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The Bear Republic clock rolled around again, as it does every year or so, and a bunch of their beers became available in Ireland. There were two new ones for me.

This included an opportunity to see how the brewery handles sourness. Sonoma Tart, in its retro 12oz bottle, is a sour ale of no predetermined style, with added guava and passionfruit. I expected big sweetness out of those two, but it's nicely balanced. Passionfruit is, as usual, the loudest aspect, but it's placed on a crisply tart base so you get the flavour without the sugar, reminiscent of a sorbet. The guava adds a different sort of fleshy tropical fruit flavour. It's all very easy going, and at 5.2% ABV could probably do with more complexity. I would certainly like the sourness turned up a notch or two. But I'm sure it's meant as nothing fancier than a warm-day refresher, and it works as that.

The brewery established in 1995 has also tried its hand at something cloudy and hoppy. The result is Thru The Haze IPA, a sunny orange-yellow in the glass though hiding a substantial 6.4% ABV. It smells floral rather than fruity: a fresh burst of lavender and rosewater. The flavour centres on juicy mandarin, with a peppery spice on top. On the tail end is a gently bitter mix of lemon and grapefruit. It's definitely not a fuzzy New England clone, being much cleaner and more polished tasting. How it ought to be done, in short. Yes it's hazy, but there's a lot of west-coast sensibility about this chap. It's a shame how many potential fans will be put off by the name.

Racer 5 remains the brewery's classic offering, and very much what they do best. It was nice to get a peep at what else is going on, however. Maybe we'll get something more ambitious next time.