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Friday, April 1, 2016

Beer Friday #9

It's Beer Friday #9, and beer is a famous aid to love (ill-considered and otherwise), and it's Date Night in the Bryson home, so...what else could we play but this classic?

It's also the last Beer Friday before Session Beer Day, April 7, so today I'm doing all session beers, as defined on the Session Beer Project page: tasty, multi-pint drinkable, and 4.5% ABV or less. Pretty easy, these days.

Guinness Dublin Porter, 3.8%
I've had this beer three times now: last July at Davy Byrne's in Dublin, last month at...Davy Byrne's in Dublin (lucky, what can I say?), and now today. The other two were draft; this is not significantly different, which is great. One thing that won't happen today is that little frisson of sheer terror I felt when I thought the manager pulled out a pistol in the back of the place while having a sharp discussion with a waiter; turned out to be a heat gun that he was using to touch up the weatherstripping. It was a moment, though, I'll tell ya.

I'll tell ya this, too: if you're looking for "robust" porter, or "imperial" porter, or "Baltic" porter...this ain't it. This is a quaffer, and it has a very light body, a light roasted grain quality, a light chocolate note, and a hint of hop bitterness at the close. That said...if I had another, I'd drink it, like I did at Davy Byrne's. I've heard people slag this beer for being too thin; during last year's "heat wave" in Dublin (got up to almost 80°!!), it was beautifully quenching. Just what it's for. Still, I have to admit, if there were a good mild on, or Deuchar's, I'd probably be one-and-done on this one.

Verdict: Okay

Magic Hat Low Key Session IPA, 4.5%
I'll be honest: "session IPA" has become increasingly problematic for me. It's come to symbolize the depressingly low amount of true variety in American brewing, and the reductio ad amaritudinem of the beer-drinking niche masses. "All Must Become IPA" seems to be the challenge phrase of brewers ("Unless It Is Sour" being the in-group response). And since brewers started making "session IPA", the whining resistance to lower ABV beers has diminished significantly. As I remarked years ago about pilsners; as long as they have their hop-soaked sucktoy, they're fine.

Still, it's all session today, and what's in the fridge is what's in the fridge, so session IPA it is. Magic Hat's had a weird history with IPA for me. There was Blind Faith, which was good, and then not so good, and then good again. There was HiPA, which I loved, till it disappeared, and now it seems to be back again. There's the grapefruit-infused Electric Peel, which despite a growing suspicion of the whole fruited IPA movement on my part, I kinda like. And now there's this. Let's see.

Not screaming hops on the nose, more like a malt-balanced lager with a little bit of lemony citrus in there. Oof. More disappointing on the tongue: this is simply bitter, without much flavor of hop to it at all. I'm trying hard to find redeeming character here, and oddly enough, it's in the malt. There's a half-decent base beer under there, but the overhopping — cack-handed overhopping — is killing it. I'm afraid we have our first Crap beer. Magic Hat can do better, and I hope they kill this, or pull it in for a quick retooling.

Verdict: Crap

Omer Vander Ghinste Kriek des Jacobins, 4.5%
I can't recall the last time I had a genuine Belgian Kriek, and that's a damned shame. I got this sample from Lanny Hoff at Artisanal Imports; Lanny's carried great beers for almost as far back as I can recall, so expectations are high. Fruited Flanders sour, 4.5%: perfect for fighting the Session IPA Blues. Let's go!

Beautiful ruby beer with just-barely-pink foam: happy stuff. Tart cherry nose, with an additional acidic edge to it that's clearing my sinuses. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Roundly balanced, a beer that clocks in on your tongue with BEER over here and CHERRY over there and SOUR over there and JUICY over there, all hanging off opposite sides on the edge of the spinning top that is this beer on my tongue. One small complaint: about halfway through the bottle, it's getting a bit sticky in the back of my throat. I try a big swallow, and that's gone, but a small complaint.

It's not killer. It's not crazy, or over the top, or wicked sour, or any of that. And sometimes I WANT that; sometimes I want to get puckered and almost scared, sometimes I want to get hopsmacked right in the chops. But when I want to have a beer that lets me breathe, just enjoy life? I want a beer like this, a beer that knows what it's doing, does it well, and really delivers. Nicely done. Thank you, Belgium.

Verdict: Good

Doylestown R5 Lager, 4.5%, draft
Named for the old designation of the SEPTA Landale/Doylestown line, R5 has been out and a bout for a bit, and I grab one when I can. Tonight I took a bit of a longer linger with it, and here's what I found. It's a quick entry; I did say, it's Date Night!

Very nice lager, good mouthfeel for a session beer (which so few have), and no off-flavors. Disappearing quickly, too. Not overly hopped. Good quaff.

Verdict: Good

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