Imagine a Northern Irish beer blog post in the year 2022 that reviewed three bottles of beer from three different breweries. Yes folks, not one can in sight: the beer bottle still exists!
What’s even more crazy about today’s post is that these three beers are really hard to get hold of. You’ll not get these all sitting together side by side in your craft beer off licence. If you find one, you’ll certainly not find the other two at the same time.
We’ll begin with Session IPA from Armagh Brewing, so called because it’s a 3.7% ABV session IPA and brewed near Armagh. Where do they come up with these outlandish names? I first wrote about this brewery just after it began selling to the public in September 2020 and at that point it was producing a pale ale and lager. Now there’s an amber ale and this session beer to add to the portfolio.
My session bottle had a great deal of carbonation, creating an inviting fluffy head that lasted almost half way down the glass. It’s well bodied for the relatively low ABV. Subtle lemon tones blend well with a touch of pineapple and nectarine sweetness, rounded off with a very light bitterness – making this an enjoyable and very easily finished beer. Thanks to Gareth from the brewery for gifting me this on the recent charity motorcycle ride.
Northern Irishman businessman Andrew Power now lives in Australia and is the man behind Six Counties Craft Beer. He turned to Fermanagh Beer Company, brewers of the Inishmacsaint range, to contract brew his 4.5% ABV Session Pale Ale and I was also given this during the motorbike run.
There’s a slight haze in the glass with a whiff of orange marmalade. On tasting, it’s a perfectly acceptable pale ale with hues of juicy satsuma and a touch of tangy orange and lemon rind at the back end. The bottle has become a bit of a collector’s item as the Fermanagh brewery now produces the beer in cans and I believe Six Counties pale ale is only available to buy online so you’ll not find it in any local shops.
Ending the trio of scarce sessionables is Sheelin’s Blonde Ale from Bellanaleck in County Fermanagh. To my knowledge, and I’m happy to be corrected, the only place where this beer can be bought is in the petrol station across the road from the brewery – even then you’re not guaranteed it’ll be in stock as brewing happens only a handful of times a year. I was in luck when I stopped at the village in the middle of a torrential downpour during the charity motorbike tour.
The 4.5% ABV blonde is yellow and very fizzy with a quickly dissipating head. No hazy bois here, it’s exceedingly clear and smells of lemon juice. It’s similar in taste too, a bit of lemon with a few clumps of grass thrown in for good measure but it didn’t make me pat myself on the back for enduring the monsoon to get to the Bellanaleck shop and buying a couple of bottles. Still, it’s been around – on and off – for eight or nine years now so that’s to be applauded.
Bottles eh? They’re so retro, man.