Northern Ireland

Belfast’s Fifth Quarter – who knew?

Northern Ireland now has 31 businesses registered as breweries (I’ll refrain from simply calling them all breweries – it’s complicated)  and something that’s been on my mind for a while now is their beer quality – or lack of.  In 2011 we had a mere five such businesses and it’s increased by over 500% in six years.

#31 on the list, Fifth Quarter, started a mini twitter investigation when it was first spotted.  Who’s this?  Where’s it from?  Is it a contract?  Who by?  A short while later we deduced it was a contract brew by Hilden for distributor Drinks Inc – all of which isn’t on the label.  Why the hell not?  What are you afraid of?

More rantings on this issue in a previous post here.

Anyway down to business and when I saw Fifth Quarter’s lager and red ale offerings in a local Centra, I worringly ignored some online reviews and bought them in a 2 for £5 deal.  “Value for money, my arse” as Jim from The Royle Family would no doubt shout.

First into the glass was The Waker Upper, a 4.1% ABV lager.  Not much carbonation with not much of an aroma to match.  That bodes well.  There’s a light lemony essence on the tongue which pleased me as it was my first beer on a warm and sunny afternoon just before lighting up the barbecue.  Let’s face facts here, it’s not bad for what it’s meant to be – a guzzler for days like this – but it’s nowhere near the standard of what I would call the new benchmark for Irish craft lager – that being the recently new offering from Yellowbelly in County Wexford.   Still, if you’re into lagers it’s still better than supping Carlsberg all day.  Probably.

Following on from the lager is Infamous Amelia, a 4.3% ABV red ale.  Now, sometimes if you’ve nothing good to say then say nothing.  This is not one of those times and I’ll bloody well say it.  This stinks.  There was no carbonation – as flat as Wile. E Coyote falling off a cliff and then having a boulder land on him – the head disappeared in a couple of seconds, no aroma and I was about to get my torch out to see if I could find anything tasty at all about it.  I managed about a quarter pint before giving up all hope and pouring the rest down the sink.  I think I’ll pass on the IPA and wheat beer also available.

Too many times I read blogs ooohing and aaahing about stuff.  Be honest, how often do you read a review on something which is utter rubbish?  I’m a generally happy fella but times like this melt my head.  Why is this bland and flat beer on sale?  Do the owners of Fifth Quarter/Drinks Inc actually try the beer before it hits the shelves?

So many questions and to be honest, you shouldn’t bother waiting around for an answer.

2 thoughts on “Belfast’s Fifth Quarter – who knew?

  1. The rapid expansion of breweries in NI and the number of beers available is a bit of a 2-edged sword. We had the same situation here in Scotland around 15 years ago so perhaps the Scottish experience may offer some comfort.
    It is great for the consumer to have such a choice after so many years of practically none. As interest grows, lots of people, many real enthusiasts, some talented (never enough) and some pure chancers, start up breweries, thinking that it is easy to brew and easy to make money in brewing. Everyone finds, some more quickly than others, that neither is the case.
    It is actually not hard to set up a small brewery and to sell beer on the novelty ticket. It is damn hard work to set up a brewery, produce good beer and continue to so so year after year.
    As the industry becomes more and more competitive the poor breweries will not survive. Some may chug along in a small way with a hard core following – we all have different tastes after all – but in the long term they will still disappear.
    So, as NI brewing grows further, you have the prospect of a proper shakedown, leaving you with a fantastic choice of good beers, ales and lagers. I hope that it doesn’t take 15 years!


  2. Good review and very true. I bought a fair few of these when Tesco’s were giving up selling them a few weeks ago. The larger isn’t bad, and so far seems to be better carbonated than the one that you got. I bought a couple Red ales and IPA’s too for variety. If they had been any more expensive than the 92p clearance price that I got them for, I would probably have taken them back. The fact that there are still a few of them that still have not been quaffed and which are still sitting in the garage I think says it all.


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