Three from Eight

First post of 2015 and it’s about three beers released in time for Christmas (there I said it and it’s after the 6th of January). Well the beers in question were brewed by Eight Degrees and make up its Very Imperial Winter 2014/15 collection. Craft beer and the seasonality is becoming bigger in Ireland. It’s as if we eagerly await the launch of spring/summer collections.

Eight Degrees followed up 2013’s Back to Black series with three different brews to “tempt and warm you over the cooler season”. There’s Double Irish, a double IPA (so not just a clever name at 9.0% abv, Belgian Dubbel at 7.2% abv and finally the survivor from the previous year, Russian Imperial Stout at 9% abv.

I had tried these beers after their release in the fourth week of November but things were so manic since then, I’m only getting time to post about them now. I had even used the dubbel in a tasting the day after they appeared in the shops for the first time to a group who’d been lucky enough to sample it in Mitchelstown before its release. A dubbel is a great food beer and it’s perfect for roast dinners so it was good to be able to use and Irish version for a tasting.

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The Belgian Dubbel pours with colour similarities to Rodenbach. It has a distinctly bright reddish-brown appearance and certainly more vibrant than more characteristic dubbels out there. It’s also extremely clear and given the right glass, it could pass for a brandy (the head dissipates quickly). There’s banana and dark fruits, mainly plums on the nose. On tasting, there’s some initial carbonation but quickly disappears. In terms of flavour profile, there’s a hit of plums and a dash of spice up front before being taken over by sweet notes that continue into the finish.

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Earlier this year, Eight Degrees released Full Irish, a single malt IPA at 6% abv. It was packed full of big citrus flavours with a malt bill that wasn’t going to get in the way. Double Irish is this beer’s big brother. It pours a rich bronze colour with a hazy amber hue. The aroma is a total immersion in tropical sweet fruits. There’s a tangy freshness of orange and pineapple. Sticky fruit on taste, with some caramel before yielding to a pure and chewy dry finish. At 9% abv, there’s a warming bitterness on the finish that’s similar to a strepsil in its warming sensation on the throat.

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The final beer is the Russian Imperial Stout. The previous year’s version featured as my choice for the desert beer for my 2013 Christmas Dinner Menu. It pours jet black, with a thick creamy caramel head (perhaps reminiscent of a coke float). It has plenty of vanilla and chocolate notes on the nose. On first taste, you can pick out sweet vanilla, bourbon and espresso characteristics. While it continually hints at its alcohol strength, the beer takes on a bitter, dark roasted espresso finish.

While these beers may not be standard-bearers for a given style in their own right, they achieve what Scott and Cam set out to do, namely to be winter sippers. What’s even more remarkable is that they all come in around the €3 euro mark. The brewery has had remarkable success over the past five years but they have consistently been able to maintain the prices at the lower end.

Big things can be expected to come from them in 2015 as they expand production. A second-hand kit, with funding secured via Linked Finance, is on its way from Mauritius. Hopefully we’ll see some of the seasonal and once-off beers released in 2014 becoming regularly available. The brewery even featured this week on the first broadcast of UTV Ireland’s Ireland Live at 10 programme.

Lovin’ Loverbeer in Dublin

Back in the middle of November, a unique beer festival took place in the Italian Quarter. Organised by Wallace Wine Bars, Quartiere In Fermento was a small festival celebrating the artisanal beer scene in Italy.

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Unfortunately I had to be on my best behaviour and limit myself to only four glasses of beer as I had a charity event to go to that evening. So given this constraint, what else could I try but Loverbeer.

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The piedmont brewery specialises in sour beers, with about a dozen in its range. The Piedmont brewery’s located about 40 minutes outside of Turin and unlike the neighbouring vineyards, it welcomes spontaneous fermentation with open arms. The brewery was set up by Valter Loverier (hence the “Loverbeer” name) in 2010. Valter was on hand at the festival to introduce his exceptional beers.

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The suggested order for tasting the four beers he brought was to commence with Dama Brun-a, which is extremely tart and tannin-laden barrel-aged brew. An Oud Bruin in style, it had pleasant similarities with Rodenbach. Next up was plummy Beer Brugna that while sour, it had a dark fruit subtle sweetness. Then it was on to BeerBera, a wild brew that is fermented with Barbera, the iconic grape of the region. This grape is used to create big, powerful Piedmont reds and it doesn’t disappoint in this beer. Finally, with taste buds already beginning to wane due to indulging on glasses of the sours, it was time to up the ante for my last beer from the brewery and indeed my last one at the festival. The time had come to taste Papessa, a 7% abv sour Russian Imperial Stout. This was the perfect beer to finish on as the dark chocolate-laden beer complimented the fruits in the previous three that had taken up residence on my palate.

It was great to try these beers in the company of Valter and here his take on each one. These beers and all those at the festival will be making appearances in the Italian Quarter restaurants (either in bottles or on draught). Look out for them!