Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Brian Boru

Three Floyds Brewing Co.
Munster, IN

Style: Irish Ale

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

It’s time for the first Nigel review of 2008, and I gotta tell ya, I’m relaxed, refreshed, and ready to roll. 2007 brought many a change in the life o’ Nigel, but 2008 has come in with some peace and quiet and stability, so I’m looking forward to a big year. I certainly hope to continue sharing my twisted thoughts on the world of craft beer with all of you as we here at carry on our crusade to take over the world (uh … scratch that last line; it was intended for in-house use only).

So, how does the lone English correspondent at ring in his first review of the New Year? Why, by making fun of the Irish, of course! Yes, I know having fun at the expense of the Irish isn’t exactly a difficult task, but I thought I’d use a tee on my first review since I’m still feeling some lingering effects after consuming a large portion of a mini-keg of Bell’s Two Hearted and a Bare Tree Weiss Wine at Franz’s New Year's Eve bash (I believe there was some champagne mixed in there as well). As an Englishman, it’s my patriotic duty to make fun of the Irish at least once a year, so there’s no better time than the present. After this I can move on to bigger and better things (unless of course I run out of ideas again).

Part of the impetus for my first review of 2008 is to clear out the remnants of 2007 from the ol’ beer fridge (Nigel’s beer fridge is in the walk-in closet in his bedroom, and the overflow now takes up an entire shelf). In early October, I picked up a bomber of Three Floyds Brian Boru Irish Brand Red Ale and it sort of got lost in the shuffle; so many good brews to review, so little time. Anyway, I have a nice, new stock of beer to review in January, so I thought I had best get this one out of the way.

While I typically look forward to anything that is Three Floyds, this one didn’t exactly have me drooling in anticipation, which is probably why it took me so long to get to it. Irish Red’s are a lot like English Brown’s in the fact that they’re pretty tame, standard ales that neither offend nor knock your socks off. However, if anyone is capable of blowing me away with an Irish ale, it’s the folks in Munster.

Brian Boru is named after an Irish king from the late 10th century, during a rare time when the Irish weren’t being pushed around by the English. Born around 940, Boru became a popular Irish historical figure following his death in 1014, largely due to written historical works that were commissioned by his ancestors (good P.R. always helps). While many believe that Boru united a disjointed Ireland, this is only partially true, and the popular belief that he liberated the Emerald Isle from Norse conquerors is completely false, as the Vikings never overran Ireland like they did Britain (though in true Viking fashion, they did do some pillaging). Thus, Brian Boru is a historical figure of only modest proportions, but is viewed as a conquering hero by some Irish. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the only other figure of historical significance in Ireland is St. Patrick, and his designated day is basically just an excuse for people worldwide to get completely annihilated (Nigel kids ‘cuz he loves … there are plenty of great Irish figures, but unfortunately most of them have names that are completely unpronounceable).

Why Three Floyds chose to name their Irish-style ale after a historical figure that is rather obscure is beyond me, but it should be clear by now that they do things a bit differently in Munster, so it’s not too surprising. I personally would’ve gone with “Ulster Bomb Ale,” “Red-Headed Stepchild Ale,” or “Subjugated Ale,” but that’s just me.

Three Floyds Brian Boru opens with a healthy pop and a nice haze billowing out the bottleneck of a 22-ounce bomber. A strong hoppy aroma first strikes my nostrils, which isn’t at all what I was expecting. The pour is nice and lively, with an initial pillowy white head that quickly settles, leaving a thin creamy trace at the top of the glass. Not as red in hue as you would expect, it’s sort of a cloudy golden brown/mahogany color with some sedimentation. The aroma in the glass is pretty standard (though strong) for an Irish ale: sweet, sugary malt heavy on the caramel, along with a nice citrus tinge. Hops are also present, though not to the extent they were at the crack of the bottle cap.

The flavor is as good as you’ll find among Irish-style ales: rich and malty, with a bit of Amarillo hops that provide a nice secondary flavor. Honestly, this is pretty close to being a dopplebock with its overall thickness, sweetness, and complexity. Sweet, sugary flavors of caramel, toffee, and molasses are dominant, making this the strongest tasting Irish ale I’ve had to date. Sweet citrus (mainly grapefruit) provides a nice counterbalance to the sugary malt, as does the crispness of the hops. Equal parts thick, sugary, sweet, earthy, and hoppy, it’s an incredibly balanced beer. I have to say I’m somewhat surprised as to how enjoyable I found it. The plethora of flavors seem to strengthen as the beer warms, so I’d recommend serving it at around 50° and taking it from there. Medium bodied, it goes down very smooth and it checks in at a tolerable 5.9 percent ABV. A bit of aftertaste coats the tongue, but nothing too offensive. It could be considered a session brew, though it does become a bit much with the sweetness, and it only comes in bomber form at a somewhat pricey $7.

All in all, Brian Boru is a wonderful Irish-style ale from the brewing geniuses at Three Floyds. It’s hard to make fun of the Irish when enjoying such a quality brew inspired by them, so perhaps this would be a good time to admit that Nigel doesn’t actually have a problem with the Celtic lads from the Emerald Isle (though I do have a problem with the Boston Celtics). If you’re looking for a nice, flavorful beer without wanting to be overloaded by alcohol, malt, or hops, Brian Boru Irish Ale may be exactly what you’re looking for.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 4, 2008.
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