Northern Ireland has three breweries listed as a co-operative – that is, a business owned by all of its members who can have a say in how it operates. Two of the three, Boundary and Lacada have a substantial membership after reaching out for public funding while the third, Farmageddon, is owned by a group of friends.
These co-ops regularly release new brews and here are some of their recent wares.
First releasing its beer to the world in spring 2015, and with some 80-odd offerings later, Belfast co-op brewery Boundary now has Screwball, a 6.1% ABV collaboration with the Ulster Exiles – a group of brewers originally from Northern Ireland but plying their trade in England – and for this beer, Russell from Brick Brewery and Ryan from Bullfinch (both in London). Screwball is opaque and rhubarb pink, but actually a raspberry and vanilla ice cream IPA. Hell yeah, looks like Cremola Foam from back in the day (ask yer da) but tastes a lot better. A gentle floating dance of raspberry that’s followed by a welcoming vanilla ice cream smoothness. It’s slightly sharp but not too much, a bit like an adult interpretation of the lemonade ice cream float your granny made you when you were 11 years old – version 6.1
Next it’s up to the north coast and Lacada. Like Boundary, this Portrush co-op is owned by members of the public after gaining funding in 2015. One of their newest releases is West Bay, a 4.6% ABV pale ale. Citra dry hopped and a great golden colour, West Bay has a light and subtle grapefruit edge, a mild spicy aftertaste with a good bitterness balance. This isn’t a beer that picks you up and sweeps you along one of the north coast’s fierce waves, but rather you’re chilling on a lilo with the sun on your face and contemplating life’s pleasures. Crackin’ sham, as they say there.
And so on to Farmageddon. These guys first released their core range in 2013. Situated between Comber and Ballygowan they also grow their own hops when weather allows and feed their pigs on spent grain from the brewery. Their Vermont pale ale arrived recently and what a delicious cracker it is. Great carbonation, a delightful peachy aroma and just imagine what a beer version of a peach/mango/pineapple juice combo would taste like. Yeah, that. I wouldn’t say this is a pale ale (let the debate begin regarding the difference between a pale ale and IPA) but neither is it the stereotypical dank NE IPA that’s currently sweeping the boards. This really doesn’t feel like the 6.4% ABV it purports to be, the alcohol is scarily hidden and all too soon it’s gone. I’m glad I bought another one!
So a wee triple taster of Northern Ireland’s co-operatives. Go, buy.