Ireland · Northern Ireland

Let’s Start with Cake

YellowBelly and Wicklow Wolf teamed up recently to brew what the label terms a Black Forest Stout and a sucker as I am for that hugely trending style, one popped its way into my bag.

The Wolf of Malt Street comes in at 6.2% ABV and smells massively malty on opening. Does this wolf have a bite? Well, the first sip hits me with a smack of kirsch followed by a nostalgic mid ’80s memory of gorging my face with Black Forest gateau in a local hotel during the very rare treat of my parents taking me out for Sunday dinner. I didn’t just have cake for dinner of course. There was probably scampi in a basket involved too.

And I’m back in the room! Sorry, yes, Wolf of Malt Street. Expect sweet cherry liqueur on top of a fresh milky chocolate stout. If ever a beer tasted like a desert, this is it. Superb.

Staying with our southern brewing brethren, I’ve well documented my love of the double IPA kings of Ireland, the Whiplash boys. So there was great joy when I saw online the return of Surrender to the Void, one of the brewery’s original DIPAs from back in 2016. It was top stuff back then and has a lot to live up to. So did it?

Yes. End of review.

More words needed? Ah all right then. It smells like a sticky, sweet citrus fruit and is much thicker in the glass than before. Understated melon, pear, mandarin and pineapple all tingle the tongue. This is a gentlemanly double, not a ruffian old boy – the Nigel Havers of DIPAs, if you like. The alcohol is still noticeable at 8.5% ABV, so just like Havers’ dodgy character in Corrie, treat with caution. I don’t know where or what the void is but I’ll happily surrender, regardless.

Back up this side of the Brexit border, and staying with the double IPAs, is Big Axe from Bullhouse. Well, what else would you call a bigger version of Small Axe?

#obvs – as the kids say.

To my knowledge this is the Newtownards outfit’s first foray into the DIPA world. A couple of middling/higher ABV IPAs have predeced it but not necessarily a double. This is 8% ABV and as clear as a bell. None of that murky stuff. Big Axe has a delicious peachy and apricot soft fruitiness about it from the start with a slight zing of piney bitterness that quickly hits the back of the throat. Is it a west coast bitter beer? Is it an east coast fruity beer? It’s a healthy mix of the two, becoming more bitter in the second half of the glass but why am I even debating the location? Fact – it’s a Northern Ireland east coast beer and a quality one at that.

We started this post with a collaborative Black Forest stout, so let’s end with a Jammy Dodger stout. It’s not officially called that, but that’s the best way I can describe Boundary’s So It Goes, a 9.7% ABV collaboration with Banbridge’s MashDown and Glasgow’s Dead End Brew Machine.

You can sense the chocolate malt in the background but screw that background malarkey, this stout is all about what is front and centre. And that’s raspberry jam – tons of it. The raspberry sweetness becomes overpowering very quickly and I’d love it to be dialled back a notch, allowing more of that delicious chocolate stout to shine through.

A win then for the Black Forest over the Jammy Dodgers. Sound like an ice hockey result.

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