Monday, 20 June 2016

More Off-Licence Collaboration Brews

McHugh's, Molloys, O'Brien's. What do all of these bottle shops have in common? They all have their own label beers produced at Irish microbreweries for sale in their stores and they probably aren't the only ones.
I wrote about the latest release from McHugh's recently and since then, I have been sent samples of beer from Molloys and O'Brien's to try.

Technically it was Rascal's themselves who sent me some beer and one of them was a beer called All Night Long which is brewed for and sold exclusively in Molloys Liquor Stores. It was brewed in time for the Euros and is clearly branded for the event.

So how's the beer? Well, it's a 4.2% session pale ale of which there's a plethora of these days so does this one stand up to scrutiny? I would have to say that yes, it does. Citrus and pine resin on the nose along with a hint of caramel and some orange pith. It tastes pretty much how it smells, there's a brief burst of tropical fruits in there too. It's a little on the thin side but with that said, a session beer tends to be a little thinner than most. There's a deep and lingering bitterness that's not sharp, just pervasive. I would have personally liked to have seen this beer a little under 4% to make it a little more sessionable but 4.2% is still pretty low.
Is the beer a hit? I would say it probably is because I just checked out the Molloys website and it says out of stock at the moment.
Hopefully we will see more from this beer as it's very enjoyable. Apparently, Molloys have a pub in Tallaght so there are a few kegs available if you are in the area.

If you really want to know what's in it, Rascals kindly provided the full ingredients list.
Hops: Magnum, Cascade, El Dorado, Yellow Sub, Hull Melon

Malts: Ale, Dextrin, Caramalt

Yeast: WLP001

O'Brien's sent me some of their new collaboration. It's called Who What Wheat Where and it's a collaboration with O Brother out in Kilcoole which is better known as Glenroe to some people. They have gone with an American hop forward wheat ale here and the first thing you will notice on pouring is the colour and clarity. I don't usually care about how clear a beer is and clarity has little place in a wheat beer but in this case, it actually looks rather unappetising. The colour is a sort of murky brown that could easily be a pint of Liffey water. 

First thing to do, get over how it looks and move on. It's worth it because what you have is a hop forward beer with a big wheaty body and a plethora of hop aromas and flavours to enjoy. It's basically a wheat IPA. Resinous and bursting with citrus punch along with a slightly spicy note, it's the sort of beer I love despite its appearance.

O'Brien's also provided the full ingredients list if you are interested, though no yeast was mentioned.

Malts - Wheat made up 50% of the grist.
  • Maris Otter extra pale
  • Hook HEad Irish Ale Malt
  • Wheat Malt
  • Torrified Wheat
Bittering - Magnum and Perle

Flavour/Aroma - Summit, Cascade, Centennial

Dry Hops - Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Simcoe, Ahtanum and Chinook

IBU: 54

Monday, 6 June 2016

Homebrew Recipes For Summer

I'm not sure when I last posted a homebrew recipe. It has probably been a while, I have certainly lost track how which number I'm at.

Oats So Hoppy: I brewed this a few months ago and just tapped the kegs.

This one was pretty interesting due to the hops used. With the exception of a little El Dorado in the mash, the rest were new breeds of Slovenian hops which were provided free to the National Homebrew Club to distribute among clubs for feedback.

These were provided by GetErBrewed in exchange for some feedback on the hops. They were hop pellets, the first time I have used pellets. I have always used whole leaf hops as they work better with my equipment. I had to use a siphon to transfer instead of the tap on my boiler as the pellets clogged up my hop strainer. The hops came in 50g packets so I used all of them because why not?

I also used a new yeast. Mangrove Jack M44. The first thing I noticed is that this is the most boring yeast in the world. It does nothing, it's extremely slow. No bubbles developed.

Summer Sun: I brewed another beer the next day using Nottingham and that bubbled away within a few hours and continued to bubble for days. A few days later, I added a second packet of M44 in to Oat So Hoppy just to be safe. It did ferment out but I never saw a single bubble other than those I made myself when applying pressure to the fermenting vessel. Technically, Summer Sun is Pauline's recipe. She designed it with my help and then I made her do a lot of the work.

