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NICE is a horrible word

21 August 2015

'Nice', 'grand', 'fine'. These words pepper the Northern Irish lexicon, they sound positive enough but often times they are a polite way of saying 'nothing to get excited about', that the thing in question is pleasant but nothing memorable. Time and again I'll ask a customer what they thought of a beer, at this point the superlatives for Sorachi Ace or Rochefort 10 are quickly running out. But too often I hear the word 'nice' when it comes to local beer, there's just not the same enthusiasm.

 

So what's the reason? For a long time the biggest comment passed on what customers wanted from local beer was simple: variety. Pure, good old fashioned choice. We couldn't begin to count the amount of folks who have approached us with a golden ale/lager, an IPA and a stout/porter. Some have been poor, some have been ok and some have been really quite good. The problem is that there's too much of the same thing. I remember one conversation I had when a brewer asked "but does the average punter know what a double IPA is?" and I don't see what the problem is. You don't need to know what something is to determine whether or not you like the taste of it, and this is indicative of an attitude that needs changing here. I'll just as quickly recommend a bottle of 3 Fonteinen as I will a bottle of Brooklyn Lager to someone new to craft beer, beers are recommended on flavour, not how niche they are and you know what? It seems to work well. From the lady who bought a mixed case for her husband only to discover she loves lambics to the stalwart Coor's drinker who now walks out with an armful of saisons when he's in.

Thankfully though there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic, more bars and off sales are filling the fridges and shelves with craft. We've thoroughly enjoyed the headache of running out of space for the plethora of new beers added on a weekly basis. What about the brewers themselves? There's Darren at Poker Tree who released a Belgian wit with cranberries and spruce tips (for any who missed getting one of the 1500 bottles trust me, it was beyond terrific). Matt and the folks at Boundary are another shining light, already with a collaborative berliner weisse, not to mention the plethora of barrels they have sitting in the brewery (you heard that right, barrel aged craft beer in NI will happen). There are forward thinking, adventurous brewers here, make no mistake.

Meet the brewer events are another new addition to the local beer scene with local brewers interacting with the public to the best from around the world like To Øl AND Beavertown. The public here are getting to have a fuller appreciation of what exactly good, and great, beer should be. Then we had recently ABV fest, held in the incredible setting of the Titanic Drawing Offices, an event it's hosts Felicia, Darren Matt and Michael should be very proud of. It brought to beer drinkers here the complete experience of everything that is great about craft beer, from the local efforts like Darren's fabulously titled Adam and Steve, a nod to the marriage equality movement, all the way to the keg of Unhuman Cannonball from England's Magic Rock that got poured. Certainly it was promising to see local brewers mix with their international counterparts, and who knows what collaborations will be borne from it and future years of the festival?

With all the positives to look at it I've no doubt it won't be long until drinkers have more to say than just 'nice'.

Stephen.

 

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