June Bank Holiday, as usual, brought the Bloom in the Park festival to Dublin. I hadn't been in several years but organisers Bord Bia very kindly sent me a couple of tickets so on the mostly-sunny Saturday morning I set off for Phoenix Park.
Bloom is first and foremost a garden festival, the centrepiece being artily constructed miniature gardens, vying for medals and a grand prize. Courtesy dictates that a token wander around this bit is mandatory before hitting the beer tent, but this year there was something specific I wanted to see: "Saison", a garden put together by Breffni McGeough with help from brewer Alex Lawes and incorporating a nanobrewery. And a couple of comfy deckchairs, obviously. Very cute, and it's great to see beer culture leaking out of the bubble occasionally.
To the Bloom Inn, then. The 2015 iteration wasn't quite as much fun as 2011's randomly deflating space domes, but leagues ahead of 2010's A Small Tent With Some Beer. It felt like a real festival, with a crowd still consisting of mainly the uninitiated, but with plenty of converted beer enthusiasts too. A dozen or so brewers and cider-makers pitched up, plus a handful of the new wave of Irish distilleries.
There were two beers I hadn't tasted before on offer. The first I noticed on entering was Wicklow Wolf's Arcadia, a straight-up Kölsch clone. Only the smoothness of cask serve is missing from the replication. It's a bright, rich gold and offers mouthfuls of crisp and crunchy grain backed by quite assertive waxy German hops. It may be top fermented but there is a spring-water cleanness to the profile as a reminder that Kölsch, done properly, really is a lager. Arcadia will do a number on more than a few thirsts this summer, I'd say.
Putting clean and understated to one side, we move to the Carlow Brewing stand. Last year we were promised a sequence of amber ales using different national hop varieties, under the "Amber Adventure" label. We're only now seeing a second outing, and a slight shifting of the goalposts. O'Hara's Hop Adventure Sorachi Ace is an IPA, for one thing, and a pale one at that. All you really need to know is that it tastes of Sorachi Ace in a big way, and it's up to you whether that's a recommendation or a warning. I enjoyed it, though. It's all oily coconut and lemon meringue pie, the pie effect accentuated by a light biscuity malt flavour. Other breweries who have made beer like this (Kiuchi's Nipponia springs to mind) have tended to pile on the alcohol to counter the hop pungency. I like that this one, at just 5% ABV, doesn't put anything in their way.
More summer festival fun to come next week.
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