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I noted back in March that Galway Hooker had started releasing new limited edition beers after years of sticking to a core set. Now a second pair has arrived for midsummer, once again giving us styles which haven't previously been in the brewery's wheelhouse.

Mind you, I'm not sure in whose wheelhouse "Export Helles" belongs. Is there any such thing? Are they simply styling-out that they brewed a Helles and it ended up finishing at 6% ABV? I'm sure that's not the case. This pale lager, called It's Complicated, is a dark, almost reddish, shade of sunset gold. It smells quite hop-forward, but in the very noble way which gives me dried grass, crepe paper and burnt plastic: not fun. I was apprehensive on taking my first sip. And rightly so. While it's light-bodied, it is very strongly flavoured; no smooth and easy-going lager, this. The green side of the hops is laid on thick, presenting nettles, rocket and mulchy spinach with no apologies. Bock would have been a much better descriptor, and it reminds me a lot of the Mai-Ur-Bock from Einbecker, a beer I haven't drank in over 14 years but which appears to be seared into my consciousness, with its dusty mustiness and strong malt sweetness. This has both of those. It's clean beyond that, and is almost one of those beers I respect for the sheer bigness and boldness of the taste. But I'm just not wired to enjoy this flavour profile. If you like the very in-your-face side of pale German lager, or simply want to find out what the blazes I'm going on about, you should give this a try. I doubt I'll be reaching for another myself, though.

At least the flavour didn't hang around, so I had a clean palate straight after for the follow-up, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, a double IPA at 8% ABV. I think we can probably call this west-coast style as it's a translucent amber colour. It smells slightly boozy, with strong hints of hard citrus and resin to come. I was pleasantly surprised to find it's not overly bitter. It has something in common with 2010s American double IPA, in that it's a big fellow, the flavour intensity matching that of the bruising Helles. But there's a subtlety as well. Behind the lime peel and pine oil sits a cooler, gentler citronella and mandarin zest, plus juicy wedges of real grapefruit. It's unmistakably a strong beer, a little chewy, but not difficult drinking and certainly not hot or sweaty. Galway Hooker, under the old management, was expert at imbuing its beers with balance and understated complexity. This is very much one of those. If there's a possibility of any of these specials graduating to the regular line-up, this one is a definite front runner for me.

I like how they've thrown caution to the wind with both of these, and simply produced the most flavoursome beers they could. That's what small-scale brewing is all about. Keep 'em coming, GH.

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