Irish craft beers and brewers are on a journey of self-discovery and adventurous experimentation, inspired by craft brewing styles and trends in Europe and America. They have an enthusiastic audience with Ireland being the fourth largest consumer of beer in the word, per capita. There has never been so much choice and diverse offerings in the Irish market and discerning craft beer drinkers continue to look for new and different flavours rather than volume drinking.
The crucial cereal for all beers is barley, renamed malt when its starch is converted into fermentable sugar. Meanwhile, the “flowers”, cones/catkins from the hop plant are added for aroma, a light tannic texture and an appealing bitter taste to balance the richness of the malt. The current popularity of hop forward beers shows there are still endless possibilities of varying the character of a beer’s taste and aroma by the growing numbers of over 200 varieties of bittering hops and aroma hops.
However, Irish Craft Brewers are also looking to the uniquely Irish brewing traditions of the past and giving them a current update. Irish Stout and its ancestor, Porter have been embedded in Irish culture for over two hundred years. Recent innovations include using oatmeal and other cereals to widen the choice.
The growth in craft beer festivals and the regular presence of craft beers at fairs and events helps inform and evolve the conversations between both brewer and customer alike. If the Irish Craft Brewers are excited by their experiments and innovations, their customers are evaluating and enjoying results.
Below you’ll find six of our favourite beers from a tasting of thirty beers held recently at the ALDI Irish Craft Beer Festival.
Co Offaly – 4.4% ABV
€2.69 – 500ml
A classic Pilsner style with a deep white head of dense foam over a pale yellow colour. Typically with a very clean taste and creamy texture underpinned by citrusy crispness a herby note and smooth alcohol.
The tangy Czech varieties used give a tasty tangerine citrusy finish.
Food friend: match the crisp and refreshing style with Indian chicken curry or grilled white fish seasoned with herbs.
Boyne Brewhouse, Co Meath – 4.8% ABV
€2.69 – 500ml
A full throttle reddish brown Pale Ale with an intense grapefruit and very forward hop character from being triple hopped using Australian Summer Saaz.
The palate has a malty richness and an attractive bitter finish.
Food friend: a Ploughman’s lunch with hard cheeses, paté and salads.
Co Monaghan – 6% ABV
€2.99 – 500ml
Attractive deep and fine foam. Naturally sparkling from being bottle conditioned/second fermentation in the bottle to generate the carbon dioxide gas. Probably using American hops for their typical citrus peel and distinct pine character. Attractive malty spice and resin flavours.
Food friend: enjoy with a steak and a bitter salad of rocket and endive with crumbled blue cheese.Balbec IPA, JJ’s
Co Limerick – 6% ABV
€2.99 – 500ml
A delicious and refreshing lemony and spicy beer.
The added richness and complexity on the palate comes from a blend of malts – pale malt, flaked oats, Caramalt and Munich malt and contrasts well with a bitter hop finish.
Food friend: surprisingly brilliant with carrot cake.
Co Dublin – 5% ABV
€2.49 – 330ml can
A smooth, rich and mellow red ale with a friendly ambush of pine and citrus flavours.
Food friend: a very democratic dining companion with chicken, fish and spicy curries.
Co Meath – 4.2% ABV
€2.69 – 500ml
Rich, chocolate malt with added bitterness to the toasted malt from magnum hops.
Light-bodied with smooth and moderate alcohol.
Food friend: a classic with oysters, smoked meats or served cold with plum pudding or chocolate brownies.
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.