A Quart of Ale± #82. On the craft journey with a session of Eight Degrees, Kinnegar and Brehon Brewhouse.

A Quart of Ale± #82

On the craft journey with a session of Eight Degrees, Kinnegar and Brehon Brewhouse.

Eight Degrees Irish Oak-aged Barleywine 12.2%, 440 ml can

This seasonal Barleywine pours a ruby colour in the glass, great to reflect the lights on the Christmas trees, appropriate too as this beer is deftly produced to accompany you through the festival meals.  

Aromas are malty and complex. The complexity continues on the palate, yet it is not at all over over-intense, a condition that hampers many high abv beers. 

This aromatic and multi-flavoured seasonal special was aged in especially rare Irish whiskey barrels that have been made from native Irish oak. And it is certainly a good fit for the festive season, for the pudding, the cake (think raisins and dried fruit), candied fruit, toffee. While you may get some vanilla during the tasting, the cask input is very nicely judged, there is no sharp whiskey hit at all. Oh, there is certainly cask influence but all’s in balance.

And keep it handy for the cheese course, especially if you have the likes of Cashel or Crozier or Wicklow blue at hand. I enjoyed it with a wee wedge of Crozier and it was quite a match, both the beer and the cheese enhanced by the coming together of the golden liquid and the cream of Cashel.

The blue cheese may not be everybody’s cup of tea but I’m sure you’ll find quite a few other pairings for this superb barleywine, starting with the brewery tasting notes below. I did absolutely enjoy it with the cheese and am really looking forward to trying another can with the cake and pudding on the big day!

Don’t rush this beauty, a sip will go a long way. I remember that tip from César Saldaña, Consejo Regulador Jerez. In 2011, while speaking of sherry at an event in Ballymaloe, he said: When drinking sherry with your meal you should always have a glass of water at hand. When you want to “wash” down the food use the water and then take “a few drops” of the sherry as it goes a long way! The same advice may be applied to quality abv beers like this.

The artwork on the can may have caught your eye. They say: To celebrate ten years of brewing at Eight Degrees, we wanted to showcase Ireland-based artists in our 2021 Original Gravity series. We ran a competition looking for artworks that reflected our Naturally Adventurous values, expressing our desire to explore and roam again. Artist Coireall Carroll Kent ( @coireallcarrollkent ) explains her design: I spent a lot of the pandemic trekking across the Irish countryside, and many of the roads that I took to are shrouded in trees just like these. The knots are naturally rooted in Celtic culture, with the concentric circles representing both the curves of our landscape and the bubbles in a good drink!

Geek Bits

Malt: Pale ale malt, Carapils and Cararoma.

Hops: Nugget and Cascade.

Yeast: US05 yeast.

IBUs: 82

Launch Date: November 2021.

Availability: 440ml cans, limited draught

Style: Irish oak-aged barleywine.

Food pairings

Get those brandy snifters out! You definitely don’t want to hurry this gorgeous beer. Try it with the bluest of the blue cheeses that you can get your hands on as it will happily stand up to any funk that you throw at it. Stilton is the obvious pairing but we like to stick with Irish cheese on our Christmas cheeseboard so Louth’s Bellingham Blue, Young Buck from Northern Ireland and our local Crozier Blue from Cashel are all worthy pairings. It’s also the time of the year when all the flavours of spiced beef need a foil: get the best award-winning spiced beef from Tom Durcan in Cork’s English Market, slice thinly and layer it into a sandwich that also involves some of that blue cheese. Serve with ORIGINAL GRAVITY Irish Oak-Aged Barleywine on the side for a wintertime supper with style. Keep a little beer for the end of the meal and pair it with dark chocolate, dried fruit and nuts – or any bar that combines those flavours. Ireland is blessed with a variety of wonderful bean to bar chocolatiers so seek out the darker chocolate from producers like Exploding Tree, NearyNógs, Bean & Goose and Hazel Mountain Chocolate. Closer to home, chocolatier and pastry chef Norma makes truffles and bars at Praline in Mitchelstown which are worth a try with the barleywine. My pick? The 65% dark chocolate tropical bar with mango, passionfruit and pineapple.

Kinnegar 20÷2 Anniversary Pilsner 5%, 440ml can Bradleys

Pilsner is actually a type of lager, named after the Czech city Plzen. Their most notable differentiating feature is that pilsners tend to have more hop forward flavours and a  different yeast is used.

You notice that “hoppier” element immediately in the aromas, nothing too forward mind you in this clear amber beer from Donegal. There’s an extra degree of oomph on the palate, the crisp and clean lager equipped with a bit of extra muscle, thanks to the noble hops used.

They say: “A once-off of a classic style that played a part in Rick’s personal development as a brewer.” And then they don’t say anymore. Should customers be told the full story? In any event, this excellent simple beer is a good one to celebrate the brewery’s 10th anniversary.

Brehon Brewhouse Crann Beatha Whiskey Aged Imperial Stout 10.0%, 500ml bottle Bradleys

Here’s the Brehon intro to this Imperial Stout: We are proud to present a limited run, not to be repeated: Crann Beatha Whiskey-aged Imperial Stout - Vintage 2019.

Dark as a moonless night, it has (briefly enough) a tan disc as a head. Aromas are vanilla, coffee and caramel, a hint of the whiskey in the dark-roast malt. And the warm and rich palate intensifies the aromas with rich fruit (plum and raisin) also in the flavours. Quite a good balance right to the satisfactory finish.

Brewed and bottled by Brehon in County Monaghan for Gaelic Delight and exclusively for sale in the Netherlands. I got mine in the Republic of Bradley’s. Crann Beatha means Tree of Life. It is a celebration of their 200th brew and the whiskey casks used came from one of the new distillers in Mayo. Of the two cask aged Brehon whiskeys tasted recently, I’m inclined to give the nod to the Oak & Mirrors, though I enjoyed both.

Brehon Brewhouse Stony Grey IPA 6.0%, 440 can Bradleys

This has a close to amber colour, hazy with a foamy white head, altogether attractive. Nice mix in the aromas, floral notes (including rose), spice and pine and hints from the malt. And much the same elements, with a layer of citrus, combine on the palate giving a terrific balance, smooth all the way to the dry finish. A very pleasant beer indeed. A superb beer actually, quite a flavoursome thrust to it and a deep refreshing finish. 

I first enjoyed this in the autumn of 2020 and was the beer that led me to adding the Monaghan brewery to my short list. And where did the brewery name come from? It was inspired by the old Brehon laws that ruled medieval Ireland, which claimed every clan could brew beer for their own family!

They say: Great on its own but just perfect with spicy foods like Indian, Mexican, chicken wings or mild blue cheese, lemon curd cake or key lime pie. Serve around 8 degrees. Our small brewery is housed on the farm, just a short distance from the old homestead.We are set amongst the rolling drumlins of County Monaghan, just a few miles from the birthplace of Patrick Kavanagh, the inspiration for our India Pale Ale –  Stony Grey IPA.