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A Better Irish Brew

Who among us hasn't stood in a nostalgia-laden Irish bar in far flung corners and asked for the ubiquitous Pint, only to tut-tut on the hapless barman's pouring technique and the inferior taste? But how many of us can actually back up the facade of travelling Irish beer expert? If your knowledge of Irish beer is limited to the usual suspects poured down your local, there's never been a better time to expand your horizons and sample the genuine article.

During the past five years, Ireland has undergone a quiet revolution in micro-brewing, with a steady increase in the availability of some truly wonderful beer. As with the rise in popularity of small food producers, micro-brewing is gaining an ever-expanding following. No longer confined to specialist off licences and brew pubs, supermarket shelves are now stocking an impressive range of domestic micro beers in addition to the long-standing German stalwarts, such as Erdinger and Warsteiner.

Until very recently, the industry was dominated by pioneers (in the strictly drinking capacity, of course) with a passion for producing high quality craft beers. Unfortunately, high rates of excise duty meant that many of these beers were destined for the UK market, where they enjoyed a much friendlier tax regime. Thankfully, this is all changing, due to a halving of the excise duty on beers produced by micro breweries. The change, announced in the Budget by [Irish Finance Minister] Brian Cowen - a man who obviously appreciates a fine beer - represents a promising future for Irish drinkers who can look forward to sampling a wealth of liquid delights.

So what is on offer to the more discerning drinker? Well, once you experience the taste of genuine Irish stout, it may be difficult to settle for the black stuff served in the local pub. Real Irish stout should have a fantastic body, with a roasted taste of hop bitterness, finished off by a bitter-sweetness. It's a drink to savour and as an accompaniment to seafood, sheer heaven! Irish beers and ales provide a wealth of interesting tastes and can easily rival the best of the classic beers from Belgium or Germany. Just as seasonal food is now de-rigueur in culinary circles, seasonal beer really is worth waiting for. Typical samples from Ireland's micro-breweries include such gems as a summer red ale, Oktoberfest wheat beer or Christmas stout.

If you want to enjoy the ultimate micro beer experience, a visit to a brew pub is a must. You are likely to imbibe the freshest draught beer, surrounded by the sights and smells of a working brewery. In a country which once had a brewery in every town, there are now fewer than fifteen, but your
searching will be well rewarded. Dublin is fortunate to boast Messrs Maguires and the Porterhouse, both serving a marvellous range of unique beers brewed on the premises. Further afield, the renowned Biddy Early Brewery in Clare is a favourite destination, while Carlow has enjoyed something of a beer renaissance of late, thanks to the establishment of the Carlow Brewing Company (several local pubs serve its terrific beer).

While Irish micro breweries may never threaten the dominance of the bland big-names, they are happily serving an expanding niche with unrivalled diversity and taste. The only question that remains is: are you going for a pint?

A Better Irish Brew - Three to Taste

1. Curim Celtic Beer (Carlow Brewing Company, 4.3% vol.) An Irish wheat beer to rival the German masters. This is the perfect summer
weather beer: a refreshing, sparkling, lightly hopped dink.

2. D'Arcy's Dublin Stout (Dublin Brewing Company, 4.7% vol.)
This is a stout like you've never tasted before. It has a fantastic dark
body and creamy head with a dry, smoky flavour. This deep full-bodied stout
is a great match for oysters or chocolate.

3. 1798 Revolution Red (Dublin Brewing Company, 4.7% vol.)
Deep amber-coloured beer with hints of sweetness and fruit. The distinctive
taste of this ale is a great introduction to the world of Irish micro beers
and an ideal companion to spicy food.

 



by
Kevin O'Donnell
24th May 2005

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