Beer: Autumn bitterness

Five Candles bitter
Paul McConville

LONG before I had even shown the slightest inclination towards beer (mainly due to my young age), I thought a pint of bitter was something you could only get in the Rovers Return, with Newton Ridley being the sole purveyors of ‘best' or ‘special'.

This brown beer seemed a quintessentially English drink, ubiquitously served in a dimpled pint glass with a handle and supped by men in flat caps in between games of darts.

It's a style whose slightly fusty image saw it almost bypassed during the new wave of hipster craft beers of hop-crammed IPAs or impossibly sweet pastry stouts.

However, it has reared its head among that wide gamut and indeed had its own sub sections long before there were suddenly 257 different types of IPA.

Of course, the trend of applying ironic connotations with once mundane things (see Pabst Blue Ribbon if you are of an American persuasion) have seen bitter make something of a resurgence in the craft beer scene.

Sligo-based brewers Lough Gill were perhaps ahead of the curve five years ago when the first beer they brewed – Thieving Bastards – leant heavily towards the English bitter style.

Bitter itself falls into the broader pale ale family and can be anything from light right up to premium and even golden ale can fall into the ‘bitter' category.

To mark their fifth birthday, Lough Gill revisited that first brew and tweaked it a bit to come with Five Candles, one more than the classic Two Ronnies sketch.

Five Candles is an extra special bitter, clocking in at 5 per cent abv. It pours an almost mahogany colour in the glass (which of course had to be of the dimpled variety Jack Duckworth may have clung lovingly to, much to the chagrin of long-suffering Vera).

There's a slight, off white head and the dominant aroma is of the sweet toffee malt which becomes the dominant flavour once this one washes over the palate. It has a smooth, easy drinking quality with a thin mouthfeel, but there is a fairly bitter bite to it as well and slightly floral undertones.

It's definitely a drink for malt fans and very much an autumnal sup which can accompany a piping hot serving of Betty's Hotpot before a game of arrows.

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