"I don't normally drink beer" is nearly the slogan of the Bloom Inn. You hear it a lot at the beer bars. The drinks tent at Bord Bia's annual garden festival in Phoenix Park is therefore probably a good place for brewers looking to expose their wares to a new audience. That said, the beer offer seemed down this year when I went along on Saturday afternoon. Only The Porterhouse, Rye River, Jack Cody's and Boyne Brewhouse were representing for 2016, plus a guest tap of Stone Barrel Boom IPA on the Rye River stand. The rest of the space was amply occupied by the spirits and cider folk and everyone seemed to be doing great business.
But why wouldn't they be? It was a glorious afternoon, sunny and warm, with literally acres of drinking space. Dublin's annoying prohibition on public outdoor drinking means that Bloom is one of the very few opportunities we citizens get to sit out on the grass of a summer's day and have a picnic with beers. Anecdotal evidence seemed to suggest the punters weren't being especially adventurous with regard to their beer choices -- Paddy from Boyne Brewhouse told me their lager was the soaraway success of the day. For my part there were two beers I'd never tasted before so that's where I started.
Worcester Sauce is the name Jack Cody's has chosen for their new English-style bitter. It's 4.2% ABV and poured from the bottle a perfect clear amber colour. The appearance is about the best thing it has going for it, however. At the core of the flavour is a wheaty, dusty taste, reminding me of Ready Brek or similar processed cereal. Behind this sits a sour twang and then an unpleasant rubbery aftertaste. Something seems to have gone wrong here though I couldn't tell whether that's in the recipe design or the production process. I finished my pint, but this isn't the beer for me.
To follow, a beer I only recently realised I'd never had before: Rye River's Fancy Frank's Lager, part of their McGargle's series, a replacement for that dreadful pilsner I can't even bring myself to name. Frank's is another one where the visuals are impressive: a paler yellow than most microbrewed lagers. The flavour is rather lacking, however. Sweetness dominates -- chewy grain and an almost syrupy quality. I guess the low level of hopping fits its niche as a commodity lager like the macros make, and it was certainly popular on the day, but to me it just felt like a beer with a hole in it. For comparison I followed it straight away with Boyne Brewhouse's Long Arm which is far from a hop bomb but is dimensions more interesting.
With the hard work done it was on to the €5 pints of Francis' Big Bangin' IPA followed by the wobble home.
Thanks to Bord Bia for the tickets. Today is the last day of Bloom 2016 and it closes at 6pm. It also has gardens.