Craft Beer: Pamoja and Henrietta Hen reflect Hillstown's animal instincts

Hillstown offers tastes of the Serengeti and, er, the farm in this pair, Pamoja and Henrietta Hen
Paul McConville

ANYONE with small children will know that an extensive knowledge of farm animals is essential. Whether it's to be able to fully recite Old McDonald's Farm or give alliterative names to soft toy animals, it's always wise to know your donkeys from your ducks.

Co Antrim brewers Hillstown are quite fond of their animals too. In fact, the brewery itself was a farm before it started producing beer. It's recently undergone a bit of rebranding but its agricultural origins get a nod in the names of some of its brews such as Massey Red Ale, Squealing Pig IPA and Drunken Donkey lager. It has even spruced up the labels on its bottles and now offers a couple of its beers in cans.

One of those tinned offerings is called Pamoja, which apparently means collective in Swahili, and is a black IPA which the folks at Hillstown have produced with the help of Middletown Coffee in Ballymena – hence the collaborative moniker.

The result is an intriguingly complex beer that weighs in at a robust 5.6 per cent abv. It pours black with a tan head, looking every inch a porter. It gives of aromas of coffee, a bready malty and there's even a hint of raisin and stone fruits in there.

Dive in and there's a wide range of flavours to pull out. You get coffee, bitter chocolate as well as a peachy, juicy feel too. The canning has definitely helped it retain a nice fresh taste and the carbonation is quite low. A problem with some canned beers is they have sometimes be overly fizzy, but this one has it spot on.

Henrietta Hen is billed as a West Coast IPA and definitely has a lighter feel to it than Pamoja. It pours a golden colour and is slightly cloudy. There are aromas of juicy fruit and lemon peel. There's wonderfully light and crisp feel to it, but there's quite a lot of flavour in their too.

A sweet, almost toffee-like malt base followed by those typically bitter west coast hop flavours with a hint of grapefruit and lemon. A sesssionable ale at 4.7 per cent abv, it also benefits from being canned although the carbonation is a bit livelier on this one.

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