From The Irish Times, online ‘Take it Home’ 12th June, 2015
4.4% €2.99 for a 500ml bottle Widely available
“It’s not about the hops. It is all about the malts”, says Paul O’Connor of Trouble Brewing. “We use six different kinds of malt in the brew alongside some flaked barley.” The Dark Arts beers always have enough flavour to please the beer nuts while still appealing to the rest of us. “Dark Arts was the second beer we did, six months after we started. It arrived fully-formed. We have never tweaked the recipe since that first batch. We intended it to be a one-off special but people raved about it and it quickly became our second core beer. It’s never been the best-selling beer (that would be the Deception Golden Ale) but we have always got great reviews.” This is great porter, one of my go-to beers when I need something to sip slowly on a midweek evening. Medium-bodied with chocolate and roasted coffee, and a light hoppy freshness.
From The Irish Times online ‘Take it Home’ 24th July, 2015
A few weeks back I wrote about the Sorachi Ace from the Brooklyn Brewery. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you seek it out straight away. While you are doing that, keep an eye out for the O’Hara’s Hop Adventure Series Sorachi Ace. The Carlow brewers have released their version, the first in a series of beers featuring specially selected hops from around the globe. Sorachi Ace came about back in the 1980s, when a Japanese company crossed a Czech hop with one from England; the resulting hybrid added unique flavours of dill, lemongrass and lemon to a beer. The O’Hara’s Sorachi Ace is a very delicious summery light-bodied beer with lemon verbena and dill on the nose and a lovely easy soft gently hoppy palate.
From the Irish Times online ‘Take it Home’ 31st July,2015
€4.15 / £2.99 – 5%
I have very fond, if slightly hazy, memories of Kölsch from my student days working on building sites in Germany. If you were in Düsselfdorf, you drank Altbier, a copper-coloured fruity beer. If you were a little further south in Köln (or Cologne) you drank Kölsch. You were treated with contempt if you asked for Kölsch in Düsseldorf or an Alt in Köln. Kölsch is pale-coloured, like a lager, but top-fermented like an ale. It is light with a delicate fruitiness and subtle malt flavours. It is not an easy beer to produce but a few craft breweries around the world have tried their hand at it including, now, one in Ireland.
David and Martina Rogers emigrated to Sydney in 2004 as backpackers with a difference – David was an engineer with a residence permit. He started working with Tooheys Brewery, one of the largest in Australia. Included in his work description was “must be able to taste beer at 6.00am every morning”. He qualified as a master brewer in 2013. Drawn back by family ties and the beaches of Donegal, they returned to Ireland and set up Northbound brewery in Derry.
To keep things going, David consults with breweries and distilleries in Ireland and Scotland. In Sydney, Martina worked in sales; here she does “everything the master brewer doesn’t want to do”.
The brewery took two years to set up. “We are coming out of the madness I hope,” says Martina, “We bought our first house, had our third child and took delivery of the brewery in a very short space of time”. Their Kölsch is very good, with subtle malts and a refreshing crisp edge. It brought me straight back to Germany and those building sites. Mine was sourced in Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown.
From the Irish Times online “Take it Home’ 7th August, 2015
€3.39 for a 500ml bottle.
Black Donkey Brewing is based in Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon. Richard Siberry and Michaela Dillon returned here from New York, having learnt the art of brewing in their garage. ‘Next Thursday marks a year since our first sale to the Salt House in Galway,’ says Siberry, ‘ so we’ll be having a tap takeover with our three beers there. The following Friday we will have four on tap in 57 The Headline in Clanbrassil St., including Beyond, our new rye pale ale.’
But it is the Sheep Stealer we look at today. ‘When we launched it people said it wouldn’t take off, but it was a favourite style of mine and we have been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction. It is very accessible, but that doesn’t make it bad. I think it’s where spaghetti or pizza was twenty years ago. People will fall in love with it. I suspect Irish brewers were brewing something similar a hundred years ago, even if it is seen as a Belgian style nowadays.’
The Sheep Stealer is a cloudy, funky Saison, full of sweet maltiness and peaches with a clean dry citrus finish. Thirst-quenching and moreish, this is one of the best beers I have tasted in quite a while. You can certainly enjoy it with food – mine went very well with a few cheeses – but I would happily sip this solo any day.
If you feel like going one step further, try Buck It, which Siberry describes as a malt-bomb. ‘Buck It is divisive’, he admits. ‘Some people love it, others can’t bear to be in the same room as it. But that’s fine with me – if I had wanted to please everyone I would have made Budweiser!’
Available from specialist off-licences