Trouble Brewing Dark Arts Porter
Trouble Brewing Dark Arts Porter
M y country’s reputation for alcohol precedes it. Irish whiskey and stout have traversed the world, and in almost every corner of the globe you can find an Irish pub. Meanwhile, back home, pubs are the cornerstones of social interaction; the place you go to watch a match, after a funeral and before a wedding; somewhere for a quiet pint or a raucous evening brimming with craic.
Unlike other countries where supermarkets and speciality stores are the main places people buy their beer, according to the Irish Brewers Association’s ‘Beer Market Report,’ Irish people still drink more beer in pubs than anywhere else. And it’s not just Irish people who love our pubs – visiting a pub in Ireland ranks consistently as the top activity for tourists, as well. There is even an industry dedicated to replicating and multiplying the Irish pub outside Ireland.
But while our pubs have undeniable social standing, until recently the variety of beers available in them was surprisingly limited. We Irish are a brand loyal bunch. We use one particular detergent and dish soap and we drink only certain brands of tea – Barry’s, of course! – and bring bags of it on holiday to ensure a comforting cuppa while abroad. When European discount supermarkets first opened in Ireland more than two decades ago, to get people through the doors they had to concede to our brand-loyal ways and make shelf-space for household names amid their own-band products.
In the mid-1980s, the combination of Irish brand loyalty, a rural road network that made distribution challenging, the global consolidation of breweries and a flat economy left Ireland with only a handful of working breweries. Pioneering craft brewers such as Franciscan Well (est. 1998), the Porterhouse Brewpub (est. 1996) and O’Hara’s (est. 1996) appeared on the scene offering beer drinkers their first taste of Irish brewed craft beer, but it took another decade for craft brewing to make a real impact in Ireland.
At the end the new millennium’s first decade, Ireland was in the middle of the worst economic crisis the country had ever seen. Having partied through the excesses of the Celtic Tiger era, Ireland was paying the price and in deep recession, and paradoxically it was here, amid these bleak times, that craft beer really came to the fore.
Simply, people had nothing to lose. There was in the country an appetite for to doing things differently and would-be brewers who had been occupied in other industries now had time on their hands to turn hobbies into businesses. Breweries were popping up in industrial estates and disused buildings all over the country, even right on my doorstep in the tiny County Kildare village of Allenwood.
Little more than a crossroads in the middle of the Bog of Allen, renowned for its biodiversity and home to the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly, in 2009 the area also became home to Trouble Brewing, founded by Stephen Clinch, Paul O’Connor and Thomas Prior. The second beer Trouble ever brewed, and a flagship to this day, was Dark Arts Porter.
Dark Arts single-handily changed the way I think about beer and sparked my enduring love affair with stouts and porters and all of their delicious malty darkness. It has everything I was looking for in a pint: Deep and flavoursome, yet sufficiently light and more-ish that it makes me think about my second when I’m only half-way through my first. Simply put, it is a beer which tastes like more, managing to maintain a delicate, people-pleasing balance, complex enough for the beer nerd yet approachable enough for everyone else. It drinks beautifully through to the last drop, its malty, roasted character mellowing and opening up as it warms in the glass.
Brewed initially as a one-off, Dark Arts was a hit from the moment people tasted it, and since its first batch, the recipe had never even been tweaked. It immediately became a core staple in the brewery’s line-up and helped to reclaim porter as an Irish craft style brewed at small and independent breweries. In a beer landscape where you could be forgiven for thinking there is only one dark beer, or maybe even just one beer, Dark Arts was and remains a revelation.
I am a taste junkie, getting my kicks from trying new things. The stream of new beer releases sates my thrill-seeking palate, but Dark Arts reminds me that beer is for drinking and not designed to be over-analysed or sipped but once.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.