Not long after having a flat, warm, and very tasty ESB
out at Wisconsin Brewing Company, I noticed that the Parched Eagle Brewpub
in Westport also had an ESB on tap – Grainne's Special Bitter. How fortuitous! A fine opportunity to expand my extremely limited ESB horizons.
The Dulcinea and I were rather hungry so we stopped at Athens Gyros next door for some victuals before visiting the brewpub. We both had chicken souvlaki and I discovered that proprietor Gus Kyriakopoulos and his minions do not skimp on onion. I think they have figured out how to overcome Van der Waals force and fit a whole onion in a single piece of pita bread and yet leave room for a generous portions of tomato and chicken.
Having filled our bellies, we moseyed next door. Proprietor Jim Goronson was there training a new minion. Soon enough I had a pint of Grainne's Special Bitter before me. I neglected to ask who Grainne is or was and it's a mystery to this day...
Whoever this person is or was, their eponymous ESB was a light copper hue and clear. My pour had a small white head which was gone in a flash. I should note that the beer was served from a regular tap and not a beer engine as was WBC's ESB. However, Grainne's was put on tap on a beer engine at The Malt House.
The aroma was quite inviting with caramel and estery banana scents wafting up my nostrils. Still, it was odd not to smell any hops. Does eating a lot of raw onion mess up one's ability to smell hops or some such thing?
Despite having a fondness for the dunkles und schwarzbier and thusly knowing full well that a beer's color doesn't necessarily correspond to its body, I think I took my first sip of Grainne's thinking it would have a fair bit of heft to it. I mean, I saw the big board and it listed the brew at 7%. But it turned out to be surprisingly nimble on the tongue with a medium-light body. Fruitiness came first with the banana from the aroma making a return engagement. There was also clove, which was strange. I later asked someone who knows much more about beer than I ever will and was told that this flavor was not to style.
This is not to say, however, that it tasted bad. The clove was not very strong and certainly didn't interfere with the other tastes here that are more "proper" for an ESB. For instance, there was some toffee as well as a bready flavor from the malt. While MIA from my nose, my tongue got to enjoy a prominent hoppy bitterness which tasted a lot like grass with some black pepper thrown in for good measure.
At the finish the malt flavors were off like a prom dress leaving a light fruity taste and the clove to duke it out with the hops. And the hops won hands down with their grass-pepper 1-2 punch accompanied by a healthy bitterness which made for a rather dry finale.
As I noted above, my pint of Grainne's was served from a regular tap so it was cold. It really benefited from warming up as this brought out the hops which had a grassy flavor that I really enjoyed. One thing about the ESB that appeals to me is that it does this malt balancing act where you have sweet toffee or caramel flavors as well as more savory bread-like ones. Grainne's did a nice job of this, to my taste. Clove be damned! This was a tasty beer.
Junk food pairing: Crisps! Pair Grainne's Special Bitter with a bag of Herr's Steak & Worcestershire potato chips.
Labels: Beer, ESB, Parched Eagle Brewpub