First published in The Irish Times, Wednesday 2nd March, 2016
We move outside the country this week to Belgium, home to so many of the world’s greatest beers. Dupont is a small family-run brewery as well as a farm, that now produces bread and cheese as well for sale in their café/shop. The farm part of the business goes back to the mid 18th century. Beer production started a few years later, brewed mainly to quench the thirst of busy farm hands. The original Saison beer was fermented in the winter for drinking later in the year. Often the beer began a secondary fermentation in the barrel as temperatures rose; nowadays carbonation takes place in the bottle. Until recently the bottles came with a champagne-style mushroom cork and wire. Saison almost died out in the twentieth century until beer nuts in the U.S. began to take an interest. Today it is made in most beer-loving loving countries, including our own.
Saison Dupont is one of the most highly rated beers in the world, with a distinctive character said to derive from a unique group of yeasts used in brewing. It is medium-bodied and complex with refreshing fruit, a light bready, yeastiness, and a thirst-quenching bitterness. Great beer.
Geoff FitzPatrick of Jack Cody’s
Duxie Grapefruit Tea Pale Ale, Jack Cody’s Brewery
First published in the online Irish Times on 24th February, 2016
Yes, you read it correctly. A beer that lists pink grapefruit , lime and earl grey tea as ingredients alongside the usual barley, hops, yeast and water. The label says drink in the sunshine, something that is currently in short supply, or with salads, smoked mackerel or Thai red curry. I had none of these to hand, but gave it a go anyway. It has aromas of candy and orange peel, and a light, refreshing, lightly bitter palate of fruit and candy again and some grapefruit. It also has the slight yet definite soapy perfume and flavour of earl grey tea. I liked it but could see how others wouldn’t.
Set up in Drogheda by Geoff FitzPatrick, Jack Cody’s has been going since the summer of 2014, making a good name for itself with Smiggy Amber Ale and Puck Pilsner. The brewery also has Hail Glorious Saint Patrick Extra Stout out for the coming national day.
Emma Devlin & Cathal O’Donoghue of Rascals Brewing
First published in The Irish Times, Wednesday 27th January, 2016
We all know that Enid Blyton’s Famous Five drank lashings and of ginger beer to wash down massive quantities of sandwiches on their many intrepid expeditions into the countryside. Except they didn’t; apparently there is no such quote in any of the many Famous Five books. It didn’t stop The Comic Strip Presents….using it in their parody Five go Mad in Dorset. I’m not sure if Rascals Brewing Company had this in mind when they created a ginger porter, but then Julian, Dick, Anne and George were aged between eleven and thirteen and unlikely to indulge in underage drinking.
This was the first beer ever brewed by Emma Devlin and Cathal O’Donoghuee, the team that make up Rascals. They intend making it an annual winter seasonal, available until early March, or until it runs out. This year it is available in very smart tactile cans for the first time. The Rascals ginger porter is refreshing and very drinkable, medium-bodied with a nice kick of ginger on the finish
By rights, you shouldn’t be drinking this until next Tuesday, but we won’t be sticklers for detail. Altbier is the local brew in Düsseldorf , a copper-coloured, medium-bodied hoppy ale that is consumed in large quantities by all who head into one of the brewpubs in the Alststadt, or old town. Sticke Alt is a stronger version, invented by Uerige, one of the Düsseldorf brewpubs. It is produced only twice a year, and released on the third Tuesday in October and the third Tuesday in January.
Based in Derry, Northbound was set up by David and Martina Rogers on their return from Australia, where David worked as a master brewer at Tooheys. I recommended their Kölsch (the traditional beer of Köln) last summer. I enjoyed the Sticke; rich, deeply malty and nutty with plenty of hops and a smooth finish. Perfect for keeping the cold of January at bay. 5.5% alcohol and €3.99 for a 500ml bottle.
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