Ireland was very poorly represented at the European Beer Festival, with Hilden the only Irish-owned brewery exhibiting. They had recently launched Titanic Quarter -- named after the big urban redevelopment scheme currently underway in Belfast's shipyards -- and it was available bottled. This is the second beer (after Galway Hooker) to brand itself an "Irish Pale Ale". It is, however, a very different proposition, having the paleness and aleness of the British variety rather than Hooker's American roots. It's exceedingly pale, in fact with quite a bit of haze. Tragically, I could detect very little flavour to it. I guess it's designed as one of those unchallenging by-the-pint quaffers, but I was disappointed nonetheless.
Everything else from Ireland was by Diageo: their usual export brands. One enterprising Danish micro -- one with especially good lawyers, I assume -- has produced an organic beer called Geniuss Extra Stout. They've pretty much nailed what they were going for, it being nitro-cold, thin, vaguely dry, and generally a complete waste of effort. There is perhaps a smidge more of a malt character than you get with a certain other stout, but not enough to make this worth drinking. Bryggeri Skovlyst made a much better fist of an Irish-style stout worth drinking. Their Full Stout is admittedly thin, but still manages a creamy texture without nitro and is packed full of chocolate flavours -- just how I like my Irish stouts.
For some bizarre reason, Søgårds Bryghus in Aalborg has taken it upon itself to recreate traditional Irish recipes. I tried just one from this Irish House range, the Irish Ale. It's a very strange beast indeed, totally unlike any actual Irish ale I've had. It's really thin and watery but is possessed of a very strange milky-lactic sweetness which, when mixed with sweet crystal malt notes, gives it a sort of Cadbury's Caramel effect. It's not unpleasant, just... surprising.
That was just the start of the weirdness. Over at the Polish stall, there were two beers available which claimed some sort of Irish heritage. Irlandzkie Mocne first, and the comedy English programme (p.232) tells us "It owes its mysterious character to match special components, which are a secret of brewery." Well, quite. What you get is an immensely sweet dark red ale -- sugary almost to the point of being saccharine. It's still easy drinking for all that; its secrets aren't really worth the pondering. Next to it, the bar was serving Irlandzkie Zielone. To whom, I don't know, since the beer's most notable characteristic is its lurid green hue. A single Irishman with a morbid fascination for beers connected to his country? Quite possibly. Anyway, it's basically just lager with green syrup in -- dull, sweet and a lot more Polish than Irish.
Perhaps if the festival Saturday hadn't clashed with the first Bord Bia Septemberfest in Dublin, there might have been a better showing from my locals. I was kicking myself I missed it too, since the elusive MM Imperial was there on cask. I have to content myself with the vicarious pleasure of sampling through the eyes and palates of Wobbler, Beer Novice and Laura. Still, I don't think I'd have swapped.
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