Showing posts with label white hag. Show all posts
Showing posts with label white hag. Show all posts

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Golden Pint Awards 2015

Better late than never, my take on these popular awards.
  • Best Irish Keg Beer: Tough one as it's such a moving target. Some stalwarts have dropped in quality, and at the same time there are some great new entries... but you can always rely on Porterhouse Hop Head. Honourable mentions go to Carrig for Poachers Pale Ale, and Metalman for their once game-changing Pale Ale, which is still a great beer all these years later.
  • Best Irish Bottled Beer: That basically throws the whole floor open. I quite enjoyed Black's Black IPA, one of the best black IPAs anywhere, as I did The White Hag's excellent Black Boar imperial stout, and their Beann Gulban (Ben Bulben) sour heather ale. Pokertree's Dark Nirvana is also excellent, and a little different, but I'm giving this one to a new-comer: Kevin Dundon and his King's Bay Irish Pale Ale.
  • Best Irish Canned Beer: Not a lot to chose from but the concensus seems to be Black's KPA. I'd go along with that. 
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer: We're fortunate in that some of the best new breweries in Britain are getting an outing in Ireland, among them is Siren. While not widely available, it can usually be found in the better bars and it goes to their red IPA, Liquid Mistress.
  • Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Boon Mariage Parfait. All day long. Close seconds are similarly sour beers from Belgium that are easily gotten in Ireland: Liefmans Cuvee Brut (formerly Kriek), Liefmans Goudenband, Gueuze/Oude Geuze by Hanssens Artisanaal, Tilquin and Cantillon. Oh, and Siren Calypso.
  • Best Overseas Canned Beer: We've had an increasing number of imported canned beers, and Beavertown produced Quelle Saison, I think the only Saison that I've truly enjoyed enough to buy again.
  • Best Collaboration Brew: I'm not sure if it's a beer collaboration brew as such, but my buddy in beer Alain Dekoster of RadikAle did Curious Brew with gin botanicals from Blackwater Distillery. Alain is Belgium's premier Irish resident brewer, so it's not altogether unsurprising that he's making great beer.
  • Best Overall Beer: The White Hag's imperial stout, Black Boar. Kinnegar's Geuzberry comes second.
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: Brú probably have the clearest and most instantly recognisable branding, but I think Galway Bay go one better with more interesting names, the non-core beers especially.
  • Best Irish Brewery: For sheer business acumen, dogged determination in the face of criticism and meteoric rise this has to be Rye River, one of the biggest players in the Irish micro scene. In beer terms this goes to those who will take the biggest risks to brew great beer: Boundary and Simon Lambert & Sons.
  • Best Overseas Brewery: It's been a great year for the Brits and I've really enjoyed brews from Wild Beer Company, Buxton, BBN, and Siren this year, but ultimately it goes back to Belgium and Boon takes it as I got to visit it this year and spend two wonderful days at a beer festival there as part of Toer de Geuze.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2015: Going to give this to the small guys, again for showing their willingness to take chances. Boundary, Simon Lambert & Sons, The Old Schoolhouse, and if contract brewers are allowed, RadikAle and James Brown Brews.
  • Pub/Bar of the Year: Brewbot Brewbot Brewbot. Brewbot of Belfast. Head and shoulders above the rest. The best selection of beer under one roof in Ireland. Great staff, great food, and all beers available for offsales at a 20% discount. Honourable mentions to the Porterhouse (Parliament St), 57 The Headline and the Beer Market.
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015:  Brewbot. Honourable mention to the Beer Market.
  • Beer Festival of the Year: Would you prefer to see your favourite band in Vicar Street or in the 3Arena? Exactly. Out this year were the mega festivals and in were the smaller boutique festivals where the vibe is more important than piling them high. Kilkenny Craft Beer Festival, as run by beer buddy and owner of Costello's Brewing Company, Gerald Costello, pips it. Fantastically organised and run by Ger and his family this was a lovely way to spend a few hours. There is nothing negative I could say about this festival. Close seconds were those run by Simon Broderick and Wayne & Janice Dunne. Overseas festival it would be Tilquin English Beer Festival, so good that it's to be repeated this year... where else could you drink Calypso and Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne under one roof?
  • Supermarket of the Year: I'm somewhat reluctantly giving this to SuperValu, for beer selection alone as I find SuperValu to be one of the most expensive supermarkets in Ireland for everything, including beer. A reluctant recommendation.
  • Independent Retailer of the Year: Bier Tempel. In Ireland, Drinkstore, with honourable mentions going to Worldwide Wines in Waterford, and Belfast's Vineyard and Lighthouse Wines.
  • Online Retailer of the Year: Belgium in a Box.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine: Unusual Railway Pubs, Refreshment Rooms and Ale Trains. Considering every major railway station in Ireland had a "refreshment room" and now only three have (Connolly, Heuston and Belfast Central), this is a reminder of what we could still have.
  • Best Beer Blog or Website: Without doubt Milk The Funk, which has lifted the lid on sour beers and increased our understanding of them more in one year than any other website or publication. Though the real value is in the 5,000 strong Facebook group.
  • Best Beer App: I'm still using BeerSmith 1.4 almost daily, so I guess that must be it. Honourable mention goes to the mobile app BeoirFinder although it is decreasing in usefulness more and more now that craft beer has become so prevalent.
  • Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: Not big enough of a Twitterer to recommend anyone.
  • Best Brewery Website/Social media: Eight Degrees, simply as they are the only brewery selling beer from their website (I'm aware that Galway Bay are also selling via their website, but from what I can work out this is technically off-sales from one of their bars, and not the brewery itself selling direct).


