Craft Beer: Simcoe Simon and Electric stout show Beerhut relish a leftfield collab

Beerhut Brewing Co's Simcoe Simon

CRAFT beer. It's become a bit of a problem term for some people. Basically, it's become the catch-all term for beer that's not brewed by the big boys. But what happens when the independent brewers grow beyond their humble beginnings and threaten the mainstream? Well, that's for another day.

Craft will have to do for now and there are few breweries that epitomise that word than Beerhut Brewing Co in Kilkeel. Tucked away amid the foothills of the Mournes, the brewery has been a busy place over the last 12 months or so, knocking out some fantastic beers. But before anything was actually brewed, beer nuts Andrew McBride and Neil Chambers were using their skills as plumbers and joiners to knock the place into shape.

They've applied those skills to making beer and I grabbed another couple of their creations in the Drink Link in Newry, having enjoyed their Sea Salt IPA a couple of months ago.

Towards the tail end of last year, Beer Hut teamed up with prolific YouTube beer reviewer Simon Martin, whose Real Ale Craft Beer channel has racked up over four million views, to produce a New England IPA.

Simcoe Simon, which clocks in 6.5 per cent, is a beautifully hazy, juicy beer. It pours a murky dark amber colour, and keeps its fluffy white head throughout, thanks to the flaked oats in the grain bill. It's got great aromas of mango, papaya and peach and there's loads of juicy, tropical flavours on the palate, as well as a nice bitter finish.

The guys at Beer Hut obviously love a good leftfield collab, as their Electric Stout proves. For this, they teamed up with Ruach Music, which is a company specialising in handmade musical instruments. So what do they bring to the party? Well, when you consider this an imperial barrel-aged stout, the answer is wood. The beer has been infused with hardwood shavings left over from the crafting (there's that word again) of musical instruments.

That comes across from the aroma once this jet black stout is poured into the glass. It has a thin, off-white head and clocks in at a hefty 8.5 per cent. But the strength doesn't overpower – it has a smooth, woody taste with flavours of dried fruit and chocolate coming through. This, a bowl of stew and a roaring fire would be a cracking St Patrick's weekend hat-trick.

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