Northern Ireland

Autumn Arrivals

Belfast’s co-operative brewery Boundary has been steadily pumping out the beers recently and combined with the new canning system in place, it’s been all go down the Newtownards Road. Mutual Feelings is a milk stout that made its debut appearance on draught at the city’s ABV Festival in late August before being one of the brewery’s first beers to make its way into 440ml cans. Think a pint’s too much but a 330 bottle is too little? Then 440 cans are the way forward my friend. A collaborative effort with English craft giants such as Verdant, Northern Monk, Deya, Track and Odyssey, (how does it take 6 brewers to make a beer?) this 8% ABV oatmeal pecan vanilla cookie milk stout was brewed to celebrate the Belfast outfit’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday by the way.

I loved this at ABV and bought the can just to reassure myself it was still as good inside a tin. You have that big robust oaty mouthfeel that’s bursting with delicious dark fruit and sweet vanilla – a distinct lack of pecan nuttiness perhaps but hey, you can’t have it all. Seek it out if you can (no pun intended).

Heaney Farmhouse Brewery will hopefully be in transition soon as the brewhouse is being built in Bellaghy but until then, the cuckoo brewing continues on Boundary’s equipment.

Also in a can, this double dry hopped (DDH) IPA, Flit the Nest is a nod towards the future. In the glass this 6.2% ABV Simcoe and Amarillo IPA is deep and opaque and stick it up to your lips, there’s an understated creaminess fused with an essence of grapefruit and a twang of blood orange. The pleasant pine bitterness still hangs in there at the end too. Nice one and good luck with the future flit.

Following the canning initiative is Whitewater, once of Kilkeel but after the C&C financial backing in 2016, it’s now at Annsborough near Castlewellan. There’s been a bit of rebranding down that way with a graphic design makeover and some small batch brews being tested on the new canning line.

Tangerine Upstream, an ‘American style’ pale ale is one of those experiments and thanks to the brewery for the donation. There’s a faint whiff of citrus elements but the tangerines come to the fore upon tasting. The ingredients list says ‘natural citrus fruit’ but I’d like a bit more clarification on that. It’s not too sweet to begin with but becomes more pithy and bitter further down the glass. It’s only when I read the other side of the can and see the blurb, I realise the pith does indeed come from actual orange peel. This 5.5% ABV pale does get to be a touch overpowering after a while and one can is enough for me at this time.

Following Whitewater’s move, Kilkeel’s brewing baton has been firmly passed to the ever impressive Beer Hut. Officially launched in 2017, this small south Down brewery has justifiably been gaining followers and also recently changed its output to 440ml cans. Not from a can but only on draught is their first DIPA, Galaxy Full of Secrets.

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This 8% ABV brew is another one first spied at ABV Fest but I managed to pick up a 1 litre growler at KWM Wines in Kilkeel. Disappointingly, the growler managed to lose some of its fizz despite only being filled two hours previously but what there was, was delightful. A guava and mango aroma warms you up for the imminent main event, which was a subtle tropical body with an oily but smooth piney backbone. For a first double IPA, this is a solid effort.

Twenty miles west along the County Down coast lives Mourne Mountains Brewery of Warrenpoint. It was an unexpected pleasure to see Mourne Mist pils on draught when I popped into Great Jones restaurant in Newcastle last month but the pils has been around since the brewery opened in 2015 and not for review here. What is up for debate is the new 5.8% ABV OTT IPA (pronounced Ott, not O.T.T) brewed with rye.

This isn’t as heavy or dark as a traditional rye beer and thankfully the Citra and Mosaic hops are allowed to shine through a little bit. Expect some peach and melon but the rye seems to keep them in check. Initially it’s a little disappointing if I’m honest as these are two hop varieties that normally burst flavour on to the tongue – it seems the rye has prevented that happening. Whether that’s intentional or not I don’t know but I’d love more from these superbly flavoursome hops. After getting over that, this is still a tasty IPA.

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