27 July 2018

Not just here for the beer

O'Brien's off licence in Blanchardstown held its first ever craft drinks festival one sunny evening at the end of June. 15 suppliers took over the front of the shop, handing out samples and hawking their wares. There were a couple of new beers for me to try, but the event was about far more than that. Three cider producers were in attendance and I got my first try of the lovely new one from Dan Kelly's: Coll's Craft. The Cider Mill had his Cockagee Perry on show, and three new "Revival Series" half-litre bottles: Windvane, Ciderkin and Lamhog, of which the middle one was my favourite. He also brought the news that The Cider Mill has taken on the role of filling the C in new distributor ABCD's portfolio, so expect to see more of his stuff more widely.

I was also very pleased to see Kinsale Mead represented, and with a new mead no less! Their Hazy Summer Mead lacks the bracing cleanness of their straight-up Atlantic Dry, but dodges the worst jammy sweetness of the Wild Red. The use of raspberries and blueberries gives it a sharp tartness I enjoyed, and which allowed enough of the honey flavour through to keep me happy. Mind you, even just having a commercial producer of seasonal meads on this island at long last has been cheering me up no end.

Enough digression; onwards to the beer. Des from Hope sideswiped me early and forced a sample of Limited Edition No. 11 at me. This is formally titled Peach & Passion Fruit Sour and ticks all of those boxes with enthusiasm. The first smack of the flavour is a chalky alkaline sourness, followed quickly by real moist and fleshy passionfruit. The peach adds more of a sugary nectar-from-a-carton quality, and the sum total of fruit would be in danger of turning it sticky if it weren't for the relentless sourness nipping at the edges of your palate the whole time. While only 4.5% ABV it's probably still a bit too busy to be a session beer (though I'm willing to give that a go), but it did make for a superb early-evening livener.

Across the way, Larkin's was débuting its brand new Summer Session Saison, turning its back, briefly, on the cool-fermented styles for which it's better known. Cillian kindly gave me a can to take away after the event. The "session" part is certainly not just a buzz word: this is a proper 4.5% ABV and lightly textured. There's plenty of flavour complexity, however, piling in brightly juicy mango and peach (from Hüll Melon and Mandarina), an apothecary's mix of herbs and flowers, including lavender, jasmine and pepper, and finally a crisp and wholesome cereal base. Saison's headachey esters are absent, and while it's properly dry, it's not harshly so. I think I'd like a bit more spice, but that's just how my tastes run: as fruity saison goes, this is one of the best.

A big thanks to all who arranged and participated in the gig. Here's hoping for a re-run some sunny day in 2019. And if you're around the west end of Blanch, do check out the offer in that generously stocked O'Brien's.

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