Y'see, in Ireland we have a fairly obvious problem, and I'm sure it is by no means unique to us, and it's that beer journalism -- and I mean proper writing or broadcasting by paid journalists for reputable outlets -- falls into one of two unsatisfactory categories.
At one end you've got the Bottle of the Week sidebar, as found in the likes of The Irish Examiner and The Sunday Business Post, where a staff writer has picked something from a more interesting corner of Tesco or O'Brien's and written a hundred words on how malty and hoppy it tastes. It would be very cynical of me to suggest that such pieces are sometimes little more than paraphrasings from the label or brewery website because the writer's critical faculties are not primarily attuned to beer, or they're too busy with their proper journalistic endeavours to spend much time on this, but let's just say that distinctive voices in the Bottle of the Week column are rare. And it's not that such columns are a bad thing: they make it marginally more likely that when Citizen Reader goes into Dunnes or Molloy's he (and let's face it, it's a he) is more likely to pick a bottle from a more interesting corner than the big brand lager he actually went in to buy. Good for awareness, good for diversity, but really the picture of the bottle and the price would be sufficient: the actual journalism tells us little.
At the other extreme you've got The Big Feature. Every paper has been running these for the last four or five years, sometimes with alarming regularity. Three or four pictures of three or four different brewers, holding up a trial jar, stirring a mashtun, standing in front of a shiny stainless FV with arms folded. And the copy... the same copy: "Well, we wanted to increase the choice of beers..." "People kept asking what the local beer was..." "I came back from working abroad and..." "Yes, it's hard graft but when you sit down at the end of the day with your..." It was exciting the first few times, especially when the telly magazine show started doing it too. But now it's so tired. And, like the other extreme, the reader never really finds out anything about beer. Such features are run as human interest stories, or sometimes in the business section, but it's always far more about entrepreneurship than the actual product. Again: a legitimate thing for the media to be covering, but it leaves a gap where the actual beer should be.
Until quite recently, it was forgiveable. The Irish beer scene was hardly buzzing with potential new stories, and nobody wants to read an abstract piece about unattainable foreign beers. But that has changed. The local scene is thriving, not only in the number of operators, but how regularly they're putting new and seasonal products out and, most interestingly, what they're putting out.
|Cask left; keg right|
So, Yerba didn't really work for me. It's a fun novelty for one pint, and to that end I preferred the cask to the keg as the craziness was more pronounced in the former, but one pint was plenty and I wanted something that tastes more like beer after it. But hey, full marks for bravery.
However you slice it, these are two utterly fascinating beers, reflecting a vibrant, diverse and mature brewing (and cider-making) scene. Not that you'd know anything about it from picking up the paper.