So 2013 is almost at an end. What did we witness in the past 12 months? The birth of Prince George, the death of Thatcher and Mandela, a Pope resigned for the first time in 600 years, Fermanagh hosted the G8 summit, Derry-Londonderry was UK City of Culture, twerking became the news and One Direction still haven’t split up.
Also this year Northern Ireland saw a rise in the number of microbreweries. Beezer, I hear you cry! Ten craft and real ale breweries are now dotted across our land providing more choice than ever to the discerning drinker who is fed up with the usual bland and over-fizzy gubbins that can be bought in every bar in town.
A revolution is taking place friends. Alongside so-called established brewers such as Hilden, Whitewater and Clanconnel (who produce the McGrath’s range), other budding business ventures are being started up with vigour and gusto. This year alone has seen the introduction of Red Hand and Pokertree from Tyrone, Sheelin from Fermanagh as well as Farmageddon from Co. Down and Clear Sky.
I love the name Pokertree and details of where the name came from can be found on their website (www.pokertreebrewing.co.uk). Based in Carrickmore they produce a very tasty Ghrian Golden Ale (brewed with coriander seed and lemon peel) as well as the darker Red Earl Ruby Ale.
Twelve miles down the road, Simon and Ciaran at Red Hand Brewing hope to have a Red Hand Pale Ale available to the Donaghmore public by January with a hope of expanding their 100L brewery by the summer. Unfortunately that means folk from outside the village will just have to visit McCausland’s pub or the award winning Brewer’s House to sample their wares until then.
Sheelin from Bellanaleck in County Fermanagh is run by the very personable scientist and self-confessed yeast enthusiast Dr George Cathcart. He has a blonde ale and a stout currently on the market and hopes to brew a red ale and IPA in 2014. (I really loved the IPA when testing it last August – please make it happen George)
Clearsky (currently contact-brewed by Hilden) produce Fulcrum wheat bear and is available in a number of pubs across Northern Ireland while Farmageddon’s early 2014 plan is to have three brews in their core range (gold, IPA and porter) as well as up to six specials. Watch this space for exciting news from the Farm.
Other breweries established in the past couple of years such as Ards and Inishmacsaint continue to grow. Gordy Fallis from Inishmacsaint has done well to promote the brand name over the past year (no doubt helped by featuring in the BBC NI programme ‘Farm Fixer’ with Lord Sugar’s trusted aide Nick Hewer.) A new Inishmacsaint Lough Erne Brown Porter was first seen at the Belfast Beer Festival in November and we shall see in time if that proves as popular as his original production. A farmhouse ale called Muck Savage has also just been released and further plans for that in 2014 are unsure.
Charles from Ards Brewing is currently building a bigger brewhouse so hopefully 2014 will see more of Pig Island, Ballyblack, Rockin’ Goose and Cardy Man. You may also see something new from them using the fresh and light Citra hop.
As I said earlier, a revolution is taking place. Never before has there been such a choice of flavoursome, interesting, LOCAL brews. Where possible encourage your friends to sample a Hilden Twisted Hop or Whitewater Clotworthy Dobbin. Visit more craft/real ale pubs. The more that is sold by pubs who have the vision to sell these beers the more they will want to CONTINUE to sell. The more they sell, the more these beers will be in demand and consequently brewed by the breweries mentioned above. Who knows what the December 2014 blog will feature? Hopefully I’ll be writing that One Direction have split up by then.
I’ll drink to that – cheers!