I brought them both along to a little homebrew competition at the Midlands Craft Beer Festival on Saturday. I didn't expect anything out of them as they are really aimed at the easy drinking sort. Pretty mediocre but they will be brought down to a party in Cork next month where they will be emptied pretty quickly.

Some people preferred the slightly spicy and bigger boddied oatmeal IPA and others preferred the fruitier, more citrus laden summer IPA that Pauline did. The Slovenian hops were quite interesting with their grassy, spicy notes.

Oat So Hoppy

14-B American IPA
Author: Reuben Gray
Date: 26/03/2016
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 23.04 L @ 20 °C
Efficiency: 67.51%
Attenuation: 78.6%
Calories: 185.41 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.056 (1.056 - 1.075)
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 (1.010 - 1.018)
Color: 11.18 (11.82 - 29.55)
Alcohol: 5.77% (5.5% - 7.5%)
Bitterness: 72.4 (40.0 - 70.0)


6000 g (92.3%) Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt - added during mash
500 g (7.7%) Oat Malt - added during mash
20 g (11.8%) El Dorado (15.8%) - added during mash
50 g (29.4%) Styrian Dana (11.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 m
50 g (29.4%) Styrian Cardinal (9.2%) - added during boil, boiled 5 m
50 g (29.4%) Styrian Wolf (13.6%) - added during boil
1 ea Mangrove Jack M44 West Coast IPA

Summer Sun

10-A American Pale Ale
Author: Pauline Browne
Date: 28/03/2016
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 24.0 L @ 20 °C
Efficiency: 80.64%
Attenuation: 81.1%
Calories: 174.57 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.053 (1.045 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 (1.010 - 1.015)
Color: 14.22 (9.85 - 27.58)
Alcohol: 5.63% (4.5% - 6.0%)
Bitterness: 31.8 (30.0 - 45.0)


4647 g (87.3%) Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt - added during mash
140 g (2.6%) Amber Malt - added during mash
284.0 g (5.3%) Wheat Malt - added during mash
250 g (4.7%) Munich Malt - added during mash
12.0 g (16.7%) Summit™ (17.5%) - added during mash
15.0 g (20.8%) Pacific Gem (15.9%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 m
22.0 g (30.6%) Galaxy (15.1%) - added during boil, boiled 5 m
23.0 g (31.9%) Calypso (15.7%) - added during boil
1 ea Danstar Nottingham

Saturday, 4 June 2016

McHugh's - On The Road Again

McHugh's Off-Licence kindly sent me the latest in their Roadtrip series. These are the collaboration beers they do with other breweries. The last one was with Kinnegar and it was an American IPA. Here are my thoughts on it from last year. This year, they have teamed up with Independent Brewing in Galway to produce two stouts. One of them is barrel aged in Teeling Whiskey casks.

First up, the Extra Stout. It's a 6.3% beer that's quite like a black IPA. There's a strong citrus and pine hop character on the nose with a hint of coffee and plenty of chocolate. Some dark honey and treacle make up the sweeter notes.
It tastes intensely bitter but not only from hops, the dark malts provide their own bitterness. There are some serious coffee notes which starts to move it out of the Black IPA genre and back into stout. It's slightly astringent but not overly so. This is not a balanced beer. It's a beer for people who like big bold citrus and bitter coffee notes.

The slightly bigger brother is the Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout at 7% ABV. On the nose, there's some wood and dark chocolate with a little vanilla and caramel to keep things sweet. A hint of citrus but just the barest whiff. On tasting, I got a rich burnt wood followed by espresso and dark chocolate. There's a little reminder of the whiskey but it's subtle. Surprisingly, it's eminently drinkable but then again, it's only 7% and the belief is that they simply took the extra stout, put it in some whiskey barrels for 3 months and ended up with this. The hops were mostly lost but were replaced by whiskey and wood notes.

I think of the two, I slightly preferred the first one. It was edgier and slightly easier to drink. I prefer my whiskey aged stouts a little stronger and slightly harder/longer to drink but decide for yourself.

