On the Saturday before last, the Royal County homebrew club of Meath joined in combat against the Wee County homebrew club of Louth. The battle took place at the Brú Brewery in Trim and the chosen weapon was fruit beer. I got to pretend to be one of those high-rolling BJCP judges for the day and write impenetrable tasting notes on the beers -- a normal enough Saturday afternoon for me. In the end the Louthmen emerged victorious with the Meath side vowing bitter (haha) revenge.
Before judging commenced, Brú's owner Daire gave us a look round the newly installed kit. We met their old Dave Porter gear in Belfast in Tuesday's post. Now they've moved up to the big leagues, turning out 80hL per brew, four times a week. With lots of beer going to England, a number of contract brands on the go and a growing estate of pubs in Leinster, they'll need it.
The fridge in the brewery reception took a bit of a pasting with all the bored homebrewers hanging around. I just managed to grab a bottle of Darkside IPA at the close of business, a beer Brú first made last year but which had hitherto passed me by. As the name suggests, it's rather dark: a kind of garnet amber colour. Stylistically it fits more the English side of the IPA tradition, being 5.2% ABV and more about a tangy metallic bitterness than anything lighter or fruitier. A sudden, and short, smack of grapefruit right in the middle of the flavour is its one nod towards the new world. The finish is dry and quite astringently tannic. It's quite an old-fashioned tasting beer, this. I think I prefer my IPAs, even English-style ones, with a bit more of a hop wallop.
The after party was held not far from the brewery in The Malt House pub. It's a pleasant multi-purpose community boozer of the darts-and-carpets sort. The taps promise more variety than they actually pour but the attached off licence has a first-rate selection of Irish and imported beers and for a €1 corkage you can bring any of them back to the pub.
I used the opportunity to catch up on a couple of English beers I've been meaning to try for a while but never got round to. The first was Beavertown's Quelle Saison. It's as straightforward a saison as you could wish for, eschewing the bells and whistles that Beavertown often appends to its highly attenuated styles. The end result is perfect saison strength at 4.1% ABV, thirst-quenchingly dry with a crunch of grain, a cheeky pinch of higher-alcohol pear and a gorgeous peppery aroma. An absolute classic, and it wasn't long in disappearing.
Just time for one more before my bus and I picked Eternal Darkness, the session black IPA from Northern Monk. The same strength as Quelle Sasion, and the same faultless tour of the style's good points. It is, above all, hoppy: a weighty green herbal resin thing that absolutely coats the palate and feels like it belongs in a far stronger beer. Behind it there's a smooth freshly brewed coffee flavour, the dark malt adding a little, but not too much sweetness. Again, it's very swiggable. On some other occasion I'll take more time over it.
Two great beers for the traveller about to skip town. And skip town I did.
Cheers to Daire and the Brú team for their hospitality, to Wayne for inviting me to judge, and to all the homebrewers of Meath and Louth for giving me a day out.