The Beer Nut pointed out that Strangford Lough Brewing Co is no more; so Norn Iron were back down to 9 breweries...that is until Pokertree launched their first bottled offerings at Belfast Beer Festival a few weeks ago. 30 bottles of each and I snagged a pair for review purposes (volunteering for the festival does have its perks after all!)
I brought these back to the hotel room and daisy asked "what smells of lemons"? Turns out the wax seals are made from scented candles! The consistency isn't quite right but that's something to tweak for next time. So are these beers all style and no substance? Read on for the details.
Red Earl is different from your standard Irish Red...its much darker than most and there's some interesting sour cherrry in the aroma. However it does have a low hopping rate in common with many Irish reds and its a little too caramalt forward for my liking but its certainly better than most.
Ghrian Golden Ale is very different to your usual blonde beer...its actually a wit with lemon peel and corriander front and centre. It actually reminds me somewhat of Camden's Gentleman's Wit, with plenty of fresh lemon and some kiwifruit NZ hops that really make it zing...search out this one for sure.
Darren's first few ales have bucked the usual "holy trinity" trend and by the sounds of it the rest of the range also mixes things up a bit...ones to watch certainly.
Another new brewer is Clearsky...currently contract brewing their first
release at Hilden - Fulcrum. I met brewer Steve (good name!) briefly at Belfast but haven't had a reply to my email yet. Fulcrum is a weiss beer and to me tastes like Hilden's Barney's Brew without the additional spices...which is no bad thing as its a perfectly decent wheat beer. I look forward to see more from these guys and hope they get a brew kit at their trading address as its a few miles from Beers I've Known HQ.
Finishing up the selection of new bottled beers are a couple of offerings from Inishmacsaint who until now only had a single release - Fermanagh Beer.
This had a special edition release at the festival brewed with hops grown by Gordy's own fair hand on his farm...could this be the first commercial NI beer with local hops?! Its certainly an improvement on an early version I tasted with some herbal and blackcurrant hop notes complementing the full bodied wheat spiciness.
Also up for grabs was their new Brown Porter which I was less enamoured with. It started off well with oaky brown malt and blackberry on the nose but it finished a bit thin...perhaps needing more speciality malts to make up the body but certainly great to see a dark beer differing from the typical Irish dry stout and with a few tweaks this could be fantastic.