Roscommon-based Black Donkey Brewing entered three of its beers into the recent London International Beer Challenge 2020, and was rewarded with three medals – two gold and one silver.

Gold medals were awarded to Sergeant Jimmy, a whiskey barrel aged saison; and Underworld Savage Ale; while the brewery’s flagship brand, Sheep Stealer, took a silver medal.

Underworld Savage Ale is the result of Black Donkey Brewing’s Wild Yeast Chase, an initiative begun in 2017 to capture a viable wild, native yeast strain, and to use it to recreate a beer style that hasn’t been brewed in Ireland for centuries. The wild yeast, called Morrigan 1 by the brewers, was harvested from the mouth of Oweynagat cave in Tulsk, Co. Roscommon. Sergeant Jimmy is a traditional saison that was matured in freshly emptied Irish whiskey barrels.

The barrels infuse the beer with flavours of oak, vanilla and whiskey, without making it heavy despite its 8% alcohol content. First launched in 2014, Sheep Stealer is the brewery’s flagship brand and has found its way as far as the USA, France, Italy, Russia, Sweden and Lebanon.

Founder and head brewer Richard Siberry said: “We don’t generally enter beer competitions, preferring to let our customers be our judges, but we were tempted by the prestige of the IBC, and decided to see how we’d fare against some of the biggest breweries, and best beer judges in the world. Three medals from three entries will leave us with a very fond memory of pretty challenging year.”

IBC chairman Jeff Evans said: “The IBC has long championed the idea that a beer should win prizes simply on how good it is, rather than how closely it adheres to some pedantic definition of style.”

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