Dean McGuinness reviews New Ireland Beers Savage IPA and New Ireland Beers Survivor Saison
NEW IRELAND BEERS
Today on the show we are looking at Gypsy Brewing. This is a concept that has come about as there are more and more craft breweries, and even more people interested in brewing a beer. A Gypsy Brewer acts like a cuckoo – they make use of other people’s breweries to brew their beers, and make real their vision of a beer recipe on a scale to allow the beer to be enjoyed by the general public.
The two beers that we are tasting to-day come from New Ireland Beers. The first beer – Savage IPA – is a 5.0% a.b.v. New World IPA. Survivor Saison is a 6.0% farmhouse ale brewed with Earl Grey Tea.
Birth of Craft Brewing –
Ireland and the U.S. have a little in common when it comes to brewing.
In Ireland, the brewing scene was largely decimated by aggressive competition from one major brewery. Over a period of time, the Guinness brewery purchased its competitors and either assimilated their brands into their portfolio, or shut down the breweries and discontinued the brands. Beers such as Phoenix and Time were lost to the beer history books. The result was that, by the 1980’s, Ireland found itself in a situation where there were only three brewing companies in the Republic of Ireland – Guinness, Murphy’s (Heineken) and Beamish and Crawford. Further consolidation a number of years later saw the closure of the Beamish Brewery in Cork, as the takeover of Scottish Courage by Heineken and Carlsberg saw Beamish and Crawford assimilated into the Heineken stable.
In the U.S., the Volstead Act had the same effect. Prohibition happened in 1929 in the U.S. – sale of alcohol was declared illegal. While initially the intent was to target hard liquor, when Prohibition came into effect its shadow was cast much further, and beer was included in its sights. Similar to Ireland but for a different reason (legislative rather than competitive), the brewing industry was decimated, and the breweries around the U.S. ceased brewing, either shutting down completely, or finding other ways of packaging drinks products to continue their commercial operations.
After Prohibition was repealed, the infrastructure for brewing in the U.S. had been largely decimated. Way fewer breweries re-opened than had been operating before Prohibition, and the pool of brewing resources and brewing talent found itself damaged. Likewise in Ireland, the result of brewing competition was to have much less diversity in brewing, and a brewing industry that couldn’t really be described as a real ‘industry’ – rather a small collection of breweries owned by international conglomerates.
However, the interest in beer, and the desire for different and interesting beers still survived. While some states retained a legal ban on home brewing even after Prohibition, there were enough places where homebrewers could practice their craft, and little by little the seeds of possibility took root. By far and away, the craft brewers that established the craft brewing movement in the early 1980’s said that their motivation was to brew beers that they knew they enjoyed but which were not being brewed by the big brewing companies. Starting out by home brewing such beers, and then progressing on to brewing beers on a small scale, the craft brewing movement found its feet.
As different beers were brewed, beer drinkers became educated about the possibilities of different beer styles. Imported beers in the U.S. planted the seed of awareness of beer styles outside of the macro adjunct-laden mainstream lagers that dominated the brewing scene in the U.S. in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. As beer drinkers were faced with the possibility of tasting other beer styles – either through imported beers or through craft brewed interpretations of these styles – the desire for diversity took hold. A symbiotic relationship emerged between craft brewers designing and creating beer styles that, up to that point, had not been readily available, and beer drinkers, enjoying these new beer styles, fuelled this innovation by providing the best possible encouragement – purchasing and drinking these beers.
Over the last three decades, Ireland has seen a similar growth in interest in beer styles that had not been available in Ireland before the 1990’s. Ireland is probably about 15 years behind the U.S. in terms of the development of its craft industry, but the pattern has taken a similar path.
The craft brewing industry has always been a strongly community-led phenomenon. A community of brewers helped eachother out to get up and running, and a community of beer drinkers encouraged the development of craft brewing. Two complementary factors – the desire to taste new beer styles and the ability to brew such styles – came together to fuel innovation in craft brewing. Seasonal and Limited Release beers (where distinctive beers were brewed on a small scale, significantly extending the number of beers available) and Collaborative Brewing (different breweries working together to brew new beers by combining their innovative ideas) were a natural outgrowth of this burgeoning industry.
Gypsy Brewing is a further natural development. In some cases, certain breweries are particularly suited to brewing a certain beer style. In other cases, brewers have excellent brewing ideas, but don’t have access to brewing facilities to turn these ideas into reality. Gypsy Brewing involves people who have breweries making these breweries available to brewers who have visions for new beers. The brewers get to brew their beers on a commercial scale, and the breweries get to become involved in innovation driven by a brewer from outside of their organisation.
New Ireland Beers is a gypsy brewing concept that has brought the idea of Gypsy Brewing one step further. New Ireland Beers is the brainchild of Beer Sommelier Dean Clarke. On the two beers that we are tasting today, Dean Clarke has worked with Hope Brewing in Howth, County Dublin to make real his vision for two new beers – Savage IPA and Survivor Saison. The website for New Ireland Beers also details visions for a range of potential new beers that, to this point, have not yet been brewed.
