18 September 2008

The Irish and the Oirish

Ireland was very poorly represented at the European Beer Festival, with Hilden the only Irish-owned brewery exhibiting. They had recently launched Titanic Quarter -- named after the big urban redevelopment scheme currently underway in Belfast's shipyards -- and it was available bottled. This is the second beer (after Galway Hooker) to brand itself an "Irish Pale Ale". It is, however, a very different proposition, having the paleness and aleness of the British variety rather than Hooker's American roots. It's exceedingly pale, in fact with quite a bit of haze. Tragically, I could detect very little flavour to it. I guess it's designed as one of those unchallenging by-the-pint quaffers, but I was disappointed nonetheless.

Everything else from Ireland was by Diageo: their usual export brands. One enterprising Danish micro -- one with especially good lawyers, I assume -- has produced an organic beer called Geniuss Extra Stout. They've pretty much nailed what they were going for, it being nitro-cold, thin, vaguely dry, and generally a complete waste of effort. There is perhaps a smidge more of a malt character than you get with a certain other stout, but not enough to make this worth drinking. Bryggeri Skovlyst made a much better fist of an Irish-style stout worth drinking. Their Full Stout is admittedly thin, but still manages a creamy texture without nitro and is packed full of chocolate flavours -- just how I like my Irish stouts.

For some bizarre reason, Søgårds Bryghus in Aalborg has taken it upon itself to recreate traditional Irish recipes. I tried just one from this Irish House range, the Irish Ale. It's a very strange beast indeed, totally unlike any actual Irish ale I've had. It's really thin and watery but is possessed of a very strange milky-lactic sweetness which, when mixed with sweet crystal malt notes, gives it a sort of Cadbury's Caramel effect. It's not unpleasant, just... surprising.

That was just the start of the weirdness. Over at the Polish stall, there were two beers available which claimed some sort of Irish heritage. Irlandzkie Mocne first, and the comedy English programme (p.232) tells us "It owes its mysterious character to match special components, which are a secret of brewery." Well, quite. What you get is an immensely sweet dark red ale -- sugary almost to the point of being saccharine. It's still easy drinking for all that; its secrets aren't really worth the pondering. Next to it, the bar was serving Irlandzkie Zielone. To whom, I don't know, since the beer's most notable characteristic is its lurid green hue. A single Irishman with a morbid fascination for beers connected to his country? Quite possibly. Anyway, it's basically just lager with green syrup in -- dull, sweet and a lot more Polish than Irish.

Perhaps if the festival Saturday hadn't clashed with the first Bord Bia Septemberfest in Dublin, there might have been a better showing from my locals. I was kicking myself I missed it too, since the elusive MM Imperial was there on cask. I have to content myself with the vicarious pleasure of sampling through the eyes and palates of Wobbler, Beer Novice and Laura. Still, I don't think I'd have swapped.


  1. More Oirish beers then actual Irish beers that is odd. I'm glad one of them did the traditional Shamrock Shake green.

  2. Anonymous5:15 am

    We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that henceforth in the Duchy of Bavaria, in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer:

    From Michaelmas to Georgi, the price for one Mass [Bavarian Liter 1,069] or one Kopf [bowl-shaped container for fluids, not quite one Mass], is not to exceed one Pfennig Munich value, and From Georgi to Michaelmas, the Mass shall not be sold for more than two Pfennig of the same value, the Kopf not more than three Heller [Heller usually one-half Pfennig].

    If this not be adhered to, the punishment stated below shall be administered. Should any person brew, or otherwise have, other beer than March beer, it is not to be sold any higher than one Pfennig per Mass. Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities' confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail. Should, however, an innkeeper in the country, city or markets buy two or three pails of beer (containing 60 Mass) and sell it again to the common peasantry, he alone shall be permitted to charge one Heller more for the Mass of the Kopf, than mentioned above. Furthermore, should there arise a scarcity and subsequent price increase of the barley (also considering that the times of harvest differ, due to location), WE, the Bavarian Duchy, shall have the right to order curtailments for the good of all concerned."

    Signed: Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria on April 23, 1516 in Ingolstadt.

  3. Thanks Wilhelm, good luck with that. Though I think you'll find it's spelled "litre".