Food & drink

Craft Beer: The year's best brews

Paul McConville


No Comma Before Please from Boundary was Paul's 'beer of the year'


WHEN the end of the year comes, I generally get a bit anxious that I haven't been paying enough attention to what I've been drinking through the year to deliver a faithful summation of it all.

Some years I'm able to pick out the best of broad styles and slap an imaginary award on those that have excelled in each category. This year, I've tried to enjoy many beers without getting too hung up on styles, and have documented three of my faves in ascending order.

I must also take this opportunity to point out some highlights of the year in terms of the wider availability of quality, fresh craft beer.

Bullhouse East opened its doors on Belfast's Newtownards Road while Boundary took over the taps at the John Hewitt pub in Donegall Street.

Selling directly to their customers has always been a struggle for local producers, so hopefully this will broaden the opportunities for brewers to provide choice and quality to the consumers – let's hope that this can spread to the sticks in the years to come.

And so to my top three for the year. Once again, this is purely subjective and owes more to what I've been able to get my hands on rather than a wider consensus in the local beer world.


Trifecta from Dead Centre Brewery



Billed as a 'herb beer', this dark brown ale is a lesson in complexity. Malt profiles of toffee and wholegrain bread, a zesty aroma and a warming feeling thanks to the added ginger, it has also been aged in rum barrels to give it a nice, smooth sweetness.

It clocked in at a hefty 8.3 per cent and definitely feels like a great big hug of a beer.


Cosmik Debris from Mourne Mountains Brewery



A 4.5 per cent pale ale brewed with Kviek yeast, this was a welcome summer refreshment. Loads of punchy tropical flavours of mango, pineapple and peach all with the pillowy softness this unique yeast brings.


No Comma Before Please from Boundary was Paul's 'beer of the year'



That this was my favourite beer of the year owes a great deal to the setting. Don't get me wrong, this would knock it out of the park at any time in any place, but sitting in the Caribou Bar, sipping on a half pint (it's a 10 per center, folks) while playing backgammon with my eternally better half made this a blissful experience.

The beer itself is an imperial stout brewed with chipotle, coconut and vanilla, with neither one of them making an intrusive case for being the dominant flavour.

This is, of course, one of its many strengths. It rather takes you on a bit of a flavour journey. Standard imp stout characteristics are up front – bitter chocolate, coffee, burnt toast and that smack of relatively high alcohol.

Then comes the gentle warming of the chipotle over the sweetness of the coconut before the subtle smoothness of the vanilla helps it effortlessly down.

A happy and peaceful New Year to you all and may you enjoy many great beers in 2023. Sláinte.

Food & drink