Food & drink

Craft Beer: Wild tasting Land & Labour's Crimson makes a big impression

Paul McConville

THE best things come to those who wait. That may have been a well-used slogan for Ireland's most famous beer, but for the independent brewers of the island, it is equally pertinent.

Since Hilden Brewery first reared its head in Lisburn 40 years ago, the craft beer movement was otherwise non-existent for a couple of decades before suddenly springing into life.

This isn't a column about the growth of craft beer in Ireland, rather a look at how patience can be a virtue when it comes to catering for an ever-more discerning palate.

Galway Bay is a relative old stager, coming on the scene in 2009, but head brewer Tom Delaney's side project is the very epitome of patience.

Land & Labour is a dedicated spontaneous and wild fermenting operation which seeks to replicate the centuries old Belgian tradition in the west of Ireland.

Wild fermentation can bring a varied range of tastes and smells, so it's essential that it goes hand in hand with expert blending to achieve a consistency across a batch.

Of course, to achieve real depth of flavour, you need to rely on a hefty bit of ageing, hence the requirement for patience.

I got my hands on Land & Labour's latest offering Crimson last week, after unsuccessfully seeking out their beers for some time, but finding them sold out almost as soon as they become available.

There's no prizes for guessing what colour Crimson pours in the glass. That bright red beacon beams out thanks to the mix of cherries and raspberries and a painstaking process of ageing and blending.

More specifically it's a 5.5 per cent kriek framboise blend, borrowing a bit from each Belgian tradition. Year-old beer is aged for a further six months on sour cherries while another batch of spontaneously fermented on raspberries.

The resulting blend is three-quarters cherry to a quarter raspberries, with a serious depth of flavour.

The raspberry helps to offset the sourness of the cherries, but there's just enough to illicit a refreshing 'ahh'.

With a beer that's spent so much time hidden away from the world, there is a surprising amount of freshness to the fruit flavour, so much so that you get the same tingle on the tongue as if you had chomped into a fresh raspberry.

There's little hints of sherbet and a little bit of the tart and vinous profile you'd expect from a lambic.

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Food & drink