Hillstown Brewery, sited at Hillstown Farm midway between Randalstown and Ahoghill in County Antrim, has been up and running since mid 2014 producing some crackers such as the black IPA Pamoja and my favourite local beer of last year – a red ale called 3 Bad Bears.
Now in 2018 the brewery is part of the Lidl Kick Start development programme where the supermarket invests thousands of pounds into stocking goods for a limited time from smaller producers across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Hillstown has three new beers on the market and only available in Lidl – a lager, IPA and wheat. Starting with the Douglas Top Lager coming in at 4.1% ABV, this is crisp and perfectly cuts through the hot dog and chip that I’m pairing it with. Expect a touch of honeydew melon alongside the predictable mild lemon and grassy aspects usually found in such a beer. All too soon I’m near finished the pint, wishing I’d bought a second bottle. *makes note for next time*
Mid trio comes the 4.5% ABV, Mid Hill IPA. It pours into the glass with little carbonation and I’m immediately concerned. There’s not much in the way of an aroma followed by an initial metallic bitterness hitting you up on the first sip. If you search hard you may discover some soft lemon lurking but not enough to make you think it’s “packed with fruity hops” (sic) according to the label. It’s being held back, restrained. If this is packed full of hops, then different hops need to be used. Before writing this post, some people had contacted me on social media, expressing their delight at the IPA but I have to call it as I found it from the Newtownabbey store.
Completing the set is a 5.3% ABV Long Mountain wheat beer. Again, low carbonation with this one and the head disappeared after a minute. There’s the anticipated light peppery spiciness of a hefeweizen but with no fruit as promised on the label – some very faint banana perchance but that’s about it.
A mixed bag there with Hillstown – my preference being the lager followed by the wheat. They’re on sale in Lidl NI for £1.99 or 4 or £7. (prices differ in RoI €)