We’ve quite a few relatively new local beers on the market so I’ll try to round up just some of what’s good out there from Northern Irish breweries ahead of the Christmas holidays.
I was very excited to see Belfast’s Boundary launching one of my favourite styles, a Dubbel. This 6.7% ABV Belgian Trappist style is a deep brown/almost black colour with the traditional delicious characteristics of ripe banana and delicious sticky bubblegum on top of a heavy malty and almost toffee base. Dig down further and there’s a trace of liquorice but not so much that it would put you off if you’re not a liquorice fan – which I’m not, so it’s all good. The label says it’s great for ageing – damn, maybe I should have bought another. Good sales strategy there folks, it worked, I’m away to buy a couple more. Get lost in the bubble, savour the Dubble.
Hillstown from Ahoghill teamed up with Slovenian brewery Lobik to brew a red ale that blows most other Northern Irish reds out of the water. The County Antrim men apparently had an 8 hour bus ride after landing in central Europe and I have to say the journey was worth it, on our behalf of course. 3 Bad Bears is an 8.4% ABV hopped up red like you’ll probably not have had too often before. Most reds have the malt base coming through above all else, but not here. The experimental piney Slovenian hops wallop your palate on the first swig and then keep walloping in between little bursts of warming spice. Well, it was a bigger and much tastier wallop than I was expecting for a red ale. Superb.
Farmageddon’s Cryo IPA has been around for a few months now, to my knowledge first making an appearance in cask at ABV Festival in September but last week was the first time I’d grabbed a bottle from the shelf. The County Down boys enjoy their IPAs with the likes of their Mosaic IPA deservedly now part of their core range. Mosaic hops also make an appearance here along with Cryo (obviously) in a double hopping delight. At 5.9% ABV, it’s deep golden in colour and some people I know prefer the cask to bottle but I think the subtle pineapple fruitiness and pine bitterness come through more in a bottle.
First stout of this post, and on to Mourne Mountains new 7.3% ABV Barrel Aged stout. As black as you’d expect it to be, this was originally their already tasty export stout before being poured into a whiskey cask and left for a year – a cask that was previously used for their Vanilla Whiskey stout in 2016. In between the roasted coffee and mild chocolate, there’s a gentle warming heat from the whiskey, the heat becoming more prominent as you go further down the glass. It’s not a Christmas beer per se but the whiskey presents a cosy and spicy element that would enhance any post-Christmas dinner gathering in front of a roaring fire while heated family discussions ensue over what to watch on telly.
Another whiskey stout to end and the return of Bullhouse‘s much anticipated 10% ABV Milky Whey. Just like last year’s effort, I was again disappointed with the lack of head when pouring – nevertheless it’s an enticing jet black colour with a flavour of subtle liquorice and prominent dark fruit such as raisins and maybe a fig or two. Then the whiskey sweetness pokes its head up and elegantly glides across your palate like Torvill and Dean. I just wish the head retention was better. Anyhow, well done to William at Bullhouse for reaching his £10,000 crowdfunding target which will finance a brewhouse expansion and allow beer to be canned onsite.
Just some of what’s on offer as I said at the start (thanks to Hillstown and MMB for the donations), plenty more is coming at us every day in the run up to Christmas. Pop into your local independent off licence, have a nosey around, chat to the staff, pick up some local beers – if no NI beer is available in your locality then simply ask them to stock it, your local brewery can be found here.
Have a great Christmas and a prosperous 2018.