Barry Island IPA
Brains Craft (in collaboration with Simon Martin)
Barry Island IPA goes back to where it all began for Brains Craft, alongside All At Sea. It’s also one of the few expressions of the highly prolific Brains Craft range that is readily available outside of the Brain’s pub estate; your local Tesco or Morrison’s may well stock it in the bottle aisle.
It stands out the moment you smell it; it’s bursting at the seams with tropical fruit flavours, passion fruit, mango, grapefruit, and lychee, all layered with sweet caramel. In the glass it has a crisp, golden-orange hue, a firm white head and offers plenty of lacing on the glass.
From the get-go this is a very firm beer, with a bold, punchy mouth feel led by a citrus rind taste and backed up by melon, mango, and warming papaya. It then gives way to a long, zesty, dry citrus finish.
Even the high hop, high alcohol profile can’t quite hide the characteristic Brains’ biscuit malt base signature. Later Brains Craft expressions move away from their parent brewery’s core malt profile, but Barry Island still has hints of it. In rare instances I also thought I caught a hint of saltiness; the sensation was inescapable, but probably imagined, brought about by the beer’s links to the eponymous seaside resort of Barry Island.
Salt ghosts aside, Barry Island is definitely a refreshing, eye-opening beer. Along with the sharp, citrus flavours, it’s not hiding its 6.0%, either. You feel it. This’ll pick you up after a heavy, sleep-inducing roast dinner and cut through fatty, savoury flavours, setting you up for a light, fruity dessert.
It’s a positively rowdy beer, and it stands as a visible milestone showing where the Craft Brewery began and how far they’ve come since; more recent expressions are generally a shade more subtle. Despite all the rambunctious imagery I’ve bandied about, this is a downright quaffable beer.