Saturday saw the end of the 2008 Belfast Beer & Cider Festival, Ireland's only CAMRA-organised event. Accompanied by some fellow beer aficionados up from Dublin, I put in a solid seven hours of tippling during the afternoon and evening. One of the main draws for me was a couple of unfamiliar beers from one of the province's two cask beer breweries: Whitewater of Kilkeel.
Crown & Glory is brewed especially for the Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast, a pearl of Victoriana owned by the National Trust and one of the most beautiful boozers on the planet. The tribute bitter is much less elaborate, being pale and light of texture, with an unfussy quaffable character. The malt and hops are carefully balanced to produce a very easy-going pint with no really dominant flavours.
There's a bit more of a challenge with Nut Brown, a darker shade of amber with a touch of sharp astringency. I still enjoyed it, however -- there's plenty to keep the drinker interested, with a sweet toffee-like base making it quite more-ish.
In my considered opinion, neither of these is as enjoyable as Whitewater's standard ales: Belfast Ale and Clotworthy Dobbin, though I've consistently found the bottled version of both to be an improvement on the cask editions. Though one doesn't say that too loudly in front of the CAMRA officials.
More from Belfast anon. I didn't get to try Wickwar's excellent Station Porter from the cask since it was inconsiderate enough to win beer of the festival on Thursday, and was therefore long gone. Still, a well-deserved prize I'm sure.