If you know me at all, this might seem like a bit of an unusual post, considering I am 100% not a beer drinker. So why, you may ask, was I frequenting a pop-up Guinness Open House Brewery event on a Wednesday evening? Part of it was all about the curiosity about an exciting new move for the bars of Belfast, but the other was completely sold on three simple words: artisan food market.
Given that it’s Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, it came as no surprise that a Guinness event would be pretty well catered for, but to say that they went to town on their food offerings is an understatement. On entry, each of us received three drinks vouchers and eight food vouchers to allow us to sample each of the food and drink options that were scattered across the Golden Thread Gallery. In typical NI fashion, the food was supplied by a number of notable local suppliers, who had set up stalls to showcase their product for the occasion. The foodie inside me will go into rapture about the mouthwatering morsels that have me salivating as I write this post in just a moment, but given that this was a Guinness event, it’s probably about time that I explained what it was all in aid of.
Essentially, fans of Guinness or recent visitors to the brewery might already know that they have recently opened the doors to their ‘Open House Brewery’, an experimental brewery that has existed on site for around a century. It’s a little bit like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, except for ale – they experiment, they tweak old recipes, and they play with flavours to create new ones, and you can now try them for yourself on a trip to the brewery, including the 1516 Pilsner, Chocolate and Vanilla Stout and Strawberry Porter. But as if that wasn’t already good enough, Guinness have taken one step further and saved us the train journey, by installing Guinness Open Gate taps in a number of Belfast taps, which will rotate their new experimental brews on a bimonthly basis, starting with the Rye Pale Ale.
Eager to get the full experience from the event, I took my chances and sampled the Rye Pale Ale. I don’t know a thing about beer, but I do know that this was light, didn’t leave that horrible beer taste in my mouth, and was very easy to drink. Having enjoyed that one, I also tried the Botanical Ale, which was recommended to me on the premise that it’s the one that tastes most like gin – I definitely got a hint of gin, and could see where they were going with this one, but I could definitely tell that it was a little heavier than the Rye Pale Ale.
Now that you’ve had a full run down of the food, it is time to move onto the food – my favourite part! As I mentioned before, dotted across the gallery were a range of food suppliers, including Zak’s Bakehouse, Broughgammon Farm, Doughzy Doughnuts, Mount Cheese, and Mourne Seafood Bar. I made full use of my food tokens and tried just about everything on the menu, even trying some with the suggested beer pairings – they’ll make a beer drinker out of me yet! I couldn’t possibly pick favourites as I enjoyed every morsel. The chocolate sourdough from Zak’s Bakehouse was perfectly balanced, not too sweet with just a hint of chocolate; the goat tacos were an interesting explosion of flavours, but definitely in a good way; the cheeses put me in the mood for wine; and as for the desserts, who could go wrong with a Guinness doughnut from Doughzy Doughnuts and some honeycomb ice cream courtesy of Draynes Farm? It certainly wasn’t a good night for the diet, but with food like that, who cares!
All in all, this was a great way to launch an exciting new product for the city. If they can convert a non beer drinker to the Rye Pale Ale, then their new tap is set to be a roaring success. If you would like to try it for yourself, you can view the list of bars involved here.