Northern Ireland

Bulls, Badgers, Boars and Bunnies

A round up of some new local beers hitting the Northern Ireland beer scene over the past few weeks.

William and Mick from Bullhouse recently completed a promotional road trip of Ireland, holding meet the brewer talks and selling their beer on tap in Dublin, Cork, Galway (among others) and ending at Northern Lights bar in Belfast. The new beer Big Axe made its debut that night in the Norn Iron capital but up for review here is Residents Only, a 7.2% ABV New England IPA which was released a week or so before the trip began.

bullhouseresidents

Falconers Flight hops – a blend of many hop types including Cascade, Sorachi Ace and Simcoe – are the stars here. It smells delicious before anything else with a wafting melon and peachy aroma bounding towards me. Excitedly, I bounce in and am hit with a piney chewiness on first sip. An unexpected dryness filters through shortly after the next few sips, interspersed with a citrus and floral attack of the senses. This is a highly enjoyable brew and one of Bullhouse’s best to date.

Hillstown has been in full-on brew mode recently with the securing of export deals and generally getting the beers out further afield than before. Also on the recent to-do list were rebrews and tweaks of festival beers, which leads us to The Blueberry Badger Parade, a blueberry and juniper sour first seen at Belfast’s Craft Beer Festival in Custom House Square last June.

hillstownbadger

First off, PINK! Wanna pink beer? You got it. It’s as pink as a pink pinky-ponk plonking down at Pinkville. Hillstown’s first sour comes in at a very sessionable 3.5% ABV and is brewed with juniper botanicals from Frankie & Eileen’s gin distillery. Also 55% blueberry content apparently. Aye that’s all very well but is it any good?

In a word, yes. Of course you’re going to get a fruity tart blueberry element in there but combined with a decent malty base, a light sourness and the juniper gin third eye, this is an enjoyable left of centre effort that will appeal to more than just beer drinkers.

Also from the farm is The Full Boar Crew, a rebrew of a beer that made an appearance at the Portrush Beer Festival in October. This 6.2% ABV Brut IPA is one of the very few Northern Irish bruts (including Mourne Mountains and Lacada) to make an appearance to date.

hillstownfullboar

Highly effervescent in the glass and not as dry as last year’s v.1, expect an initial lemon and grassy lager-esque beer backed up by a touch of residual apricot fruit sweetness further down the glass. Better than before? Yes. Expect to see it on tap alongside Harp and Carlsberg in your local bar? No, but that’s another story. Whether or not anyone this side of the Atlantic actually knows for sure what a Brut IPA should taste like is debatable but thanks to Jonathan and Kevin at Hillstown for the samples.

Kinnegar from County Donegal is one of the best Irish breweries and although it’s been out for quite a while, I finally managed to get my hands on its Kumpelnest pilsner. Such is the demand and clamour for the latest American-style IPA or barrel aged imperial stout that often the humble Euro-style pilsner can be neglected. Fear not, I love a good pilsner or well made lager such as Kinnegar’s Noch Eins Helles lager or this one, a 5% ABV easy-pleasing German pilsner.

Golden yellow with a light lemon aroma, it’s sweet on the tongue reminiscent of lemon meringue with a hint of bitterness at the back. I expected a more bitter and earthy German-style pils but this one veers more towards the Czech side, being a tad lighter in taste. It’s a palatable beer nonetheless but maybe not what you’re expecting from the German side of the border.

Na zdraví? Prost? Cheers anyway.

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