‘Harp, the pint we call our own’, read the billboard advert. Except it wasn’t our own.
It’s amazing how many people in Northern Ireland think Harp lager is brewed in Northern Ireland. It isn’t and never has been. From its creation in the 1960s until a few years ago, the home of Harp was Dundalk but it’s now brewed at St James’ Gate in Dublin – you’d know that as the home of Guinness – after moving there in 2013.
But hey, that’s advertising for you. Don’t believe everything you see.
History lesson over, Dundalk is now the home of the Brewmaster range of beers from Dundalk Bay Brewery. A brewery that’s owned by Spectac, a company which manufactures, among other things, mash tuns and fermentation vessels. That’s handy.
The brewery claims to be “completely automated and the only brewery of its kind in Ireland to have such high-tech recipe driven procedures.” So now you know.
It also contract brews plenty of beers for other companies across Ireland.
I’d never before seen Brewmaster beers in Northern Ireland so jumped at the chance of picking up a trio when I spied them at The Wine Company off licence in Belfast.
Let’s start with the Lager and hope that it tastes better than Harp. It’s 4.2% ABV and begins with a light and soft lemon sweetness that’s sweeter than any macro beer is likely to be. It’s becomes cloyingly sweet after half a pint and any fun in the glass quickly wears off. I prefer my lagers crisper.
The 4.2% ABV Red Ale follows and naturally there’s an abundance of toffee and caramel wafting from the glass. That sweet stickiness progresses through on tasting but it’s a bit thin and uninspiring in general. If it’s trying to compete with the big red ales of Ireland it needs have a bit more body.
Finally let’s get tore into the 5.6% ABV Irish IPA. What is an Irish IPA exactly? Is it an IPA made in Ireland or an IPA that’s Irish-style? Is there an Irish-style? No, there isn’t. So that’s an IPA made in Ireland then? I’m confused.
It’s 1980s classic golden mahogany in colour with a malty, toffee and over-ripe peach taste. It’s hopped reasonably well – evergreen and piney with an prickle of spice at the back. In this current world of big beast citrus IPAs dominating the market, this could be your winner if you like an IPA not screaming in your face.
Yes, it’s better than Harp, even if it IS served by Lawrence of Arabia with a packet of dates. He wasn’t from here either y’know.