Thursday, June 13, 2024

On the craft trail with two Kerry beers and a Kilkenny cider. West Kerry Brewery, Killarney Brewing and Highbank Orchards

On the craft trail with two Kerry beers and a Kilkenny cider. West Kerry, Killarney Brewing and Highbank Orchards


West Kerry Blue Rose Ale 5.1% ABV, 500 ml bottle Bradleys

West Kerry threw out their rule book and this beautiful traditional ale is the result.

Colour is a light hazy gold with zillions of microbubbles crowding towards the soft white top. That dry hopping, an extra touch, is immediately noticeable in the aromas and on the palate. It has a pleasant, flowery, spicy, citrus-like quality with a slight

grapefruit characteristic which is what you’d expect from the Cascade hops used.

Medium-bodied, it is refreshing with somewhat more bitterness than you'd normally get from a pale ale. Cascade can be used to make any ales, and “is characteristic of American pale ales, such as the classic Sierra Nevada”. An excellent ale and Highly Recommended but, for me, not quite as exquisite as their original Béal Bán Golden Ale.

The Gaeltacht brewers explain how the Renegade Series came about. “The genesis of this series came with the idea to throw out our own rule book – the rules being with the emphasis on the barley, malted and un-malted. With nothing more satisfying than breaking a few rules we thought to experiment with dry hopping. This is a process of adding a ‘tea’ of fresh hops to the conditioning tank and bringing more of their flavours to the beers.”

Dry hopped with American Cascade, this hand crafted traditional ale became their first in the Renegade Series. After the Blue Rose Irish Pale Ale, they followed up with an Antipodean IPA and a Festive IBA (Irish Black Ale).

All their beers are brewed with the same yeast, which is a little unusual. Breweries normally match the style of beers to different yeast types, but “we like to do it the other way around, and we design the recipe for each of our beers ourselves. But what we like to think makes our beers even more special is our water, which is full of lime and as luck would have it, ale yeast loves limey water, ensuring our beers are flavoursome, and feel round and soft in the mouth”.

Pic via HIghbank.

Highbank Organic Medieval Cider, 2019, 500 ml bottle, 6.0% ABV, Ballymaloe Food Festival

Colour is close to orange, close to amber. Aromas hint at the sweetness to come on the palate and that may not be to everyone’s taste. The blend of their Organic Cider with Organic Honey has come off well and, for me, a balance emerges, tannins providing an astringent touch before the long finish. Should be a good cider with food and Highbank recommends meat courses and particularly spiced food (see recipe below).

This traditional honeyed cider, fermented on Highbank’s own natural organic yeasts, is gluten-free with, no added sulphites.

Highbank Medieval Cider is named in honour of their medieval home towns of Callan and Kilkenny and that honey and cider were famously popular in medieval times in the fertile hinterland of County Kilkenny, drawing visitors from afar.

Recipe for Pork Brined in Rum and Cider with Apples 

Killarney Scarlet Pimpernel IPA 6.0% ABV, 500 ml bottle at the brewery shop.

The most striking aspect of this beer, at least visually, is the deep red colour.

And red also comes into the beer’s name. There is a statue of a priest, dressed in an old-fashioned clerical manner, at an entrance to Killarney National Park. He is striding out, a man in a hurry. They seek him here, they seek him there - he is O’Flaherty, the Scarlet Pimpernel. This IPA is named in his honour.

In the same way, as O’Flaherty broke barriers, so too has Killarney Brewing busted tradition with this red colour. The IPA is built “on a smooth malty base”. Aromas are moderate, citrus and pine. There’s a light caramel sweetness on the palate. Overall, a good balance is found, hop bitterness is moderate, and they boldly recommend it as “a perfect partner for full-flavoured dishes”. I know Killarney say this is an American-style IPA but it also has similarities to a red ale.

During WW2, Rome-based Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty saved over 6,500 people by hiding them in monasteries, farms, and other locations. After the war, he was awarded the US Medal of Freedom and Commander of the British Empire.

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