Pig In A Poke: Ards Pig Island Pale in Bittles Bar, Belfast
Belfast seems a much-changed place from when I was 18, but then so are most places since 1998. When I’m back, roughly twice a year, I still get the impression that there’s a long way to go in terms of beer in most of the pubs. Cask ale is still rarer than hen’s teeth and I’ve yet to see a Trappist in town.
But I need to explore much of the new Belfast more. Although many of the entries in the Good Beer Guide for Northern Ireland seem to be JD Wetherspoons (which indicates the work JDW does to promote and supply cask even where it isn’t commonly accepted) there are a few – The John Hewitt; Molly’s Yard – that I always mean to explore but never get to.
However, over Christmas I did get to Bittle’s Bar, a wedge shaped corner pub in an older building on the edge of the new Victoria Centre. It’s a pleasant little bar with walls covered in slightly absurd paintings of Northern Irish faces: one depicts Ian Paisley with his arm around Gerry Adams whilst Van Morrison, George Best and Alex Higgins look on.
No cask on the bar, but there was keg Whitewater Copperhead, a nice refreshing pale ale I’ve enjoyed from the bottle. I had a bottle of Pig Island Pale by Ards Brewing Co, a new brewery I recognised from a Beers I’ve Known post of a few months before.
The 4.2% beer was bottle conditioned and had a nice fresh hop aroma, which I really didn’t expect from a Northern Irish beer. It was a satisfyingly bitter pale ale with a slightly orangey aftertaste; very drinkable and probably excellent with seafood. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Ards next time I’m back.