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Other Beer Economy - #TheSession 112

This month's session is hosted by Carla over on and she asks that we write about the The Other Beer Economy or the supporting industries that are growing as a result of the boom in brewing at the moment.

In Ireland, we have no commercial hop growing industry any more. We lost our last commercial growers in the mid 50s after Guinness started using cheaper hops from Europe. Traditionally, the south east of the country was were most of our hop farms were located. Kilkenny and Wexford in particular. It's a supporting industry that we are lacking at the moment. A few breweries grow their own hops but none can currently grow enough to use them exclusively in all of their beers so they tend to be used for special one off beers that use 100% Irish ingredients.

I suppose the list of supporting industries is rather large and I'm not going to list them all so just the following few obvious ones to me.

What we do grow and has also started to boom is barley. Ireland's maltsters have seen a huge jump recently. Once the domain of the large commercial breweries, not only have Ireland's maltsters embraced the small, independent breweries but they have also embraced the homebrewers and sell malt to homebrew shops around the country and sometimes even direct.

Another industry that has taken off is stainless steel manufacturing. Ireland has a number of manufacturers but one has taken the plunge into brewery equipment. Spectac produces everything you need to have a fully functional brewery using Irish made equipment. Of course, it won't be as cheap as something shipped over from China but it should be better built and more importantly, have a better after sales service. Rye River commissioned their brew-house with Spectac and I believe it was the first brewery manufactured in Ireland in a century. Many other breweries and distilleries in Ireland have started buying Irish.

Off-licences (bottle shops) had been declining in Ireland since the scrapping of the groceries order which allowed below cost selling in supermarkets. This resulted in many large supermarket chains treating alcohol as a loss leader in order to attract people to their shops. With the craft beer boom, off-licences have increased their craft beer stock in a very meaningful way and are attracting a new genre of consumer that buys for quality and not quantity. People like me could buy 10 bottles of craft beer for the same amount as 3 cases of 24 can macro lager in a supermarket. While supermarkets have increased their beer range, very few do a good enough job to entice people like me to buy beer there.

The pub trade has also increased. In a climate that saw pubs close in their hundreds throughout Ireland, the pubs that embraced craft beer were making a killing. Imaging that, in an 8 year long recession, people were willing to pay more for beer from independent breweries and to pile into pubs to do so? The pubs got back on track and thanks to a lot of help from people writing about beer and in no small part to the work we have done at Beoir, it's now much harder to find a pub that doesn't at least have a small token offering of craft beer. You have to leave the larger population centres and head to very rural communities. Actually, much like the one in which I live. The local supermarket sells a few craft beers but the three pubs don't which is a real shame.

Distributors are of course another big winner. Existing distributors and brand new ones alike are reaping the benefits of the new thirst in Ireland for flavoursome local beer as well as imported craft beer from around the world.

Marketing has become an important tool for smaller breweries. Digital marketing is the main focus for the cash strapped independent brewery. It's free and only takes time, at least to do a basic job. You need a professional to make it count though and even then, many professionals doing digital marketing for breweries are pretty terrible at it, at least in Ireland. Quite often though, the brewery owners or one of their staff take care of Twitter and Facebook and do a much better job because they understand the business. Most marketing people have very little interest in the products that they promote. In the beer world, it often means that the marketing/PR people don't even drink beer. If you don't consume a product, how can you hope to convince others to do so?

That's about all that's worth putting down on the list for now. It's an interesting topic and one that many consumers often overlook. People like us, who write about beer will often know them intimately though.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Strangest Beer I've Ever Tasted - Wild Beer Yadokai

**Read This First: After I wrote the article, I discovered via twitter comments that some of what I wrote had been discovered by Wild Beer themselves and they recommend not drinking the beer until 2020 or beyond but to age it at least 3 months at warm to room temperature to allow it to clear up. More info here.**

This has to be the strangest concept for a beer I have come across but more than that, it's probably the strangest beer I have ever bought. I think it was £12.99 when I was in The Vineyard recently. You will buy anything when you have spent the day judging beer and then had a few pints on top of it. I also seem to have bought a bottle of Pecheresse, something I pretty much despise. I opened that first, remembered why couldn't drink it and decided to try and make ice cubes out of it instead. Can throw them in to some sort of cocktail or even just suck on them in hot weather. That's when I broke out the Yadokai.