Friday, 28 August 2015

Sour Beer At The Irish Craft Beer Fest

I don't normally do beer reviews, but I decided to make an exception as these brews are available right now for you to try in the RDS.

First up we have Sour Brown Ale from Blacks of Kinsale. This is a batch of their Jester Brown Ale which has had a mixed sour culture from White Labs added to it in secondary. Jester is an exciting new British hop from Charles Faram's breeding programme which makes either version of the beer worth trying in themselves. The soured version is only ever so slightly sour as Sam Black, the brewer and owner, told me. The mixed culture was only added three weeks ago, so this is definitely one for keeping and letting the sourness develop. It's ever so slightly acetic on the nose, but not in a bad way. Worth trying, and if you can take away some in a growler and let is age.


Next up is Beann Gulban from White Hag. I sourced some wine barrels a while back and Joe Kearns, the head brewer in White Hag took two of them. Joe has blended a very acidic batch with a less acidic one, and has been aged the blend in one of these barrels. The uniqueness doesn't stop there though. Beann Gulban has no hops at all (yes you read that right), instead it has a huge amount of heather flowers added to primary and when the conditions (pH and gravity) are right Joe pitches the yeast. All the sourness is coming from the heather, and it is definitely lactic in nature, with the oak adding an extra dimension, a truly wonderful beer.

Joe also brought along the very acidic batch in a corny keg for "special guests", whoever that could be ;) This is proper hardcore Beann Gulban the way I like it, and being honest I personally prefer it, but it may be too tart for others.


I made my way over to Kinnegar's stand and had a good chat with Rick Lahart about his latest creation, Geuzberry. The wort was pasteurised and then kettle soured with yoghurt probiotics and fermented out with a neutral yeast, and for a final twist there are locally grown gooseberries added. It's like a strong (ABV-wise) Berliner weisse, and is properly tart. Just like Berliners of old, Rick offers a variety of sweet syrups which can be mixed in to take the edge off, but says himself that he prefers it straight up. I didn't try the syrups but I can see why Rick likes it: again a beautiful beer. If you can't make it to the RDS this is also available in bottles in good off-licences but won't hang around long.

So this this is a snapshot of the Irish sour beer scene as of August 2015. It's great to see the number of sour and less conventional beers increasing as the market becomes more open to new ideas. We're not quite Belgium yet, but we're heading in the right direction.

Foot note: Not beer related, but Blacks have also become a licensed distiller, bought a still, and are producing spirits in small quantities. I sampled their poteen and decided I'd procure a bottle as it's top notch stuff. Very limited availability (there were only a handful of bottles left) so I'm sure it'll become collectable.