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Famous Seamus celebrates St Paddy's

Scullions Cask Ale judged Supreme Champion of Ireland independents

A happy St Patrick's Day, 2000, for the Hilden micro, of Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Its Scullions Cask Ale has just been judged Supreme Champion in the All-Ireland Independent Brewers' Festival. The beer is named after Seamus Scullion, who founded the brewery in 1981. Hilden, adjoining a Georgian country house, is Ireland's oldest micro.

By Irish standards, Scullions Cask Ale is less malty than hoppy and fruity (lemon?), but it is beautifully balanced, fragrant and expressive in flavours. I know, because I was the senior judge.

It was a blindfold judging, so I was relieved to learn that the winner was Hilden's product and not an ale from Dublin's Porterhouse brewpub. Why the relief? Because the event was held at the Porterhouse, and six of its beers had already emerged as winners.

In the Cask Ale category, Hilden had won the gold, but Porterhouse had scooped the silver (for its malty, smoky, bitter, beautifully-structured Brainblasta) and the bronze (for its aromatically malty, grassy, but well-balanced, Red).

Among Keg Ales, the strong Brainblasta was mercifully held to the bronze, while the silver went to the malty, licorice-ish, Rich Ruby, from Dwan's brewery, of Thurles, County Tipperary. The gold was a popular choice: the toasty, cinnamon-ish, Red Biddy, from Inagh, County Clare. This brewpub/micro, called Biddy Early, was established by Peader Garvey, in 1995, and was the first new-generation producer of craft beer in the Republic. Peader died 18 months ago, but his son Neil now runs the brewery, and was present to collect his award at the Porterhouse.

Porterhouse had swept the board in the Porter and Stout category. The gold went to its Plain Porter (oaky-tasting, and very lively, despite its name), the silver to a special millennium edition (that seemed to me peaty and almost seaweedy), and the bronze to the creamy, spicy, Wrassler's.

Even in the Lager category, Porterhouse won gold, with a brew named after the hop variety Hersbrucker. No amazement there, as this Pilsener-style brew is by far the hoppiest. There was a surprise, though, when it came to the silver. This was won by a new brewery, Comet, from County Cork. No bronze was awarded: flavoursome lagers are not Ireland's strong point.

Published: MAR 17, 2000

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