Combining the desire to taste new beers with the idea of a community driving the demand for these new beers, New Ireland Beers has developed the idea of ‘Beer Democracy’. People who buy one of the New Ireland Beers can scan a QR Code on the side of the can, and go through to the web-site for New Ireland Beers. Here they can do two things – vote for a beer from the range of beer ideas detailed on the web-site, and, at the same time, enter a competition. The drinkers of New Ireland Beers get to vote on the next recipe that will be brewed by New Ireland. Majority vote determines the next beer that will be brewed. In this way, New Ireland is bringing one step further the symbiotic relationship between beer drinker and innovative brewers that drove the development of craft brewing in the U.S. – passionate and innovative brewers draw a picture of beer possibilities, and the votes of the New Ireland beer drinking community select the vision that most tickles their interest. The winner of the competition wins a case of the new beer, and gets to be one of the first people ever to taste the newly created beer.
New Ireland Beers Savage IPA –
Beer Style - New World IPA
Alcohol by Volume - 5.0% a.b.v.
Brewed by - New Ireland Beers at Hope Brewery
Brewed in - Howth, County Dublin
Savage IPA pours with a pale gold straw colour and a distinctive haze. The aromas of peachy stone fruits and tropical fruit flavours combined with this hazy presentation brings to mind a beer style that has grown in significant popularity in the last number of years – the New England IPA. New England IPA’s developed on the East Coast of the U.S., and have grown to rival the West Coast IPA. Where West Coast IPA’s have been characterised by citrus and pine hop flavours primarily, and the presentation of West Coast IPA’s ranges from bright to mildly hazy, New England IPA’s are distinctly fruity in character and are hazy to a point where beer clarity is a distant memory. This haze is driven by polyphenols from grains and hops and other constituents of malted barley, and not by yeast (as would be the case with hazy Hefeweiss German Wheat beers). As a result, the haze does not drive a bready character that can sometimes be associated with beers where yeast is the source of the haze, but rather reflects a heavy hopping rate, with large quantities of hops used in late hopping in the kettle and/or whirlpool and high dry hopping rates.
Savage IPA delivers an explosion of fruity hop aroma. Peach, apricot stone fruit combines with melon, mango, pineapple and grapefruit. These fruit flavours follow through on the palate, and give a juicy, mouthwatering taste experience. The fruit sweetness is balanced by a hop bitterness that is restrained by American IPA standards. Rather than stretching to the high levels of bitterness (70+ IBU’s) that was associated with IPA’s in the early noughties in the U.S.A., bitterness levels for Savage IPA is closer to 35 to 40 IBU’s, and serves to provide a pleasant balance to the fruit sweetness of the beer. Carbonation is similarly restrained in this beer. This serves to accentuate the juicy fruit character in the mouthfeel, and provides a soft texture for the liquid in the mouth.
New Ireland Beers Survivor Saison –
Beer Style - Saison (Farmhouse Ale)
Alcohol by Volume - 6.0% a.b.v.
Brewed by - New Ireland Beers at Hope Brewery
Brewed in - Howth, County Dublin
The saison style is particularly broad. Ranging from dark to pale in colour, from relatively low in strength to quite high in strength, saison’s reflect their origins as farmhouse ales. As farmhouse ales, the common character in saison’s derives from different farmhouse interpreting the style in their own way, but using a yeast that delivers distinctly funky flavours and a particularly attenuative fermentation action. The result is a beer that integrates a diverse range of unusual flavours – often further complemented by the use of slightly non-traditional brewing ingredients – and often a dry finish resulting from most of the sugars in the wort being fermented out by a yeast that can be particularly hard working.
Survivor Saison is quite distinctive due to the use of Earl Grey Tea as an additional ingredient in the beer. The saison fermentation provides fruit and spice flavours that are overlaid by the distinct flavour of Earl Grey. The bergamot and citrus of the tea develops the fermentation fruit flavours of the beer. More complex saison yeast fermentation character (spice in the form of white pepper, soft background chilli spice, allspice and star anise together with a suggestion of leathery tannins) integrate with the tea character to provide a complex, layered taste experience.
The use of oats and wheat with malted barley in the grain bill serves to provide a certain lusciousness to the mouthfeel of the beer. While highly attenuated beers can be dry, and the slightly tannic and sometimes leathery character that can sometimes result from saison yeast can serve to provide a particularly dry finish to a saison, in the case of Survivor, the mouthfeel is balanced with the creaminess of oats and the dry crispness of wheat. Combined with the juicy fruit flavours from the fermentation and the complementary citrus/bergamot fruit character of the Earl Grey tea, this beer provides a fully rounded mouthfeel. Low levels of carbonation again serve to provide a certain lusciousness to the mouthfeel – the lack of ‘buzzy’ carbonation is notable in that it does not lift the body, but rather allows the beer to provide a soft mouthfeel, with subtle spice character serving to provide a certain amount of ‘lift’ on the palate.
With creative brewing, describing the beer in terms of a breakdown of individual flavours sometimes masks the delight of the balance of these flavours one against the other. This is very much the case with Survivor Saison. On different tastes, different elements of the beer come to the fore, and the balance of the beer is a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of different taste experiences, each one vying for attention, but at the same time each one serving to balance, accentuate, complement and develop the other flavours in the mix. Survivor Saison can be enjoyed just as a beer that one sits back and sips, delighting in the fact that each taste provides a slightly different dimension of flavour from the last.
This beer reflects the creativity that is the lifeblood of craft brewing – distinctive and creative ideas coming together to manifest a vision of a beer that is delicious and particularly interesting to experience.