What's up in Northern Ireland?

Matt Dick, brewer and founder at Boundary Brewing Coop (picture was taken from here).

I still hadn't had the chance to get myself any beer from the rising scene in Northern Ireland. It was the same person who had enthusiastically told me about what was beggining to happen up there, fellow blogger Steve Lamond, who at the last edition of the European Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference in Brussels brought me three bottles from a young cooperative microbrewery based in Belfast: Boundary Brewing.

"For five years, the brewing scene has exponentially been growing, with more than twenty breweries today"

Looking at several of the books in my library, it was quite significant to see that one after another repeatedly missed to mention the northeastern part of the island of Ireland. Where there had basically been an absolute market dominance by two giants like Guinness and Bass, only small breweries like Hilden from the 80s, or later Whitewater had proposed an alternative; although they mostly played a residual role.

But just as it has happened with their southern neighbours, in barely five years the beer scene has exponentially grown in number of participants in the industry. 2014 and 2015 have been particularly prolific in terms of new businesses and variety of beers, so that the current number of beer brands is around twenty, most of which with their own brewery. A remarkable number, considering that Northern Ireland has only 200,000 more inhabitants than Barcelona city.

One of these newcomers are the Boundary Brewing Coop, founded in August 2014 by Matthew Dick and Matthew Scrimgeour. Dick spent five years of brewing passion in America working in a brewpub. On his return to Northern Ireland in 2010, the alarming lack of beer alternatives made him start up several projects such as the Beer Club Belfast, Belfast's National Homebrew Club or Brewbot. His latest initiative was the one that made him join the other Matt, a passionate advocate of the cooperative business model as a sustainable alternative to traditional societies.

"All three beers are intended to be regularly consumed by the public, not just sampled"

But the Matts are not alone in this project: as well as all the members of the cooperative -which nowadays has a waiting list for future new investors- they're joined by a team of professionals dedicated to various aspects of the company, necessary to provide professionalism to the their business (from brewers to photographers, as well as more operational profiles). They avoid the one-man orchestra model that we all know so well in these southern latitudes.

Beerwise, Boundary has a core range of beers comprising their American Pale Ale, India Pale Ale and Export Stout. I will never tire of saying that I can see no logical reason for a brewery not have a basic range of beers. So here's my remark, again. They also make some special editions and collaborations, two of them with the renowned Galway Bay Brewery, from Ireland. After tasting Boundary's three base beers, I can say that I had good sensations with each of them.

Close look at the artistic labels of the three beers.

The American Pale Ale is a highly drinkable beer with its 3.5% ABV, in line with current trends with a strong hop profile, but without forgetting the malty part, and with a permanent but nice butter touch. Is there any new brewery with no IPA in its ranks? In Belfast it works like this too, and Boundary's India Pale Ale points to more contemporary drinkers with its bet on citrusy hops and a generous malt base. With 7% ABV, it tastes like its little sister, but two times stronger. Finally, the Export Stout plays with its toasted and chocolate notes, in conjunction with a soft touch of mint that recalls after-eight, and a background of red fruit.

They all had a common denominator in their will to be just tasty and fine beer, without stridencies or eccentricities, keeping in mind that they should be consumed on a regular basis by the public, not only sampled. In any case, I hope to try more Boundary brews in the future, keeping alert from now on with what is happening in this young but powerful beer scene from Northern Ireland.

To end with the writing today, I want to say thanks to Steve for this great gift, which has motivated me to explore and read more about other local brewing scenes and their context. Now that's one of the great things of traveling and sharing good times with people from other cultures.

Salut i birra!


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