C is for Celtic, B is for Beer

A s many of you may know, this coming weekend—July 27th through 29th—is the annual United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival, held in partnership with Five River MetroParks down at Riverscape. While there will be plenty of bands and music across the four stages, as well cultural workshops including arts and language events, author signings, […]

Exploring Celtic Fest brews

By Tom Morgan

As many of you may know, this coming weekend—July 27th through 29th—is the annual United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival, held in partnership with Five River MetroParks down at Riverscape. While there will be plenty of bands and music across the four stages, as well cultural workshops including arts and language events, author signings, authentic cuisine, and even some whiskey tasting classes, I am going to mercifully ignore that goldmine of Celtic possibility to focus on the single most important aspect of this festival: the beer.

After all, it is the delightful opportunity to drink beer along with the music and food and culture that makes this event such a fun one to attend. Especially because this year features several beers that fit with the festival’s theme, including Murphy’s Irish Stout, Belhaven Scottish Ale, and Boddingtons Pub Ale, along with a beer brewed especially for this event, Celtic Fest Red Ale, made by Breckinridge Brewery in Colorado.

Choosing Murphy’s over Guinness is a bold choice by festival coordinators, given the seeming lock Guinness has on all things put forward as authentically Irish. But as you’d heard me argue previously, Murphy’s is as quintessentially Irish as Guinness, just not as well known. I’d like to pretend organizers chose Murphy’s because I called it the better of the two beers in my St. Patrick’s Day column, but everyone knows I’m not that cool. Even me. And don’t let the color of this beer fool you! While dark, it still only clocks in at 4% ABV. Murphy’s rich-rounded roast flavors, coupled with toffee, chocolate, and smooth creamy finish make this a beer one you can enjoy all day long!

Both Belhaven and Boddingtons are solid selections and excellent drinking if you haven’t tried them before; each exemplifies the brewing traditions you’d expect to find across the pond. Belhaven Scottish Ale is a copper-colored beer that features rich malt flavor, with caramel, biscuit, and a slight nuttiness, along with some lower-level fruity contributions from the yeast. Hop bitterness is present, but mainly to balance the malt flavors and help provide a clean finish. At 5.2% ABV, it is an easy-drinking delight. Boddingtons Pub Ale is lighter on the malt side; it is a dark golden-colored beer with bready sweet malt body that showcases both classic English yeast fruitiness and earthy noble hop bitterness, all in harmony and balance. The lingering bitterness closes out the beer nicely, balancing the initial malt sweetness. Like its fellow Celtic drinking options, it is built to be sessionable at 4.6% ABV.

I am particularly excited to try the Celtic Fest Red Ale. Red Ales are popular in Ireland; it is a beer style that the craft brewers over there try to put their own distinctive mark on, much like IPAs here in the USA, so there is a pretty good range of types to be had. Red Ales traditionally feature a depth of malt flavor, including biscuit, caramel, and toffee, often with a hint of roast malt to create the distinctive drier finish connected to the style. Hop bitterness is often low and intended to balance the beer as a whole, but some versions are a bit more aggressive and feature hop bitterness in the finish. Celtic Fest Red Ale was described to me as refreshing and brighter version that balanced hints of caramel with just a touch of hops. I know that it will be on tap at a couple of places this week prior to Celtic Fest, so keep your eyes open.

For those of you needing some American options, there will be a craft beer booth featuring several other selections. In addition to those listed above, there will be Rhinegeist Truth, Rhinegeist Cougar, Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, and Thirsty Dog Raspberry Ale, as well as Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider for you non-beer drinkers. If you need to fall a step lower on beer’s Great Chain of Being, I’ve been told that both Shock Top Belgian White and Bud Light will also be served. But let’s be honest: no one reading this column expects me to discuss the macro-gak options at Celtic Fest. Such beers are just expected to be at events like these, much like drunken bad behavior is expected on St. Patrick’s Day and the Pope is expected to be Catholic. See? Even my poor excuse for humor is appropriately themed.

For more information on Celtic Fest, you can find a full schedule of events on their website, daytoncelticfestival.com, or by looking more closely at this edition of the Dayton City Paper. Here’s to pleasant, mild weather—good for both beer drinking and music listening all weekend long, because Celtic Celtic Celtic starts with C.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Tom Morgan at TomMorgan@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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