19 January 2012

Better butter, but bitter

A few weeks ago I asked one of the people behind Tom Crean's Lager why they decided to put out that style of beer. The answer was that no-one else seemed to be doing it. And it's true: most of the independents don't do lager, and those that do are mainly the ones who own pubs in which to push it. Of course, you don't have to be a Pattinson-grade beer historian to notice the slew of failed independent Irish lager brands strewn across the not-too-distant past: Kinsale and Brew No. 1 being especially high profile examples, as these things go. Despite it occupying some 63% of Ireland's beer market, the absolute dominance of the Big Two and their pervasive marketing makes lager a tough sell.

Hot on the heels of Crean's into this deceptively healthy-looking market segment comes Carrig. The brand is owned by a couple of entrepreneurs and the beer itself is produced at the BrewEyed plant in Co. Offaly. I thought the BrewEyed lager was pretty decent the one time I tried it, so had reasonably high expectations for this when I trotted along to The Palace for a taste.

At first my expectations were met: cold from the tap the first sip revealed a beautifully clean and crisp lager which, though lacking any real hop flavour, packed an enjoyable lip-smacking bitterness. It unravelled quite quickly after that, however. Our old friend Mr Diacetyl came calling, and proceeded to shout loudly over the top of everyone else. The bitterness just manages to reassert itself and take the edge off the worst butteriness, but the diacetyl lingers and grows with each mouthful making a second pint an unappealing proposition.

In the battle of the new microbrewed lagers I would put this a little ahead of Crean's, but both are clear indications of the other main reason Irish micros don't do lager: it's a very difficult style to do well. A quality Irish pilsner, of the kind I thought Carrig was, would be very welcome and might just stand a better chance of making a name for itself in this closely fought corner.


  1. very good posting. I wounder why no one just does a pesudo-lager with US-05 or Nottingham. Would people really notice and it much less like form suffering from Mr Diacetyl.

    That or get some good temp control on the fementors and give the beer a Diacetyl at the end of ferment

  2. Galway Bay brewery did: their Bay Lager was made with Nottingham. And was far nicer than their Ale (also Nottingham). And now they've dropped the Lager and kept the Ale. *facepalm*

    1. The Galway Hooker Pilsner is a very decent attempt in my view, the best Irish Lager I have ever had. It's up there with the Czech boys I would say.

  3. It's nice, but I wouldn't go that far. Bottled Hersbrucker, I think, is continental-class, but I just cannot take the draught one at all.

  4. KeeganAles2:19 pm

    Galway Bay have kept the *name* Bay Ale - the recipe is totally revamped, ending up a lot closer to our many Irish Pale Ales.

  5. For now...

    Funny, I thought the Strange Brew was along the Irish Pale Ale lines. Still, at least I know now what my first pint in the Black Sheep will be.