Sipping Beer and Cider in a Tractor ShedAt the Ballymaloe LitFest
|Dungarvan's Claire takes the mike at the Beer and Cider event.|
“Three years on and it feels like a lifetime,” said Scott of Eight Degrees Brewing at last Sunday’s Irish Craft Beer and Artisan Irish Cider event at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest. The rapid pace of the craft brewing industry in Ireland has astonished many of us, not least those pioneers (excuse the dry pun) directly involved. “Consciousness has been raised now,” said Claire of Dungarvan Brewing Company. “It is an easier sell.”
Moderator John Wilson (of the Irish Times), who prefers his on draught, is delighted with the progress and is as surprised as anyone else. “Beer and cider are now appearing in restaurants. No excuse though for pubs and off licences not having them, even if it is just the local brews.” And so say all of us.
“The industry is one of experimentation,” continued Scott. “We take a risk in producing, the customers in trying a product. We tend to help one another in the industry as one new tasting leads to the tasting of other craft beers, one of the encouraging aspects of the business. We are trying to create a community of consumers who are highly experimental, making one off batches, full of flavour, being innovative. The consumer's interest has to be held.”
Simon Tyrrell, who produces Craigie's Cider with his partner Angus Craigie, says the cider world has a different approach. “The reason is that we have just one crop, one shot a year. Ours is very seasonal. The demands are different to beer, indeed more like wine. Cider looks to express the best qualities of the fruit, show where the nuances lie.”
Eloquent as Simon was, and always is, the best speech from Craigies came in our first tasting of their fabulous Dalliance, made from 100 per cent dessert apples (three different types). “It has been left on its fine lees for 15 months and then a little re-fermentation to give it sparkle.” This just has to be tried. It is so different with great apple flavours and a long dry finish. Superb!
|Four to Taste|
Then we were on to the beers and a taste of Dungarvan Copper Coast Red Ale. The red comes from the Crystal malt and the beer has “more of a malt profile”. It is sold in restaurants. I regularly come across it there and it certainly goes well with food.
|Ballymaloe's Colm McCan|
worked tirelessly over
two long days in
the Drinks Theatre
(a converted tractor shed).
The experimental nature of the craft beer industry was certainly underlined by our next beer, call Gosé, made by the Brown Paper Bag Project, Irish brewers without a brewery but who travel home and abroad and hire out or collaborate with existing brewers.
This beer was made in partnership with the local brewery on the Danish island of Fanoe in an ancient German style called Gosé. It uses 53% wheat and 47% barley along with the addition of sea salts and coriander. It has cider like characteristics and the acidity and salinity are prominent. Very good with oysters!
We finished off with one of the first of the second wave of Irish beers, Howling Gale Ale by Eight Degrees. It was important that the Mitchelstown brewery, then operating out of a cottage, got this right. They sure did set the standard and yesterday’s tasting shows it has stood the test of time and is still up there with many new ale rivals, both local and national.
Great to have the choice but Scott could do with a great choice of hops. The hops he uses are imported. “Hops are not grown commercially in Ireland,” he said. Now, with the industry mushrooming, hop growing must surely come next. Indeed, I think there are green shoots in Tipperary, White Gypsy the folks responsible.