20 September 2017

In for a Treaty

The Beoir AGM happened in Limerick last month. It's the first year that my attendance was not compulsory, but I had never been to the city, nor experienced its beer scene, so there was no way I was going to miss it. The meeting was kindly hosted by The Wickham Tap, Galway Bay Brewery's new pub and their first outside Galway or Dublin (Kilkenny will follow next month). We also dropped by the handsome Smyth's, the cosy Nancy Blake's and the very handsome Mother Mac's.

The latter three were all pouring The Market Quarter, a new pale lager that was being launched that weekend. In total a group of twelve pubs in that area are carrying it on draught, having commissioned it from local brewery Treaty City to be, according to the Leader, "for traditional drinkers and craft beer enthusiasts alike". I like to think I can speak for both of those demographics and I reckon they've nailed it. It's a light 4.2% ABV and an approachable medium-gold. The flavour bursts with fresh tropical flavours, mango and pineapple in particular, before finishing clean. There's a palate-scrubbing fizz to please the mainstream lager drinkers, but it's not thin or overcarbonated, just great session drinking. I would worry about how well the fruit will hold up if it has to spend more than a short time sitting in the keg, but hopefully that won't be an issue. Well done to all concerned.

Our guide for the day, the redoubtable Cyril, had arranged for us to visit Treaty City Brewing itself, where we got a guided tour by the enthusiastic proprietor Stephen Cuneen. Local, local, local is the mantra. I always feel better about not being able to get my hands on a beer when I learn it's deliberate. I hadn't tasted any of the core beers so happily there was a table of sample bottles. Yes, I brought my bottle opener.

Harris Pale Ale is the one that's been around longest, named after Limerick's most legendary drinker. This is quite a dark amber colour and dry tasting, mixing up metallic aspirin bite with a touch of roasted grain. It's reminiscent of decent dark English bitter and is similarly moreish, despite a sizeable ABV of 5%.

The lightest of the set is Hells Gate Lager at 4.2% ABV. I think there's a sneaky reference to the intended style in the name (don't tell AB-InBev) as it's quite sweet and softly textured, with elements of candyfloss and spongecake. This is balanced with a few sprigs of fresh spinach leaves: no doubt a German noble variety or two at work. It's maybe just a little too sweet for my taste, even for a helles, but it's perfectly well made.

Treaty City hasn't turned out a porter yet so Thomond Red is as dark as it gets. And its pretty dark for a red: a cola brown colour with an almost dunkel-like sticky treacle aroma. The caramel arrives to the party early and I was fully expecting it to talk loudly over the top of the other guests. However it leaves room for some clean, green celery hops, a smattering of ripe summer fruit and a roasty finish that prevents it from getting all sticky in the end. Irish red full house then, pretty much, and probably the most complex offering of the set.

The IPA, Shannon River, was a bit of a let-down after that. They've gone too sweet in this one, resulting in a dark orange colour and buckets of orange candy all through the flavour. There's a certain minerally dry bitterness quality too, but it fights with the sticky malt rather than complementing or balancing it. The whole thing is just discordant, rendered extra loud with the volume turned up to 5.8% ABV.

There's a definite sweet theme running through the range, which is perhaps why the red ale is the best of the lot. This may be to do with loc