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Beer is the product of some almost mystical processes that involve the use of a very limited list of basic ingredients (water, hops, yeast and malted barley) – right? Well: Usually. In certain parts of the world, the barley may be supplemented with or replaced by other grains.
Wheat beers tend to be thought of as the preserve of the near continent (Belgium in particular). They are usually very pale, cloudy and strongly spiced (they often use coriander and orange peel). Hoegaarden Weiss Beir is a prime example of this. There are also a number of very different brews produced from malted wheat which come from the English speaking world and which often claim ancestry in Gaelic or Celtic mythology. They tend to be a rich golden colour, with little sediment, relatively low alcohol and sporting a variety of citrus flavours. I did find one fine British brew from the West Country (O’Hanlon’s Wheat Beer: I gave it 5* in my review) which shows that it can be done over here and done well. There is a representative from the Isle of Man – The MacLir Ale; and I also found one coming all the way from San Francisco – Anchor Summer Wheat Beer.
A visit to my local supermarket recently came up with this offering from the Republic of Ireland.
Like so many of these ales, Curim Gold comes from a fairly recently established (1998) microbrewery. The Carlow Brewing Company is situated in a small town located in the Barrow Valley Region of Ireland - the traditional malt and hop producing region which once boasted a number of breweries. The practice had been discontinued for over 100 years prior to this revival.
Curim Gold Celtic Wheat beer is brewed using a blend of pale malt torrefied** wheat and caramalt. It is lightly hopped using Challenger, Mount Hood and Cascade varieties. They say that it is “a refreshing light fruity beer with hints of peach, banana and plum. The perfect compliment to spicy food”.
The Carlow Brewing Company also produces O’Hara’s Celtic Stout and Molings Traditional Red Ale.
Curim Gold came to me dressed in a plain unadorned dark brown bottle closed with a gold cap, plain except for the “best before” date stamped on it. There is a cravat-like neck label which declares this to be a “Natural Irish Craft Brew”.
The single main label is largely coloured gold which green lettering. This is Curim Gold Celtic Wheat Beer brewed in Ireland. There is a Celtic design picked out in the background illustration. The bottle contains 500ml, brewed to 4.3% ABV. Down the left hand edge is a list of ingredients, a brief description “Bright and Sparkling, Curim is lightly hopped resulting in a refreshing beer with a hint of fruit” and the brewery address in four languages (also French, German and Italian).
I think the brewmaster must have been studying my previous reviews as quite obviously he realised I was a creature of habit and acknowledged that the bottle should be stored in a cool place. It spent a couple of days in the fridge before I opened it. When I took off the cap it was at about 8°C. There was little gas released. Curim Gold poured a somewhat turbid mid gold colour. It sparkled in the glass but produced an insignificant head. There was no deposit in the bottle.
The nose is a delicate one – consisting of yeast, citrus and honey. The first taste also delivers a mixture of citrus (mainly lemons) and woody root vegetables (I’m thinking parsnip here). This is a quite thin bodied beer although it is quite smooth on the tongue. The initial understated bitter-sour flavour changes to a very modest bitter-sweet in the mouth. There are background hints of honey and blossoms. After that nothing much else develops.The whole effect is quite insipid. After swallowing the taste disappears from the palate very quickly.
I tried Cumin Gold initially on its own. Then, with the brewer’s recommendation that was given above in mind, I took it through to the dinner table. Our evening repast included a goulash made from a traditional Austrian recipe that we brought back from our recent visit to Vienna. It was strongly flavoured (onion, caraway, paprika) but not unduly hot. I’m afraid that the fragile hues of Curim Gold were totally swamped by this meal.
Overall I shall not be in a hurry to revisit this specimen. Of the non-Continental wheat beers my preference is the O’Hanlon which had the taste and the body and was not any stronger than this one. I looked back at my conclusion about the O’Hanlon Wheat. I said: “I really enjoyed this one. I could see myself trying this again – and in all honesty I do have to say that I preferred it over most of the weaker (and coriander infused) of the Belgian Wheat beers. This one is a five!!” I haven’t changed my mind.
** torrification: the process of making popcorn, which heats the grain, explodes the endosperm, gelatinises the starch, and gives a form of grain which improves mash tun run-off
[POSTSCRIPT: Whatever is Curim? Well, “coirm” is Gaelic for malt liquor.
According to the great Irish epic “Tain Bo Cuailnge”, the Irish king Conor Mac Nessa spent a third of his day watching the youths at sport, a third playing “fidchell” a board game, and the last third of the day drinking “cuirim” - ale “until he falls asleep therefrom.” (Cornell 1998)]