Ok I`ve decided to write a round up of my seven favourite beers for newcomers to craft beer, to try this Christmas and into 2016, #7beers2016. I’m not a beer expert or certified cicerone (beer sommelier) nor am I pretending to be, that’s not the intention of this round up. It’s my personal opinion from an Irish male consumer of a certain vintage and this is what I like to drink and why. I have naturally thoroughly enjoyed researching this article. I also discovered I obviously like tasty, citrus flavored beers and fruity Belgian style beers. I wonder is this a country wide trend??
The reasons I choose certain beers therefore are based on the following criteria.
- I now only buy Irish craft beers because we must as a people support local business, the local economy and therefore our own communities. #Local Beer Karma.
- Label design, if the label is creative and well-designed I will try it. Note to some brewers, there are some breweries who make great beer and have a great reputation, but I will be very clear and honest, I won`t buy it if the labelling is boring and weak.
- Having written this article I personally have a penchant for big flavoured, mouth smacking citrus beers, grapefruit hints being a favourite and Belgian style beers.
- The beers need to be available at my local off license, I don`t like buying beer online, I want to go into a shop see the new beers, look, touch and read about the breweries and the beer. I buy at Number 21 off licenses in Cork mainly because their selection is fabulous and because when I asked them this year to support the screening of my short craft beer film Beoir
at the Midleton Mid May Arts Festival, they supplied me with beers from the breweries in the film, such as Mescan, Poker Tree, Donegal Brewing company and Kinnegar. This meant that the viewers could have a watch and taste experience. Thanks again for your support guys it made the evening very successful.
5) I like to understand the personalities behind the beer, what is their story? The brewery must be brewing the beer themselves either in their own premises or Gypsy brewing, I won’t buy contract brewed beer.
- Blacks Kinsale Pale Ale
Style: Pale Ale
Hops: Cascade and Citra
Strength: 5.0% a.b.v.
Location: Kinsale Co Cork
This has without doubt become my default favorite beer. If on a now rare night out it is the beer I will first enquire about. It’s just very tasty and refreshing simple and blacks have in my opinion created a real modern Irish classic beer with this. KPA should still be standing long after other less successful breweries close.
The guys at Vanguard beer www.vanguardbeer.ie describe this beer as follows.
Tasting notes: Tropical and citrus flavors are beautifully balanced with the malty sweetness. The taste dollops a smack of citrus onto the palate – grapefruit and lime – alongside more sweet pineapple and tangerine a decent little malt body fairly creamy, with definite biscuit and cake-dough sweetness and straw overall very well balanced.
2) (a) Wicklow Wolf IPA & Wicklow Wolf & (b) Locavore Blonde
Style: Indian Pale Ale
Hops: Columbus, Simcoe, Cascade
Grains: Pale, Crystal
Style: Blonde beer
Hops: Cascade, Perle, Prima Dona, Nugget
Grains: Pale Malt
This is now also a firm favorite of mine, usually the first beer I will reach for if I’m having a quiet drink on a Friday night at home.
The Wicklow Wolf website says the following about this beer. The IPA is a true hop lover’s beer. A classic Northwest American IPA, this big boy packs a punch. The 55 IBU’s are kept in check with Munich and Caramel malt character and the blend of Cascade and Simcoe hops deliver a combination of grapefruit, citrus, pine and passionfruit to rock the taste buds. Dry Hopping with even more Simcoe really drives the aroma home for this IPA.
I am also very impressed that the guys at Wicklow Wolf are producing their own hops and using them in their beers. The beer Locavore is one such beer and the concept alone is enough to make me want to buy it. Locally grown hops in a locally brewed beer, you cannot get better than that, it ticks all the boxes for this beer drinker. Adding to that uniqueness, the locavore beer will never taste the same from year to year, as the guys at Wicklow Wolf will plant newer varieties of hops and as the harvest yields increase the brews will be unique to its vintage. This is a beer company I would really like to put in my next beer documentary.
3) White Gypsy.American Pale Ale
Style: Pale Ale
Hops: Not described on bottle or website. Location: Co Tipperary.
Third place goes to the beautifully bottled White Gypsy. Again another citrus tasting beer. Ok I like citrus tasting beers! I get it.
This superb beer is described by White Gypsy as having a good carbonation and has an excellent flavor profile. Amber in color, this is a dry, hoppy beer with some caramel flavor. It goes great with spicy food but is also an extremely versatile beer and works perfectly well with most foods, from burritos and burgers to Chinese and chilli.
The Guys at White Gypsy brewery are after a piece of my own heart. And is a favorite brewery of mine. They make really great unique tasting and bottled beer but I don`t think I need to say more than quote their mission direct from their website, this is a brewery I really admire and want to film in 2016.
“At the White Gypsy Brewery, we make good beer. Our long term aim is to make that good beer from malt and hops grown locally and to sell as much of that beer, within 40 miles of the brewery door. We believe that for any community to be a stable environment in which people can live, work and have the prospect of a future, there needs to some degree of sustainability.
