Finally finally the Gods have started to smile on me.
Recently, some higher power seems to have given Irish breweries the green light to start making proper hoppy beers. None of this 4% lightly citrusy session pale ale malarky: proper, beefy 7% ABV IPAs seem to be the order of the day.
Not content with releasing just the one IPA, Eight Degrees Brewing Company from down in Mitchelstown, County Cork, have gone full nelson and put out two 7%-ers at the same time. Mercy me.
They’ve advertised this as being a “hop-off”: two 7% IPAs, one with the best of Northern Hemisphere hops, the other showcasing what the Southern Hemisphere has to offer. Great little idea, and I’m happy to say that it’s been well executed in terms of the quality of brews produced.
Representing the Northern Hemisphere: HURRICANE IPA
First up comes the representative of all things Northern Hemisphere, Hurricane IPA. Unsurprisingly, there’s no Fuggles in sight here – just a load of trendier, juicier, brasher USA hops (Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic) – which is fine by me.
It pours a deep orange with a smallish white head (doesn’t stick around for too long – not the best looking brew). Don’t judge a book by its cover though, this little number smells incredible. The full force of Citra is all over the aroma: loads of juicy passionfruit, mango, orange, and lychee jump out of the glass – the first thing that came to my mind was Rubicon tropical fruit juice. There’s no halting the tropical juiciness in the taste either: so much sweet mango, tangerine, peach fills your mouth. There’s a bit of a deeper, pithier citrus note happening too, bringing with it a nice zing of bitterness. The malt body gives a pleasant amount of caramel and sweetish biscuit – but nothing that really gets in the way of the hops, thankfully. The finish is long and juicy, with deeper mango notes lingering. Christ this is good. Easily equal to so many of the new-wave British breweries’ IPAs I’ve had over the past years (better than most, to be honest). Citra and Simcoe are evidently at full force here, and the results are very, very impressive. Gwan the Northern Hemisphere.
Representing the Southern Hemisphere: CYCLONE IPA
In the Southern Corner, we’ve got Cyclone IPA. This antipodean version is showcasing two NZ hops (Motueka and Pacifica) and one Australian, Ella. (Surprised not to see the tropical powerhouse Nelson Sauvin in there too, but I do know it’s bloody difficult and expensive to get hold of)
The pour is a couple of shades lighter than that of its mate Hurricane (odd, as I thought that the two were brewed to the same recipe apart from the hop types) and has much better head retention. There’s grapefruit, pine resin, light melon, and floral notes in the aroma – alongside a bit of herby woodyness and caramel. In the taste, there’s quite a good whack of bitter grapefruit – nice and zingy. There’s spruce and pine resin too, some more woody notes, caramel, back-of-the-throat-tingling perfumey flavours, and another healthy dose of caramel. Plenty of residual grapefruit bitterness. Much more bitter and dry than its Northern sibling – quite a powerful little number actually – very enjoyable too.
Who wins? Well, for me, it’s got to be Hurricane. That juicy tropical fruit thing is right up my street. Kudos to Cyclone too, there’s a lot of depth of hop flavour in there, but it just doesn’t quite sparkle in the same way as the Citra-led version does.
To be fair, everybody’s a winner here, as we’ve finally got an example of an Irish brewer who certainly hasn’t skimped on the hops. I’m hoping to God that the ‘winner’ of this hop-off will be put into permanent production; if you want to vote for your favourite of the two, here’s the link to the poll on the brewery website
I picked these bottles up from Baggot Street Wines at the ridiculously good price of €2.99 a bottle – more outlets around Dublin and the rest of the country will be stocking them over this coming week. These are a must-buy for any Irish hop head out there, fulfill your civic duty and go seek them out.