07 July 2017

Cruiskeen Lawn

A balmy afternoon of dodging the showers in Phoenix Park was had on the June Bank Holiday Sunday when the Bloom garden festival rolled back into town. Organisers Bord Bia kindly sent me a ticket and, with one brand new beer making an appearance in the drinks tent, I had all the motivation I needed.

The format is pretty familiar by now: everything a gardener could wish for with regard to supplies and inspiration, and a major food and drink element too, showcasing independent Irish producers of pretty much everything consumable. Beer, cider and spirits get their own roomy tent, called The Bloom Inn. And new to the line-up was Costello's which, after several years as a client brewer, now runs Kilkenny's only full-production brewery and has finally expanded the range beyond its flagship red ale.

The new one is, perhaps inevitably, a pale ale. Beyond a Pale is 4.9% ABV and a dark orange colour. It's no middle-of-the-road milksop, however, and comes out fighting with a pithy, punchy bitterness. There's a gentler juicy orange middle, and a nod to modern tastes with a caraway savouriness. Overall it's nicely balanced, packed with flavour yet very accessible. With Kilkenny pretty much sorted for red ale brands these days, this will be like a breath of fresh air in its pubs.

(And speaking which, the Costello's-organised Kilkenny Craft Beer Festival is on this week, with various events around the Marble City. I'll be down tomorrow for Craft on Draught at Billy Byrne's.)

With the roster of new beers completed I dawdled around the other stands, enjoyed a couple of different Stonewell ciders, and dropped by the Hope stand to say hello. The guys had brought their prototype dry-hopped lager and, unsurprisingly for Bloom, it had run out. So it had been replaced incognito with their new dry-hopped lager ahead of its official release the following week.

It's called Underdog (not to be confused with the new Dublin pub of the same name) and is a bright golden colour with just a very fine haze in it. New World hops are very much the modus operandi here, but presented cleanly, simply and with the lighter flavours forward. So you get a spicy, spritzy, citrus-skin aroma, followed by a zesty mandarin punch that's just bitter enough to balance the sweeter peach element that follows. A sprinkle of heavier dank and a tiny white pepper complexity finish it off. It's very tasty and easy to drink. A criticism, you say? Well... one thing that bothered me is that it's not very lagery. It could quite happily pass as a pale ale, if a particularly light-bodied and crisp one. I drank it and enjoyed it but I was secretly thinking of Saaz the whole time. It's a difficult beer to be angry with, however.

That wrapped up Bloom for another year. As always with these events I hope that a few punters who were new to small-producer drinks took some new-found preferences home with them...