Goodbye bland pints on a night out, hello different styles and flavours

Beerista: Out with the old...

Lukewarm, from a can, while standing in a field one afternoon. That was my first ever taste of beer. It wasn’t particularly nice but that didn’t stop me, of course, from going on and drinking more of it at parties and festivals, and at pubs and clubs throughout my 20s. I had it in plastic cups, bottles, mugs, pint glasses – and whatever way I drank it, it was always, always the same old boring kind of lager.

Fast forward a few years – and add a few more – and drinking beer has gotten a whole lot more interesting. Go into any good off-licence these days and you’ll be met with a wall of red ales, pale ales, stouts, session IPAs… the choice is eye-watering. A brewing revolution has swept across the world, starting in the US and making its way around Europe and Ireland – and right into my very own kitchen.

Overnight, it seemed, our house became a kind of lab. There was large vats of brownish, foaming liquid stored everywhere – in the bath, the hallway and hidden behind the couch. Sacks of malts and grains were delivered to the door, our front room suddenly stack-full of bottles and boxes and bits of tubing, decanting tools and other strange pieces of equipment.

Often I woke, late at night, to the smell of hops raging throughout the house, the windows all steamed up and the extractor fan running at 90. The kitchen, during these brewing sessions, would look like a scene out of Breaking Bad, with massive steel pots and containers, weighing scales and thermometers all over the place.


At first I was a bit unenthusiastic, to be honest. But then I got curious. I started sampling the beers at their different stages, noticing how they grew and changed; how the carbonation affected the taste; how certain hops added at the end could completely alter the flavour.

At the same time we started trying all kinds of Irish and international beers, inviting friends over to sample the homebrews and any new interesting beers they had discovered. Suddenly, it seemed, the way we were drinking had changed – no longer was it about downing bland pints on a night out but about tasting and trying different styles and flavours. Now, having a beer can mean anything from intense, hoppy double IPAs to light sparkling Belgian blondes, funky sour beers or the rich warmth of Imperial Stouts.

It’s an exciting time for beer-drinkers and brewers. As the 10,000 beer fans who attended last month’s Alltech beer festival in Dublin demonstrated, craft beer is no passing fad. And this year is set to be a particularly interesting one for the Irish market, where hundreds of new Irish beers have emerged over the past few years.

A massive hop shortage will mean many of the “hipster” hop varieties such as Citra™ and Mosaic™ – found in many flagship IPAs – will be tough to get, particularly for the smaller, less established breweries. A resurgence of styles such as Saisons and Porters is already under way, as brewers experiment with alternative flavours from yeasts, malts and other brewing adjuncts. Additionally, there is a sense that a round of consolidations and closures may be on the cards as the bigger breweries get more aggressively involved in the craft scene.

While the homebrewing has long left our kitchen – and found its true incarnation as Third Circle Brewing company – it has left me with a long-lasting love for good, tasty beer and a fascination with this changing and growing industry. Though I do still wake up at night every now and then, thinking I can smell hops.

Beers of the week:

Here’s three of my favourite hoppy beers at the moment: all with bags of flavour, not too wearing on the palate and are great easy-drinking options for the weekend.

Quelle Dry Hopped Saison by Beavertown, 4.1% This Belgian-style beer is made by English brewery Beavertown (founded by Robert Plant's son, Logan Plant) and has a delicious, fresh citrus aroma and is cleansing and light.

Rustbucket Rye Ale by Kinnegar 5.1% This Donegal-based brewery makes high quality beers – this one has spicy rye, big juicy hops and restrained bitterness – yum.

Nomad Indian Pale Lager by EightDegrees, 5% Made by this well-established Irish microbrewery based in Cork, with a dry finish, summery Citra hop aroma with tropical fruit – it's quite bitter but with a light lager base.

beer @ITbeerista