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John Wilson – Irish Times Review Friday 7th August 2015

Take it home: an Irish farmhouse ale and a Portuguese wine

Each week John Wilson selects a great wine and a great beer to try right now. This week: Black Donkey Brewing Sheep Stealer Irish Farmhouse Ale and Dom Rafael 2012

Black Donkey Brewing Sheep Stealer Irish Farmhouse Ale

5.6%

€3.39 for a 500ml bottle.

Black Donkey Brewing is based in  Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon. Richard Siberry and Michaela Dillon returned here from New York, having learnt the art of brewing in their garage.  ‘Next Thursday marks a year since our first sale to the Salt House in Galway,’ says Siberry, ‘ so we’ll be having a tap takeover with our three beers there. The following Friday we will have four on tap in 57 The Headline in Clanbrassil St., including Beyond, our new rye pale ale.’

But it is the Sheep Stealer we look at today. ‘When we launched it people said it wouldn’t take off, but it was a favourite style of mine and we have been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction. It is very accessible, but that doesn’t make it bad. I think it’s where spaghetti or pizza was twenty years ago. People will fall in love with it. I suspect Irish brewers were brewing something similar a hundred years ago, even if it is seen as a Belgian style nowadays.’

The Sheep Stealer is a cloudy, funky Saison, full of  sweet maltiness and peaches with a clean dry citrus finish. Thirst-quenching and moreish, this is one of the best beers I have tasted in quite a while. You can certainly enjoy it with food – mine went very well with a few cheeses – but I would happily sip this solo any day.

If you feel like going one step further, try Buck It, which Siberry describes as a malt-bomb. ‘Buck It is divisive’, he admits. ‘Some people love it, others can’t bear to be in the same room as it. But that’s fine with me – if I had wanted to please everyone I would have made Budweiser!’

Available from specialist off-licences