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Patreon’s Choice #4: Boundary Brewing

This is the fourth in a series of posts with notes on beers chosen for us by our Patreon subscribers. (If you want bonus posts and to steer what we write about sign up for the price of half-a-pint per month.)

The Beer Nut (Twitter, must-read blog) suggested that we try some beers from Boundary, a brewing company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland:

They’ve been on my “Hmm, not sure” list for a while, even as their recipes get more and more ambitious. I don’t see many of their beers where I live and am curious as to how they’re getting on.

Here’s how Boundary describes itself on its website:

We are a Cooperative Brewery in Belfast owned and run by our members. Opening our doors in 2014, we are the first brewery in NI to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers.

What this seems to mean in practice is some variation on crowdfunding whereby investors of various sizes invest in and co-own the company, in exchange for beer and parties, with the promise of interest and dividends “when it is appropriate”.

We bought our selection of their beer via Beer Ritz online and tackled them in ascending order of alcoholic strength (up the ladder) as is our usual approach.

Four beers from Boundary in their glasses.

First came the American Pale Ale at 3.5% ABV and £2.53 per 330ml bottle. Unfortunately, this was what we’d call an outright dud. There was a dab of acid, the spectre of some malt flavour, and then a long trudge through papery, saliva-like, watery nothingness. At the end we thought we detected a faint chilli-like burn that we’re fairly certain wasn’t supposed to be there. We wished for it to be more bitter, more fruity, boozier, or even sweeter — just more something.

Next came G.O.A.T. which is billed as a New England IPA at 4.8% and £2.77 per 330ml. This one, at least, had a pleasing aroma — that have-an-Outspan, electric air-freshener zap you get from Cloudwater or BrewDog takes on this style. It looked like a textbook NEIPA, too, which is to say distinctly overcast, and lurking somewhere between grey and green. The flavour was a let down, though, reminding us distinctly of the time we tried to make a German-style wheat beer with dried ale yeast. The word we kept using was dirty. We struggled to finish this one and, indeed, didn’t.

The bigger NEIPA in the set, Forever Ago, has an ABV of 6% and cost £3.13 for 330ml. This had less aroma than G.O.A.T. and was also less hazy. It had a really rough foretaste — it actually made us say, “Ugh!” — with some off-putting sourness, too. There was some apricot or mango in there but, again, not enough to drown out the bum notes or sell the beer. Perhaps this might have been better if we’d drunk it the week it was bottled but it had a best before date of August 2018 so surely shouldn’t have tasted so completely exhausted.

Finally, Export Stout at 7% cost £3.43 per 330ml and — thank goodness as we are beginning to feel mean — was very decent. A hint of acidity here works to underline a sour cherry character, which in turn harmonises with a dusty, musty dark chocolate truffle character. We might have preferred more body and sweetness but, without them, it pulls of the trick of seeming vaguely Belgian. Was there even, perhaps, a hint of Brettanomyces in action? We would generally expect a bit more from a beer at this strength and price but we enjoyed it and would certainly try other dark beers from Boundary.

11 replies on “Patreon’s Choice #4: Boundary Brewing”

We came across Boundary Export Stout and also Gift – an 8% imperial stout – in a bar last week. Having not seen them before, we thought we would give them a go.

We tried both, but I have to say both were underwhelming. We both agreed the export stout was our preferred beer but that neither was noteworthy. It sounds like this is a brewery that has some work to do.

I’m a cooperative member and boy they really can be a bit of a frustrating brewery at times. The APA to me has been a dud since its inception 3 years ago, and the GOAT hasn’t been much better even though it’s a much more recent one. That said though I actually have had some decent experiences with the Forever Ago, though I did notice some inconsistencies.

They’re a sort of top heavy brewery where I end up liking a lot of their specials, but their regulars I leave well alone. Like their Screwball, a raspberry vanilla emm, thing, I think is a lovely beer, I’ve always had time for their stronger stouts, and some of their Push and Pull IPAs can be rather good! But yeah, they’ve a lot of work to do.

Relevant to your interests though, the one time I really did enjoy the APA was when they accidentally chucked a bunch of brett in it and it resulted in a very tasty funky little number.

Not tried them and based on review not worth me leaving this pub to walk ten minutes to beer ritz, boundary largely operating in a tiny home market with little competition perhaps not quite ready for the beer geek saturated UK mainland. Also worth noting you two have never really got into neipa so wouldn’t expect too much excitement from you for set of four including two neipas.

“Tiny home market with little competition” – do you mean they are actually managing to sell this stuff around Belfast? There’s quite a lot of breweries around Scotland (and no doubt England and Wales) for whom that would be an enormous doorstep market. And afiak the vast bulk of small Scottish breweries are turning out at least drinkable beers (and often a lot better than just “drinkable”) so there is no excuse for Boundary being, it sounds, just largely incompetent. I reckon that if you are still, to be charitable, highly variable after six months, never mind three years, it might be time to consider whether you should be brewing at all. And that’s without evening mentioning the prices. Craft beer mugging.

A real problem in Northern Ireland is a lack of experience in commercial brewing for almost every single person who has started a brewery there (Northbound being the only example of a former pro brewer I can think of off the top of my head), which has resulted in widespread consistency problems (at least where natural aptitude for brewing falls short). In spite of this they’re still well supported as part of a rather intense sort of localism. For a period of maybe a year or more I was putting almost 1 in 2 of a certain brewery’s bottles down the sink whenever I was bold enough to give them another shot, and yet their stuff was still flying off the shelves in the off licence. The level of inconsistency they had then I suspect would close certain breweries in England, and yet they remain popular to this day. On a side note, Scottish beers outside of Harviestoun and Williams Bros have surprisingly poor distribution in Northern Ireland, Fallen would perhaps be the next most common but that’s about it.

Forgetting Scottish breweries though, Southern Irish breweries vastly show up Northern Irish brewing in terms of overall quality and consistency, we’ve a hell of a lot of catching up to do.

Interesting. Had Forever ago a couple of times (beer festival last summer and bottle a few months later) and enjoyed on both occasions. Possibly issues with consistency?

I remember studying their prospectus when they were starting to raise funds. Their figures were a wild optimistic fantasy. They envisaged (if I recall correctly) having four or five paid employees based on a 2.5bbl kit. I expect hard economic realities became apparent very rapidly. They were however very good at selling themselves and the plan.

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