The meeting itself took place in The Sky and the Ground, a charming bric-à-brac-filled pub with a lovely sunny upper deck. Lamberts' is just up the street and their beer is on sale here so I started with a YellowBelly Blackcurrant Ale. It arrived very cold, a clear pale amber colour. The fruit has been added judiciously, meaning you don't get a sticky purple glass of fizzy Ribena. Instead it's a light-bodied ale, not a million miles from Irish red or English keg bitter, with subtle malt biscuit notes and then just a gentle jolt of tartness from the blackcurrants. Not massively complex but perfectly serviceable as a summer thirst-quencher. After it I switched to YellowBelly Hefeweissbier, a crisp rather than fruity example of the style, hazy orange in colour with a little bit of pith and some worrying headachey high-alcohol heat. It's sinkable enough when cold but it's possibly a bit dangerous for session drinking.
With business concluded it was time to go over to Lamberts' for lunch and a looksee at the brewery. At first glance, Simon Lambert & Sons is a very normal high street pub: a narrow saloon bar at the front and wider covered smoking area out back. It all goes a bit Wayne Manor once you go through the staff-only door at the back. Nicky Lambert told us they excavated a lot of the basement themselves, by hand. The brewery was also acquired piece by piece from wherever pumps and tanks and electrical components are got, and put together as they needed. Those pretty wooden-clad vessels are old dairy tanks covered in spare bits of the flooring from upstairs. Though it's in a space not much bigger than a domestic garage it has the only laboratory I've seen in an Irish microbrewery and uses all liquid yeast, a different strain for every beer. The conditioning tanks are on wheels and, when the contents are ready, they're simply trundled around to the keg cellar and hooked directly to the taps. The attention to detail at YellowBelly is jaw-dropping.
The beer engine upstairs was pouring YellowBelly Belgian Stout which almost everyone started with, presumably for fear of it running out, which it didn't. There's a crazy amount of complexity in this ultra-smooth black draught: tart dark fruits and sweetly tannic raisins, bookended by sweeter cherries and drier roasted grains. I only had a half pint, but every sip introduced something different. And yet it's silky enough to swig down, if you wanted to. A Sweet Stout was also available, on keg: a simple beer, this, with lots of caramel and a typical milk stout lactose tang.
Turning to the hoppy side of the house, YellowBelly Summer Ale is 4.5% ABV and an amber gold colour. It's in the English golden ale vernacular with those floral, orangey hop flavours. It's perhaps a little overly sharp for my liking, but refreshing nonetheless. In lieu of an IPA there was a Strong Pale Ale, 6.1% ABV strong. This is rose-gold in colour and tastes very caramelly, with the hops adding to the heavy sweetness with a strong perfume effect, plus lots of sticky herbal resins. The weighty, earthy character is accentuated by a thick, greasy, ambergris-like texture. Tough going, but rescued somewhat by a dry finish. And I don't know what went wrong with the Amber Ale but the brewers saw fit to pump in a vast amount of dry hops right before tapping it. As a result it has a massive raw, green hop aroma, hugely peppery and spicy, and that comes through in the flavour as well -- red peppercorns and five-spice say my notes. There's a dry acidic finish but none of the harsh grassiness you tend to get in beers that are dry-hopped overly long. I still couldn't help wondering what the 3.9% ABV base beer tastes like because there's barely a trace left of what it was.
And my beer of the day, the one I bought a growler of to chug on the journey home, was YellowBelly Lager. I guess this is one of those beers that brewpubs feel they have to make, for the unadventurous punter, and brewpub lager tends not to be the most inspiring of sub-styles. But this hazy gold 4.1% ABV conversation beer is perfection. The flavour performs very simple tasks, presenting a perfect crisp and clean golden malt base garnished with just a light lemony lacing, but the finished product is cleansing, quenching, magnificently fresh and immensely sinkable. I suspect the other beers come and go with the whims of their creator but this really deserves to be a permanent fixture, and a reference point for every other brewpub proprietor in the country.
The locals are very fortunate to have an operation like YellowBelly on their doorstep. A big thanks to everyone at Lamberts' and The Sky and the Ground for hosting us. It's well worth the daytrip, Dublin folk.