Black's - Kinsale Craft Brewery is one to watch out for. After meeting Sam Black last year when he was just about to start, I could tell he was passionate and having just spent a weekend with him at the Craft Brewers and Distillers convention in Dublin, I can tell he has some interesting ideas. I'm seeing a parallel with Metalman here. Both started out renting time on an established brewers kit. Metal on the White Gypsy kit and Black's on the 8 Degrees kit. Sam has a kit of his own on the way and within a few months, should be brewing on his own site. That's when things will really get interesting.
So how's the beer? Well thankfully it's good. Sam kindly sent me a bottle to try and I shared it with my wife. We both liked it so that's a good sign. The first thing I will mention, I expect there will be a change in bottle design soon as the brewery logo seems to be now emphasising Black's rather than Kinsale. It's probably a good marketing idea as Kinsale is a little too generic and if another brewery opens up in Kinsale, things might get confusing.
Black's has just launched a crowd funding campaign, a kickstarter if you will. As usual with these campaigns, you are not simply giving him money. You get something back, be it T-shirts, name on a fermenter, other swag etc. Right up to brewing your own batch of beer. At the time of writing, he has €345 out of the €5000 he is looking for. Let's see if we can help push that up somewhat.
Anyway, enough digressing, on with the beer. What we have here is not quite your typical Irish Pale Ale. For one thing, it uses citra hops. This is a wonderful but dangerous hop to use. Too much and the beer tends to have an ammonia aroma. Think cat piss and you get the idea. This especially happens when you single hop it with citra. When used intelligently and blended with other hops, you get some wonderful citrus aromas and flavours. Think passion fruit and gooseberries. There's no mistaking that citra plays a large part in Kinsale. There is the initial waft of ammonia but it's not off-putting because of the bouquet of citrus fruits.
There's a big hop feel to this beer as it's rather bitter, more so than many other 5% ABV pale ales brewed in Ireland, so be prepared for it. If you aren't in to very bitter beers, this is exactly the beer to seek to ease yourself in to it because while the bitterness is up front at first, it then quickly starts to be interlaced with the strong citric fruit flavours and aromas and your mind soon forgets the bitterness, though it does linger throughout.
The one danger of big hop beers is that they will lose their hop aroma quickly so you want to buy this, and any big hop beer when it's fresh.
I'm really looking forward to trying the kegged version of this.
One thing I will say to Sam is that while this beer is excellent, I see on the website that the beers coming soon are a red ale and a stout. Whatever about stouts, Ireland doesn't need another red ale on shelves. At least, not a normal one. The term "needs more hops" is one that many beer geeks bandy around. Throw a load of hops in to the red because these are the interesting beers that people want. The rich caramel and toffee of a red ale with the hopping of an IPA. There are many obvious established commercial examples of this.
So there we have it, one of the wave of new craft breweries hitting Ireland and more importantly, the beer is good folks!