Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Beer: Carlow Brewing - An Ace up Their Sleeve

I have to admit that my palate is not fine tuned enough to pick out most hop varieties when I taste a beer but one exception to that is Sorachi Ace. I can remember drinking Thornbridge Raven in The Salthouse in Galway a couple of years back and picking it out of that beer, to the amazement of myself and my drinking buddy. It's a pretty unique hop and I would guess that it's one you either love or hate on its own - a bit like Marmite.

I've come across it a few times now. My first taste was when it was part of the Brew Dog IPA is Dead series a few years back - I remember reading the notes on it that mentioned bubblegum and thinking how accurate a description it was, but tropical fruit flavour gum mind you. My next taste was of Mikkeller's single hop version and my own notes read 'Excellent. Butter and grapefruit, smooth. 'WOW' beer time!' Next came Brooklyn's, 'Creamy tropical fruit flavour. Sweet-sourish and easy to drink.' I came across it again in Copenhagen brewed by Raasted/Beer Here under a name I can't print here, as I don't want to be picked up by the wrong search engines! My notes for that read, 'Creamy lychee juice. Barley sugar too. Beautiful Beer.' (As you can see, brevity is my friend when taking beer notes although I have improved - slightly.)

So with all this background research done, when I heard that my local brewery O'Hara's (Carlow Brewing)  had done an IPA with Sorachi Ace as part of a Hop Adventure series I was dying to try it. An opportunity came pretty quickly as Tully's Bar in my adopted town of Carlow had organised a beer festival as part of the local arts festival, and O'Hara's was to feature prominently, along with White Gypsy and 12 Acres - 2 more of my favourite brewers - who regularly feature in the Tully's line up.

As fortune, fate or persistent Twitter pestering would have it the Sorachi Ace was on tap, along with their stout, dunkleweizen, saison, cider and pale ale. I worked my way up to it via the Dunkleweizen - almost stout-like with a hint of clove-  and the Saison - sour, bitter and cleansing.

When I finally got to the Sorachi Ace IPA, I sat back, took my time and studied it. It was very creamy looking and certainly appealing. I took a taste and looked through my notes from my previous Sorachi escapades. Even though not all of them were IPAs the flavour profile still made sense. I got the creaminess. I got the tropical bubblegum. I got the lychees. I got a bare hint of barley sugar. Most of all I got the wow!

OK, perhaps my palate was being guided by my previous encounters but either way this was a lovely beer - my kind of beer. O'Hara's have a great talent for making extremely drinkable beers. Not extreme beers, not crazy beers, not dump-the-whole-bag-of-hops-in beers. But solid, well made, balanced beers and, most importantly, saleable beers.

You might think I'm biased as I live in Carlow but I'm a Laois man living in Carlow. And if I'm being completely honest I think that 12 Acres Pale Ale with its lemon puff biscuit flavour edges out O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale for my palate. (Now that could be the Laois man in me talking!)

Anyway, back to the festival and the Sorachi IPA...

The weather wasn't kind to the festival but I think it went OK. I hope so, as I want it to be bigger and better next year. The Sorachi Ace was a bold move by O'Hara's and I admire them for that too. It would certainly be a go-to summer beer for me and I look forward to trying it in bottle format.

I'm looking forward to the next Adventure too!

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