And what could be more sustainable than the food we eat or the beer we drink. The more we produce that’s closer to home, the closer the money stays to home. People’s lives improve and the sense of well-being increases leading to strong, vibrant communities. It’s about taking control of our future one small step at a time.
So when you drink our beer, we thank you; not only for supporting us but also our aims to create a local beer industry, which is sustainable, proud and Irish.”
4) 8 degrees Amber Ella
Style: American amber ale
Malt: Irish pale malt, dark crystal, crystal
Hops: Ella, Galaxy, Simcoe
Strength: 5.8% ABV
Location: Co Cork
Yet another citrus beer; however in fairness I could have put any 8 degrees beer here. I did think their limited edition Millennium beer was definitely my beer of the year but because it’s probably all gone, and very hard to find, I`ve opted to recommend their 2014 World Beer Cup bronze medal winning beer Amber Ella because of taste and availability. This brewery is constantly innovating with great new beers with great creative names that it must be said they are definitely at present one of Irelands leading breweries and no self-respecting beer drinker should be without the pleasure of tasting an 8 degrees brew. This beer is described on their website as having a bitter grapefruit tang to the fore, set against a tropical fruit flavors, particularly passion fruit. The dark toffee malt is well balanced against pungent Australian hops. Aftertaste: dry and bitter in the finish.
5) Mescan Red Tripel
Style: Belgian Tripel
Location: Co Mayo.
I just love Mescan Brewery and they make beers with almost as much personality, fun and heart as the brewers Cillian & Bart themselves possess. They also make some of the most unique beers in Ireland in a beautiful location. I met Bart and Cillian 2 years ago when I made my documentary film Beoir; here is a link to their section of the short film
What I found under Croagh Patrick two years ago, was a story tellers dream, I found two incredibly friendly, passionate and fun, Vets turned Belgian beer brewers, lambs by night and beer by day. To use a classic quote from Cillian from the excellent Mescan article from Belgian Smaak http://www.belgiansmaak.com/mescan-brewery-belgian-style-beer-croagh-patrick/
“I’m a big Queen fan and on the sleeve notes of their albums, below their list of instruments, they put the words ‘No synthesizer’. I’d like to do something similar on the Mescan bottles and put ‘No IPA’.
The red Tripel also carries a warning for lovers “Our beer may add to the desire but may take away from the performance.”
So enough about the personalities, the Mescan Tripel is just a great Belgian style beer. Tripels, almost by definition, are golden. The Mescan Tripel, however, is red, due to the use of a small amount of caramel malt. Mescan themselves describe the Tripel as complex, full bodied, warming, malty and fruity with additional nutty and caramel flavors a beer to sip and savour.” If you like sweet and fruity Belgian style beers and want to support local Irish breweries then you have to try Mescan red Tripel.
Note: The guys have a Beoir Na Nollaig (Christmas beer out this year).
6) Galway bay Brewery Of Foam & Fury
Style: Imperial / Double IPA
Location: Co Galway
This has been my favourite beer for the last two years; it really is a modern Irish classic already and the Beoir organisation beer of the year 2014. It is not however something for the debutante craft beer drinker, however it is something you will crave once you start your taste buds on the quest for ever increasingly flavoursome and complex beers. It is a beer aficionado’s beer and basically if you like good beer this flagship beer from the absolutely excellent Galway bay brewery is a bucket list beer. Described by Galway bay brewery as
“This double IPA is hazy orange, dense bubbly white head, good lacing. Aroma – big tropical fruits, sweet fruity malts, grapefruit pith, lots of pithy resinous fruits, super aroma. Taste as the aroma, great background of sweet fruits, mango, tropical notes, juicy citrus, resinous hops, good bitter sweet balance, complex flavor, so drinkable for the abv, cracking stuff.”
Enough said this beer is widely available and whatever the folks up there in Galway are doing food and drink wise it has to be applauded I think they are streets ahead of a lot of the rest of the country regarding branding and marketing.
7) Radikale Reubanesque
Style: Belgian strong ale
Location: Co Cork
Alain Dekoster a bone fide Belgian, is a gypsy brewer based in Cork (brewer without his own physical brewery). I caught up with him one evening in the Bier Haus Cork as I had recognised him from his twitter account and the Radikale T-shirt he was wearing at the time was a large clue of course! Alain introduced me to his beers and the one that stood out was Reubenesque, not only for its full bodied fruity flavour but also because he told me why he called the beer Reubenesque. He said he wanted his beers to be like the women in a Reubens painting, big, voluptuous and beautiful, hence the name Reubenesque and he has certainly achieved that in this strong Belgian style ale. Alain is very much starting out and because he brings a good knowledge and passion for Belgian style beers to Ireland, he is very much a brewer I`d like to support and encourage because eventually brewers like Alain will lead to a rich diversity of beer styles available in this country. To quote Radikale`s mission statement
“At Radikale, we have a dream that one day this great republic will rise up as one and reject flavorless beer. We hope that .beer will no longer be judged by its color but by the content of its character. Let us not satisfy our lust for freedom by drinking from the pint of blandness and disdain. Join the revolution one pint at the time. Drink Radikale”
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