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Craft beer: Ballykilcavan Brewery's Millhouse IPA, Line Blocker and Secret Passion

Secret Passion, definitely my favourite, perhaps because I quaffed it on a particularly warm day
Paul McConville

SELF-sufficiency is all the rage these days. We're all cooped up in our homes for most of the day, apart from that weekly jaunt to the shops when we need to stock up on all the supplies we need for the week (the beer, we can get online, thankfully).

Making do with what we have has led to an explosion in breadmaking, quite literally in some cases, with some over-adventurous would-be bakers getting a bit eager with a sourdough starter. I must admit, I have been complicit, knocking out loaves of wheaten bread at a steady rate.

I slow-cooked a ham too and when I was placing a slice of the leftovers on to a piece of my freshly baked wheaten the next day, I marvelled at my accomplishment in self-sufficiency.

Turns out, though, I had nothing on the folks in the Ballykilcavan Brewery, tranquilly tucked away not far from Electric Picnic country in Stradbally, Co Laois. Given that there has been a working family farm on the site since the 17th century, it's fair to say they have come to brewing relatively late, but they were already well equipped for making beer when the brewery was established in about six years ago.

One thing they have going for them is that they grow their own award-winning barley, which they use in their beers, and they also have a small, but expanding hop garden. They are fiercely proud of their barley and it is a vital ingredient in their beers, a few of which I tried out recently.

First up was their Millhouse IPA, which is beautifully sinkable 3.5 per cent session IPA. It's light and crisp, with a refreshing citrus and piney bite to it.

Next up was Line Blocker, a 4.9 per cent American-style IPA which had a bit more body to it. Hazy amber in the glass, it has some juicy and grassy aromas. The malt flavour is sweet and biscuity before a nice dose of bold, fruity flavours and a resinous, piney and bitter finish.

The third one I tried was definitely my favourite, perhaps because I quaffed it on a particularly warm day. Secret Passion is pale ale with peach and passion fruit.

Adding fruit to the brew can be risky as the sweetness could dominated the beer. No such problems here, though, as the fruit flavours are well balanced and, if anything, understated. That all combines to make a refreshing and highly drinkable ale, which packs a considerable punch at 6.5 per cent.

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