Thursday 10th July saw the third Irish Craft Brewer homebrew tasting event in the Bull & Castle Beerhall, Dublin. A record number of brewers -- almost twenty -- brought a variety of beers (and two ciders) to the party, which called for a more free-form format than previous tastings. With the admission that not everyone would get to try every beer on offer we split the beers loosely along colour lines, starting with the paler ones. At 7pm (roughly) the first caps and swingtops were relieved of their duties.

I'm not intending this to be an exhaustive account of everything brought to the table (I've only one liver), just some of the ones that stood out in a field of the usual high ICB quality.

It was with trepidation that I took possession of a bottle of Silenus's strawberry cider. This 7-8% ABV monster has been known to explode with only the slightest provocation, and I wasn't keen on getting a faceful of strawberry-flavoured glass. However, with careful handling, the bottle behaved itself and yielded a pale, clear fizzy red liquid with a marvellous dry fruity flavour, reminiscent of a sour Belgian fruitbeer. A blackcurrant version followed, with more than a hint of Ribena about it, but the same superb lightness of touch.

The only other explosive event I witnessed happened early in the evening when Séan's Tettnang Blonde made a bid for freedom on opening. This is a very dry and bitter golden ale, perfect summer drinking for the perfect summer we're not having. My award for best summer beer of the evening, however, goes to N1mbus for his Gingery Wit. It has all the spiciness of other ginger beers I've tried, but with none of the burn and balanced against a tasty biscuity sweetness to boot. Refreshing, quaffable, and a shame to drink in tiny sample quantities.

N1mbus also brought a deep dark Irish Red, bitterer and heavier than anything made commercially, as did Blacckhawk. The latter weighed in at only 3.8% making it a beer you could drink a lot of in one session -- and you'd want to too: full of the hallmark rich burnt caramel flavours of the style.

Graeme23 and Beermad cooperated on Back to the Wind, a very distinctive American Pale Ale with dark malty notes duking it out against some seriously big hop flavours to create a beer that really knows how to hold the drinker's attention. In the same general category, there was something quite misleading about Modfan77's Brass Doorknob IPA. Sure, it tasted just like brass doorknobs, but an IPA? Common consensus had it that under the metal the character was more that of a witbier, strangely enough. Eventually the brewer conceded and amended his label. Well, we wouldn't want anyone misled, would we?

With the pale beers concluded it was time to give the palates a rest with some commercial brews. Deli food was laid on, stomachs were lined, and the dark beers were brought out from the coldroom.

First item on the agenda was The Battle of the Coffee Stouts. The contenders were Silenus, Sinead and Kenmc. It was a tough call: everyone managed to get a good balance of roasted stouty flavours complemented by the aromatic oils in the coffee. However, I think Silenus just edged it, possibly because he has access to better coffee than most of us.

I only got to try one of the Imperials on offer: Oblivious's dangerously delicious oaked Imperial Porter, perfect in after-dinner-liqueur quantities. At the opposite end of the danger scale was Bog_Myrtle's Convalescent Porter, an easy going "drinking porter", light and dry but very tasty with it. Finally, one beer had enough of a wow factor to make it nearly as enjoyable to watch people having their first sip as actually drinking it. Freedgull's Chip the Beaver chipotle chilli stout, unappreciated by the brewer's peers, garnered enormous praise from the ICB cognoscenti. It's a full-on dry, roasty stout but with the additional sweet heat of fresh chillis that hits the throat and infuses into the nose -- a real case of the parts other beers can't reach. An impossible act to follow, so I'll leave it at that.

In conclusion I'd like to thank the management of the Bull & Castle for their continued support of homebrewing in Ireland. Full credit also to the brewers who brought beers to the event, especially the first-timers, willing to offer up their hard work for critical appraisal. I sincerely hope that the feedback was either useful, gratifying, or both. Tasting events like this, wherever they're held and whomever shows up, are one of the most important aspects of Irish Craft Brewer. They are the place where all the knowledge shared on the site finds its way into the mouths of the membership. And that's certainly the bit I enjoy most.

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View all pictures of the event.
View a selection of the beer labels.