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Cork-and-cage vs waxed cap: it's a fancy beer stand-off!

In the green corner, Galway's Land & Labour with their first bottle release: Saison de Coupage. "Wild ale aged in oak barrels" is the general description, the label telling us it's mostly a barrel-fermented saison aged three years and then cut with a smaller volume of fresh beer. It finishes up at 6.3% ABV, a bright hazy yellow, with lots of fizz but no head retention. There's a bricky gueze-like aroma and a pinch of gunpowder spice in the flavour. It's plenty sour too, a jaw-pinching tartness. That said, it's no acid bomb. There's a subtle fruit juice effect in the background: quenching mandarin or satsuma, lasting into the finish. More of that gunpowder bang would make it more to my taste, but it's spot-on as is, being elegantly balanced, complex and moreish. If you told me it came from 3 Fonteinen or Boon I would believe it without question.

And in the yellow corner, So, It Begins. The name is a reference to it being the first beer from Otterbank as a standalone brewery, occupying the premises in Muff that used to be Bog Hopper. It's another wine-barrel-aged saison, but this time at a formidable 8.2% ABV. An amber body is topped with lots of froth and the aroma is dry and toasty, like Champagne. The strength gives it quite a slick texture while the flavour is waxy and bitter. This doesn't have anything like the complexity of the previous one. I found it quite blunt: no saison fruit; no barrel-ish spices or vanilla. A rounded savoury quality and a faint Brett-ish funk are the long and the short of it. While far from unpleasant, it's nothing to get excited about. At least, not yet -- maybe a few years in the bottle will make it more interesting.

Both of these brewers have spent years tantalising us with nothing but rare special releases. I'm hoping this is the kick-off of more regular production for the local market.