12 December 2013

The wild geese

As the Irish beer market continues to grow, it's inevitable that contract brewing forms a big part of it. Of the Irish breweries who facilitate other brands, Eight Degrees in Co. Cork and Hilden in Co. Antrim are probably the most prolific. A few brands have opted to look outside Ireland altogether, either for reasons of cost and convenience or to avail of the expertise abroad. I'm looking at two of those today.

Brown Paper Bag Project have been going a couple of years now and Trinity is their fourth beer, and the third to be brewed in Belgium. The 75cl bottle badges it a tripel, and it's appropriately strong and golden, though rather brighter and clearer than most tripels I've met, with lower carbonation: all points in its favour. The aroma is more about fresh tropical fruits than yeasty spices and it tastes distinctly of pineapple juice. There's almost none of the complex earthy murk one often finds in tripels, nor the alcoholic heat, nor the golden syrup sweetness. Only a hint of cereals, hop bitterness and a very light spiciness in the finish hints at the style. As a frivolous, fun, cartoon version of a tripel I loved it. It's the sort of thing that would set Brouwer Van Klomp's teeth on edge, however.

One of the newest brands around is Stone Barrel, based in Dublin though the first batch of the first beer was brewed in the UK. It's called Boom and is badged as a "session IPA". It's not just the modest 5% ABV which backs up this designation: the carbonation is low, adding to the drinkability, and the flavours are a little muted too. The brewers were somewhat disappointed in how it came out, wanting more late-hop impact from the Simcoe, but it's perfectly decent as-is: there's a kind of herbal green flavour in the middle, backed by light biscuit malt. On the Irish hoppy beer scale it falls somewhere north of Galway Hooker but beneath O'Hara's IPA. It's a good first effort and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. Anything that gets more hops onto the Irish beer market is all right by me.


  1. "As the Irish beer market continues to grow, it's inevitable that contract brewing forms a big part of it"

    Indeed, it's been the same here in Massachusetts with many of the brewing companies using the facilities in Ipswich or Westport. We'll see how long some of them last as I tend to think that the ones that manage to open their own brewery at some point will have more staying power in the as having their own location/brewery helps to build local customer loyalty as opposed to just competing for space on the shelf or on somebody's taps. The local brewery here on Cape Cod has done an amazing job of making their brewery a destination for locals and tourists to visit.

    1. There's nothing like mortgaging your home against a bunch of steel tanks to enhance one's sticktoitiveness

    2. Hah! Yeah admittedly it may not be the best way to get started. But the ones that have done it around here have been very successful and have stayed in business. I reckon they've grown faster than these guys that are renting the shiny, steel tanks.