14 September 2015


The Irish Craft Beer Festival came and went in late August, and almost ended me. Though the festival was shrunk to two evenings and a day, and I spent a significant amount of time serving beer as well as drinking it, I came away exhausted, physically and gustatorially. The root cause, I think, is that so many of the new and special edition Irish beers are very strongly flavoured. And while that's a bonus when it's one tap out of ten in the pub, serial sips of these beers, one after the other, for three nights running, is probably ill-advised.

And I suspect that's why my standout beer of the festival was Mont Nude Lager: in part because it's a superb helles, with all the gentle softness that goes with, but also because I drank it late on the last evening when it was exactly what I needed.

Similarly Rye River, who stole the show with their specials just like at Alltech last February, managed to squeeze in a Vienna Lager and a Double Decoction Märzen, both of which hit the perfect clean lager profile squarely in the centre with the right amount of malt heft. I've never known of an Irish microbrewery doing decoction mashing, but they were at it again with a Triple Decoction Doppelbock, again right on the stylistic button, all chocolate and caramel. Last of the four Day One lagers was a Baltic Porter which I thought lighter and sweeter than the ones I tasted in Poland in April. 6% ABV is a little low for the style, isn't it?

Rye River Watermelon Wheat
Later, more extreme offerings from Rye River included Sexy Lacto Flanders, a mercilessly sour Flemish-style red that I thought a bit overdone but interesting to see how sour sour can go; Lemondrop Berliner, which tasted greasy, like drinking a scented candle, but in a good way; Hipster-Hopped Azacca which used a brand new US hop variety, but one which tasted very familiarly of grapefruit and peach; and the ironic style of the moment Watermelon Wheat, made with a vast quantity of real watermelons for a concentrated sticky chewing-gum sweetness that really stuck around on the palate longer than was welcome.

Two new beers under Rye River's McGargle's marque also made their début at the stand: Toothless Dec's Brown Ale is a straightforward light, sweet and caramelly brown; while Francis's Big Bangin' IPA really turned a few heads, being a pale coloured, 7.1% ABV west coast-style IPA. I could certainly see the resemblance to beers like BrewDog's Jackhammer, and it was served fantastically fresh, but there was an overlay of savoury onion that spoilt it for me.

So that's two of the fifty or so stalls covered. We'll explore further next time.

1 comment:

  1. Good to hear rye river finally getting in to their stride, decent lagers will suit me too, can nver have too many. IPA sounds decent, if its anything like the onioniness from centennial in blacks KPA it'll fade after a day or so tapped. I actually quite enjoy that savoury quality