I like a sour beer and look out for them in bars, bottle shops and festivals. This week I took delivery of Beann Gulban, an Irish Heather Sour ale from the White Hag brewery in Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland. This is not just any sour but a beer made in the style that dates back to Neolithic times commonly known as a Gruit. A Gruit refers to a spice mix that is added to a beer as a bittering agent and flavouring before hops became popular from around the 17th century. Neolithic man had been planting and harvesting crops and at some point he learned the art of fermentation and brewing. Analysis of pots found on Neolithic sights bears evidence of this practise. Heather is a common plant in Ireland and would have been used to add bitterness at the brewing stage and sweetness when added later.
Beann Gulban uses the heather to add sweetness to balance the malts and ageing in French red wine barrels to softens the beer.
Pouring the beer into a snifter glass allows the aromas and flavours to open up. The colour is amber to red and carries only a slight head which dissipates quickly. The aroma is fruity and tart with floral notes and a hint of malt. The body is medium light, I would have expected more with a strength of 7.5% ABV, but the flavour is full and complex. A strong hit of sourness fills the mouth and follows with a fruity after-taste of sour raspberry and cherry giving wonderful tartness, a little caramel coming from the malt, and I presume from the red wine barrel, with a hint of the wine notes, which is not pronounced. This is an exciting sour which Beann Gulban has delivered very well.
I have limited stock available at Angels Cut so if you get the chance this beer is definitely worth tasting!
Written by Angels Cut owner, Les Fry