Take it home: Bog Hopper Hairy Bullocks and a little not so sweet one

Each week, John Wilson selects a great beer and wine to try right now. This week: an American Pale Ale and Dolcetto d’Asti 2014

Bog Hopper Hairy Bullocks American Pale Ale

I was seated at the bar in McGrory’s of Culdaff, pondering what to drink. James the barman, suggested I try a brand new craft beer, ‘the only one produced on Inishowen’. Until now, the excellent Kinnegar, brewed on the next peninsula, was the nearest craft brewer. The Hairy Bullocks was very good, full of citrus hops with a lovely bite, and plenty of character.

Bog Hopper was set up very recently by David Mullan and his wife Áine, and Hairy Bullocks is their first release. ‘So far the reaction has been good’, says David. ‘We didn’t really know what to expect. We only got our licence in early December, so it is very early days. Some pubs have taken to it with gusto, others just took in a few bottles to try. A few are running out of it every few days, and to be honest, I’ve been firefighting to keep everyone supplied. We launched at a busy time of year for everyone, so we’ll go back to talk everyone in January’. At the moment, it is available in SuperValu and Costcutters in Carndonagh, and SuperValu and Gill’s in Buncrana.‘I would love to have a beer that you have to come to Inishowen to buy, but I am not sure if that is commercially viable’.

Mullan, a software engineer, worked on the administrative side of things at Pyramid breweries in California. He caught the bug, and got to know the guys who did the brewing. ‘American Pale Ale is my favourite style of beer from living on the west coast of America for a few years, so we started with that’ he says. ‘I wanted to make a beer that wasn’t too extreme but still interesting.’ Next up is Dirty Chick, ‘an over-hopped American  style pilsner,’ according to Mullan. I returned to McGrory’s the following night  and asked for another bottle of  Hairy Bullocks. Sadly it had run out. It seems the locals know a good thing when they come across it.


Dolcetto d’Asti 2014, Marks & Spencer

Italy makes a mind-boggling array of  fascinating, individual wines. They are almost impossible to classify and must be a nightmare to market. But it means that wine-lovers can delve into a infinite number of wonderful quirky wines, often at mouth-watering prices. Today’s bottle is one such wine. Dolcetto is something of a misnomer; translated it means little sweet one, but Dolcetto is certainly not a sweet wine. It is bright and fresh with tangy damson fruits. Producers like it because it ripens much earlier than the other two grapes of Piedmont, Nebbiolo and Barbera. It is also ready to drink much sooner. The M&S version, from a highly regarded cooperative in the region, is classic Dolcetto; light and fresh with vibrant juicy dark fruits. At €10.99 it shouldn’t put too much strain on the bank balance.