Some new releases recently so let’s get wired in.
From Portrush’s co-operative brewery Lacada, branded as a North Coast IPA and recently pouring from cask at CAMRA’s Belfast Beer Festival, Devil’s Washtub. 5.2% ABV and actually a black IPA (perhaps this should be on the branding so not to scare anyone who’s expecting a golden coloured IPA?) As with most black IPAs there’s a decent malty base with an aroma and subtle taste of smooth dark fruits. The hops seem to be lurking in there somewhere but you’d need a torch to find them. A tasty beer and highly drinkable but I’d prefer a whack more bite to satisfy my IPA hophead side.
|Photo courtesy of Paul Donaghy|
From east Belfast, Knockout Brewing upped its game considerably at the festival. Six beers were supplied – a stout and two variants (choc and orange/ginger) and a citra IPA and two variants (Vic Secret and Sorachi Ace).
I liked all six – I know, I know, think what you like – but for me the Sorachi Ace IPA really stood out above the rest. It exudes a lemony bitterness but is counteracted by a soft, smooth orange flavour. Joseph McMullan is the first craft brewer in Northern Ireland to put his brews into cans (it’s the future folks) and hopefully this will see its way into them too. Go on Joe, you know you want to.
Away from the festival, Warrenpoint-based Mourne Mountains Brewery ran a competition back in April 2016 to create a flavour for their new brew. Andrew Hamilton was the lucky winner with his suggestion of Whiskey and Vanilla, the beer was duly made and poured into a whiskey cask in July. Four months later it’s in bottles. I think at least a couple more months in the cask would have been beneficial as I’d have liked a bit more vanilla – you have to look for it but the whiskey is closer to the mark. Not overpowering at all and very subtle for this 8.2% ABV winter warmer. Nice one.
Next, practically sat astride the NI border is Bog Hopper Brewery from the Co. Donegal village of Muff. So let’s dive in *cough*.
Technically speaking their Hairy Bullocks American pale ale isn’t a new beer. It launched the brewery in late 2015 but it’s the first time (I’ll resist saying virginal…oops) I’ve been able to grab as bottle as it’s just starting to become available outside of Inishowen. So there.
First off this 5% ABV pale claims to be hop forward but I get more malt than anything. Maybe the good folk of the area are unused or afraid of a good hoppy beer but this has the potential to be so much better. It just left me wanting something….anything more. Some slight citrus elements in there, granted, but just not enough to make me rush to Muff for a second one. (Did I just say that?) The label artistry for all Boghopper beers is fantastic though.
Finally for now, from Bullocks to Bullhouse Brewery near Newtownards, and Willy Mayne’s newish barrel-aged Quest for the Milky Whey. This first saw the light of day at ABV Beer Festival in early September and was greeted with critical acclaim among the beer fraternity. I missed out as it was only on for one session but now it has returned, like some sort of pink coloured panther in the guise of a French detective. This 10% ABV imperial milk stout made its way into 500 wax-sealed bottles… so find one if you still can. There’s little in the way of carbonation which results in a tiny head but the whiskey aroma comes through nicely as does a good whacking dollop of liquorice and datey-molasses on the first sip, followed by a generous milky-lactosey second sip. Another tip of the hat for the artwork.
If you’re on Facebook, the history of QftMW can be seen here .
Fair play to all the breweries mentioned for continuing to expand their range.