The Irish summer made a fleeting appearance late last week, coinciding with the opening of Bloom in the Park, a garden festival organised by Bord Bia, the state food promotion agency. Bord Bia are long-standing friends of the independent beer movement in Ireland, having organised the SeptemberFest extravaganza in 2008 and 2009. Last year it was incorporated into Bloom with the creation of the Bloom Inn tent. This year saw the Bloom Inn return, in a larger double-dome form as part of an artisan food village which included pigs-on-spit, Murphy's amazing ice cream, pies, cheese and all the other wonderful foodie delights of which this country has every right to be proud. I spent Friday afternoon dodging the rays and beering and pigging my way round.
Nine of the country's craft breweries were represented at the Bloom Inn, with a mix of their core beers and some specials and seasonals. Unsurprisingly on such a scorcher, the highlight for me was an ice-cold lager. When I visited the revamped Messrs Maguire brewery back in January I remarked on the excellent unfiltered Haus lager, served from the conditioning tank. It stayed there for a while as Mel wrestled with filtering hardware. I'm delighted to say that she eventually gave up and the Haus now in commercial circulation is unfiltered, and really quite wonderful. Amber and only slightly hazy, it's crisp, full-bodied and ever-so-slightly sweet with a light hand on the carbonation. Irish lager is rarely so good.
Galway Hooker was another star of the day: Ronan had the inline chiller turned up to 11 and the pale ale was pouring beautifully. For once I wasn't complaining about the ubiquitousness of hoppy keg ales in Irish brewing as it was just the day for them, with 8 Degrees Howling Gale, Trouble Ór, O'Hara's IPA, Porterhouse Hop Head and Metalman Pale Ale all just the ticket. At the cask-only Dungarvan Brewing stand there wasn't much action between the two stouts, but Helvick Gold was wonderfully cool, refreshing and full-flavoured. While I was overjoyed to find Metalman Windjammer on cask again, it was let down by a too-high serving temperature, but fortunately it was also on keg: the right dispense method for the weather, especially since the keg edition retains a lot of the cask's delicious tropical fruit flavours.
Just one brand new tick for me, from the always-inventive White Gypsy. Bruin is billed as a "Belgian Brown Ale", which had me thinking of tart Flemish red style flavours, but it's quite different. I guess the best way to describe it is a light dubbel: it's a rich chestnut brown, smooth and incredibly fruity, packed with the banana flavours closely associated with Belgian yeast working at high temperatures. There's lots of filling malt sweetness too, hinting at raisins and chocolate. The cask dispense added to the smoothness but it was still a bit of effort to drink it. Even though there was a cooler in action it was just a bit warm for the day that was in it. A beer to save for a rainy day, perhaps.
Today is the final one of Bloom 2011, with the curtains coming down on the beer tents at 6pm this evening. If you're anywhere in the vicinity of the Phoenix Park, go.
Hearty congratulations are due to Bord Bia for putting on a superb show, very well organised and great fun to attend. And a big thanks both from Beoir and me personally for providing this platform for Irish craft beer to show off to a crowd which otherwise might never notice its existence. Here's hoping for many more years of the Bloom Inn.