It was a long time coming but we finally got to visit our beer barrel at the White Hag Brewery – ( @whitehagbrewery ) in Ballymote, Co.Sligo, Ireland and it was well worth the wait!
A bit of background. My son Liam aka @IrishCraftCaps is starting out on his journey to become a brewer of craft beers and earlier this year found out about a crowdfunding project by White Hag Brewery to source oak casks to take their craft beers to the next level. We thought it would be an interesting project to get involved with so we’ve sponsored a barrel. (The brewery were kind enough to name another barrel after my sister who sadly passed this year, thanks lads.)
As part of the project we got invited to visit the barrel which is coupled with the annual beer festival at the brewery but as sponsors we got to take part in the Masterclass beforehand with talks by Joe the head Brewer and Alex the French guy who supplies the oak barrels. (Only a French guy could get away with those green socks and still look cool!)
The barrels were either American, French or Hungarian oak having previously held either bourbon, white or red wine, so Joe was very excited as to what he could experiment with.
If the 3 taster beers we had were anything to go by then the lucky craft beer drinkers of Ireland are in for a treat. I might try for the UK importing franchise!! The first was a particular eye opener for me as I’m very old school English ale in my tastes (I was in CAMRA in the 70s) but the marrying of 45% cider with 55% beer and matured in a Chardonnay finished barrel was a definite winner and a great ‘gateway’ beer for those who like wine and cider but not beer. When it hits the open market try it!
There were 60 beers in total (see pics below) from 23 breweries dotted around Ireland, the UK and the Continent (with a few reserves that appeared later on, as barrels were drunk dry!) with a very wide variety of styles and strengths. As a mainly stout beer drinker in the craft community I decided to push my limits and try other types and flavours, I’m glad I did and I found that tasting a citrusy, hoppy beer after the stouts and Black IPAs was a good way to cleanse the palate and try new taste experiences in one hit.
The whole event was a resounding success with great street food on site to aid the alcohol consumption, the White Hag Black Boar Stout marinated beef brisket in a bun was a particular winner, that really ‘got in your mouth’ as a pal of mine would say.
By the end of the evening a train was laid on to take us all back in to Sligo town dutifully nicknamed the Hagworts Express or the Steamed Train – both epithets seemed appropriate and some of the hardened types carried on in to the wee hours but like good red-top reporters we ‘made our excuses’ and pulled the plug. We were spinning down to Kinsale the next day which is a bit of a hack so I wanted to be clear headed for the drive.
All in all a great day and well worth both the wait and the drive. We get 2 more visits included in the barrel sponsoring along with other goodies beside so if craft beer and supporting small businesses trying to do something different in a world of bland corporate products is something that appeals then you might like to check out The White Hag’s website, I think there are still a few barrels pining (or should that be oaking!) to be adopted.
Remember a beer barrel is for 3 years not just for Christmas.
p.s. This great article about the brewery also appeared this week –