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Craft beer: Warrenpoint brewer bringing it all back home from Belgium

Damme fine – Siphon Brewery's Damme Nation is a 7.5 per cent IPA with a unique Belgian slant

WITH a trio of major golf winners and with the population of a small US state, Northern Ireland got slapped with the cheeky moniker of world golf capital a few years ago.

Well, if concentration of talent is a yardstick, then Warrenpoint could lay claim to being some sort of beer capital. The small south Down seaside town is of course home to Mourne Mountains brewery, but more on that later.

One of the town’s sons, Breandán Kearney, wore the blue of St Peter’s GAC and played senior football for Down, having been part of the county’s All-Ireland minor winning side of 1999. However, his path since then has taken him, via a career as solicitor, to Damme in Belgium where he now runs a brewery on the grounds of a four-generations-old family restaurant.

With two Belgian beer aficionados, Breandán, also an award-winning beer writer, has been brewing beer at Siphon Brewery for just over a year and now many of their beers are available in Ireland.

I grabbed a couple last week to see how the old world of Belgian beer making was getting on with the new world of the craft beer scene (Belgian beer has always been beautifully crafted, to be fair).

Damme Nation is a great example of this. A 7.5 per cent IPA with a unique Belgian slant. It has all the juicy, hoppy flavour you’d expect from the American-inspired style, but also has a sweet malt backbone with notes of caramel which gives it some characteristic European body.

To mark the brewery’s first birthday recently, they also knocked out a few celebratory brews. One was a 5.5 per cent rauchbier called Stinker. A rauchbier is a traditionally German beer in which the malt is smoked to give it a unique smokey taste. This is a fine example of the style – there’s a smokey, meaty taste, almost like pepperoni. There’s also a hint of sweetness and spice to it, but the flavours are subtle and not overpowering. It would pair well with grilled meats or soft strong cheeses.

CLOSER to home, Warrenpoint-based Mourne Mountains have recently released a 4 per cent rye amber ale called Clan Rye (a reference to the river that runs through Newry and meets the sea in ‘the Point’). There are aromas of toffee and fruit, with nice roasty and fruity flavours and a hint of spice before a lovely hoppy finish.

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