The Irish Times Magazine - - DRINK - SOR­CHA HAMIL­TON

Can you make a beer with­out hops? That’s the way they used to do it, says Peter Curtin of the Bur­ren Brew­ery in Lis­doon­va­rna, Co Clare. “Prior to the 1500s . . . Grut beer was the only beer,” he says.

Beer made with herbs – be­fore hops were dis­cov­ered for their qual­i­ties of bit­ter­ing and flavour­ing – was called grut, and Curtin re­cently brewed his own, unique ver­sion of this an­cient style made with yeast har­vested from the wilds of the Bur­ren.

“I specif­i­cally went to a spot that’s called the hill of the fairies,” Curtin ex­plains, sit­ting at one of the long benches in the Bur­ren Store­house bar, where pipes stretch up into the ceil­ing to con­nect to the tanks in the brew­ery. We’ve been served a spe­cial dish of duck cooked on the wood- fired grill to pair with Curtin’s new sea­sonal beer called Eupho­ria.

Curtin de­scribes how he left the wort in the Bur­ren “for five days and five nights”, grew it up, had it lab- tested and then used the yeast for his new sea­sonal beer. He en­listed the ex­per­tise of herbal­ist Lisa Guinan to se­lect a va­ri­ety of herbs in­clud­ing le­mon ver­bena, lime blos­som, yar­row, and rose­mary.

The re­sult­ing beer is a lit­tle like a Bel­gian Lam­bic sour, with a de­li­ciously light, re­fresh­ing body with some earthy flavours bal­anced with a cit­rusy, clean fin­ish. Curtin, who says it has a mild eu­phoric ef­fect, calls it “the happy beer”.

The Bur­ren Brew­ery was last year one of three Ir­ish brew­eries listed in the Lonely Planet’s Global Craft Beer Guide, along­side Gal­way Bay and Fran­cis­can Well in Cork. It was founded in 2011 in the Road­side Tav­ern, which has been in the Curtin fam­ily since 1893, while next door is their fa­mous Bur­ren Smoke­house. On draught you’ll get their lager, red ale and the ex­cel­lent Bur­ren stout to pair with hot- smoked salmon or a bowl of one of the finest chow­ders on this is­land.

@ ITbeerista beerista@ irish­times. com

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