Last week I told you about the Porterhouse independent Irish beer and whiskey festival. As part of the festival the Michael Jackson award for best Irish beer would be decided by a panel of judges. For the second year I was part of the panel along with Sean of Irish Craft Beer and John Wilson, writer with The Irish Times. We settled into a window seat in the Porterhouse Central so that we could get good light much to the amusement of passing tourists, some of whom stopped to puzzle at why three people were drinking beer and writing things down. This year the line up had expanded a bit and the judging was held in two venues, first Porterhouse Central and later Porterhouse Temple Bar.
We started off with ales and tasted most of them in Porterhouse central. There were a lot of fresh hoppy golden ales on show and I really liked them. A lot of work and care has obviously been put in by the brewers recently. An advantage to blind tasting is that you have no preconceptions. If the beer is bad on the day you just mark it as you see fit. As you don't know what the beer is you can't forgive it and mark it up by saying to yourself that it usually tastes good or that it was nice last time you had it. There were one or two ales which weren't so great on the day.
Some of the specialty beers and bottled beers were also tasted in central. These were by and large excellent. One of the bottled beers in particular impressed us beyond anything we had tasted. The second bottled beer was also a cracker with an intensely bitter bite.
We moved on down to the Porterhouse Temple Bar, it was nice to have a break from the tasting to give the taste buds a chance to recover. We had a lovely sunny seat around the old copper kettle on the top floor and awaited the delivery of the next beers. The lagers were first up with only three in the category. The first lager was very tasty and was clearly ahead of the other two. Definitely more flavoursome than macro lager and perfect for a nice summer's day. A prison diet of bread and water kept the palate clean. Our waitress was completely bemused and wondered why we were sniffing the beer. Then she realised we were tasting the beer like wine. She was a great laugh actually.
Stouts were up next and as expected this was tightly contested category. Irish brewers make some fabulous stouts and it was a very close run thing in the end. After this we tasted the last of the speciality beers and finished off the bottled beers.
Our judging sheets were taken away so that the final scores could be added up. We had some excellent food and tried to recover our powers of tasting. Then I waited around for a bit for the press launch of the festival. This year the announcement of the beers of the festival took place with the opening of the festival which was a good idea. I think it makes things easier for customers who might not have tried much craft beer. They can pick out an award winning beer to try out.
Best Ale: Copperhead by Whitewater
This is a lovely golden hoppy fresh zingy ale. Fabulous.
Best Lager: Amber by White Gypsy
A perfect lager for summer sipping with a nice flavour and bit of bite to it.
Best Speciality: 3 Kings by Franciscan Well
A smokey ale with a nice blur of spices in the background.
Best Stout: Wrasslers XXXX by The Porterhouse
The all conquering wrasslers wins again. It's just a fabulous stout with so much flavour.
Best Bottled: Oyster Stout by The Porterhouse
Overall winner of the Michael Jackson award for best Irish beer: Oyster Stout by The Porterhouse
A surprise for me as I didn't have any idea what this was when I tasted it. I was very impressed with this complex dark stout which looked perfect with a nice tint of red to it. A fabulous nose. It has a complex taste with hints of spices and it impressed us in spades.
Oyster stout in general is something I usually pass over. I really dislike fish and shellfish and I just can't eat seafood no matter how I try. So Oyster stout isn't something I go for on draught as it's quite smooth and not something to get overly excited about. It's completely different when bottled. The smoothing effect of the nitrogen is stripped away leaving you with an altogether more interesting beer. A much more complex and intense beer emerges. I'll be buying a few bottles to keep in the press.
Thanks once again to The Porterhouse for asking me to judge, it was a great day. Judging beer is harder than it seems and it's a good challenge to the palate and taste buds to judge beers against each other blind like this.
Photo courtesy of The Beer Nut.
April 4, 2010 at 3:20 PM