Craft beer: Heaney's Digital Leash and I Can See The Stars two Bellaghy crackers
THE first reaction when you see pictures on social media of people cramming up parks in central London is to gasp in horror. "How could those people be so inconsiderate?"
However, with a little bit of reflection it is hard not to feel sympathy for people who don't have the luxury of self-isolating without even a patch of earth to call their own.
Splendid isolation is far out of reach for densely packed cities, but if you are lucky enough to enjoy the wide expanses of the countryside and if social distancing comes as easy to you as ABC (well, unless you're homeschooling a P1) then there's really only one thing to do – brew great beer.
That's the lot of Heaney head brewer Mal McCay in their south Derry oasis of Bellaghy at the minute. Since setting up in their spiritual home after a period of cuckooing in Boundary in east Belfast, the Heaney output hasn't missed a beat.
That's not to say they haven't been affected by the lockdown. Mal tells me that a new distribution arrangement had their beers set to sail the Irish Sea for the glad lips of England's imbibers. Brakes have been put on that, but they have still managed to knock out a couple of crackers for the faithful home market, which Mal was kindly sent my way.
First up was Digital Leash. A 6.5 per cent limited-edition IPA, whose name is a nod to our over-reliance on digital devices. The label invites us to unplug and kick back with this Galaxy and Amarillo-hopped ale. A few quick glugs and you'd be chucking the smartphone and laptop into the nearest skip if it meant this was the reward for eschewing said digital leash.
It's murky in the glass and the sharp citrus and juicy aromas signal what's ahead. There is a refreshing whack of grapefruit at the start, then a juicy hunk of pineapple and a few more tropical tastes with a little bitter bite at the end.
Next up was I Can See The Stars, an 11 per cent imperial stout brewed in collaboration with their old landlords on Belfast's Newtownards Road. The name and deep dark appearance of this beer are nods to the street-light-pollution-free blanket of black sky which hangs over the brewery in Bellaghy.
It's quite smooth for an 11 per center, but rich with it too although not overly boozy for an impy stout.