.