Hilden Beer

Getting arty with my wide angle lens.
As I have mentioned in one or two other posts I volunteered at the Hilden Brewery Beer festival this year.  I've already reviewed the other Northern Ireland breweries bottle ranges (with the exception of new guys on the block Inishmacsaint); so decided it was time I pay the same courtesy to Northern Ireland's oldest brewery.
I came away from the beer festival with two each of 2 Hilden beers and 3 College Green.  

I decided to break out the champagne glasses again that I last used for my first post way back in May. As you can see, with the exception of Molly's the beers are fairly pale and could even be mistaken for each other on first glance. Does this similarity in colour carry over into flavour? See below.

From Left: Belfast Blonde, Molly's Chocolate Stout, Headless Dog, Cathedral Quarter Beer & Titanic Quarter Beer.
College Green was originally to be a microbrewery attached to the fantastic Molly's Yard restaurant in Belfast, but the beer is now all produced at the main Hilden brewery for commercial reasons. There is a range of three beers.

Belfast Green Belfast Blonde
Starting with the lightest of the bunch, Belfast Blonde (4.3%) is the beer that attempts to win over lager drinkers from the ubiquitous brands of Tennents and Harp and is often to be found on font rather than cask. Certainly if the Hilden Beer festival was anything to go by it seems to be working as whenever word got out that the beer was pouring again around twenty men would appear as if out of nowhere to buy pints of the stuff.
So how does it taste? Floral hop aromas on the nose with underlying honey sweetness. Prickly carbonation, malt sweetness with a clean lightly bitter finish. Served chilled on a summers day this would slip down nicely. 

College Green
Molly's Chocolate Stout
Pouring garnet red-brown with minimal head Molly's Chocolate Stout (4.2%) had noticeable legs, which I find unusual for a beer of its ABV. Hint of beech-smoke then rich roast barley on the nose. Robust body with bitter coffee, dark chocolate and burnt toast. Finishes with a not unpleasant coffee astringency. 
It would certainly make a good beer for pairing with food. It has Coffee and chocolate notes that would pair perfectly with cakes and chocolate dishes but its robust barley burntness, sweet malt and slight smokiness would make it a good match for barbecued or roasted red meats.

College Green Headless Dog
Headless Dog (4.2%) completes the trio of College Green beers. It pours gold with a thin white head and steady stream of bubbles. Dusty blackcurrant and Farley's rusk on the nose with some heather honey. sweet and grassy, bitter spike, then dry malty finish. I would have liked a bit more of the hop character from the nose to assert itself on the palate but an enjoyable beer nonetheless.
This beer would pair well with game as well as traditional Irish dishes like colcannon and stew.
The Hilden bottle range is to be a series, currently consisting of two beers and named corresponding to two of the cultural "quarters" in Belfast. A third in the range "Queens Quarter" was due to be released in 2009 but seems to have fallen by the wayside for the time being.

Titanic Quarter Beer (4.2%) The first of the Belfast Quarter Beers was specially commissioned to mark the regeneration of the Queen's Island site. This is a pale ale brewed with the beers in mind that were once shipped from the UK around the world. Clean and refreshing with a good level of bitterness. The Titanic Quarter of Belfast encompasses the once mighty industrial area of the Harland and Wolff Ship Yard, builder of the ill-fated RMS Titanic. Today the area is at the beginning of a renaissance which will put the quarter back as a focal point, not only of Belfast's commercial but also social and cultural world. Pale golden beer with honey malt aroma and a trace of black pepper. Balanced sweet/bitter body with sweet hay finish.
 Cathedral Quarter Beer (5.3%) - The second of the Belfast Quarter Beers is a rich warming, premium beer. A classic red Irish ale with a full bodied flavour.The area Belfast knows today as the Cathedral Quarter is based largely around St. Anne's Cathedral. Before its modern re-invention, the area was best known as a trade and warehousing district. With the decline of Belfast's traditional industries, arts and cultural organisations took the opportunity to establish themselves in the area. Today the area continues to revitalise, placing itself at the centre of Belfast's social and cultural scene.
Not so much red as dark amber, this beer has a savoury sweet aroma like honey roasted parsnips with golden syrup and raspberry and maybe a hint of rosemary. Robust body with fruity sweetness and mouthwatering moreish party ring biscuit finish.

Reviewing beers certainly works up an appetite, so I decided to finish off the bottle of Belfast Blonde with a Mediterranean style dish of olive and chilli bread with melted mozzarella and herby balsamic tomatoes. The clean malty body helps to cut through the acidic vinegar and tomatoes, whilst the floral hops help to scrub the mozzarella oiliness from the tongue. A nice simple pairing that I'd repeat again.

All in all a solid range of beers, though I would like to see some of the other Hilden range available in bottle, particularly the stouts and porters. These will no doubt be the subject of a future post. 


  1. Oh, is there an actual working brewery at Molly's Yard? I thought that never got built.

  2. I'm not entirely sure from their website, will have to confirm with the brewery.

  3. Good post Steve, good job you were on the champagne glasses for this one!

  4. Thanks Mark, wish I could claim it was my own handiwork but its an M&S jobbie. Definitely going to try making my own with similar ingredients though cos it were really good!

    Thanks David-yes I dank them before lunch aswell; so think 5 bottles may have been a bit much! Passed two on to my neighbour.

    @TheBeerNut yeah, you were right, brewing not happenign at Molly's yard, have updated post.