The spiel on the back speaks for itself. It's supposed to be a double seaweed infused sake inspired saison with sea buckthorn and some sort of juice thrown in because why not? I haven't heard of most of the ingredients before. It's also the size and ABV of a bottle of wine. I decided to try it with a steak dinner but to be safe, I also opened a bottle of Rioja just in case the pairing was weird. It was so the wine saved the steak. I think this beer might have been interesting with seafood. It may have done very interesting things to oysters actually.

I'm not sure how well you can see it from the image but it pours like engine oil with lots of white stuff floating around. The white stuff disappeared after a few moments so just foam suspended in a viscous liquid. 

As you can see above, the liquid is so thick that it sticks to the side of the glass in a gloopy strand. In the mouth, I have never experienced anything like it. It's not the same as cough syrup but it's pretty similar except for the carbonation.

I eventually decided that I didn't dislike it as such and carried on. Texture-wise, it's the strangest liquid I have ever consumed.

An aroma of umami and some sort of herbal notes. there's a bit of  lemon citrus and orange marmalade. It tastes much the same as aroma but it's quite tart and bitter. The texture indicates something much sweeter but it's not a sweet beer at all. It's less a beer and more some kind of potion.

Yahokai grew on me as the night went on. Pauline liked it too but was also baffled by the concept and the texture. I wonder is the texture normal or did the seaweed thicken it up? Carrageenan is a thickner so why not Kombu or Hijiki?

It was simply the strangest and most interesting experience I have ever had while drinking a beer.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Perfect Marriage - Teeling Whiskey and Galway Bay's 200 Fathoms

Surprisingly, I had never been to the Teeling distillery in Dublin until last week. I was invited along to take a look at the distillery and try the recently released version of Galway Bay: 200 Fathoms, despite the beer having launched in early March. This was the media launch I guess.

Our energetic and informative guide brought us around the distillery and explained everything. For the most part, it's the same as any brewery. I was surprised to see them use wooden fermenters in such a new facility but it lends something to the finished product I'm told so that's okay with me. They look beautiful.

For those that don't know, the Teeling family has been involved in whiskey since 1872 on and off. The original distillery was in Dublin back when Ireland was the capital of the world in whiskey exports. A number of events occurred to end our reign as the top whiskey producer in the world. Prohibition in the US, World War 2 and our own war of independence and civil war. Our export options were now gone and our own population wasn't enough to justify the number of distilleries in operation.

In 1985, John Teeling bought a former state potato schnapps distillery in Louth and set up Cooley, Ireland's first new distillery in decades. It remained as Ireland's only independent distillery until late 2011 when it was sold to Jim Beam which has since itself been sold. Cooley is now part of Beam Suntory. It's worth noting that Cooley also owned the old Locke's distillery in Kilbeggan which is located 10 minutes down the road from me. It's an excellent tour and well worth visiting. 

Locke's Distillery - Kilbeggan

I would imagine that the proceeds of this sale allowed the Teeling family to consider opening up a distillery in their ancestral home of Dublin again. The site of the original distillery was gone with apartments in its place so they selected a nearby area near the Guinness brewery called Newmarket. It's a cool spot that has long been neglected but the addition of the Teeling distillery could see it become like a smaller version of Smithfield. 

Will Avery, head brewer at Galway Bay Brewery and Alex Chasko, master blender at Teeling Distillery had a discussion about the development of 200 fathoms. Each talked about the beer and the whiskey and then were let in on a little treat. It turns out that the barrels used in 200 Fathoms were then used to age a small batch of whiskey, similar to the Jameson and Franciscan Well Stout Barrel collaboration. 

I don't think it was planned to let us taste it but we all got a small sample of it. I'm not 100% sure if it has been released yet as I haven't seen it. It's pretty tasty and you can get the stout somewhat. That said, I did find it a little syrupy for my tastes. It was just a little too viscous unlike the Jameson version which is surprisingly good. Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture of the bottle. 

The end result is here. A glass of 200 Fathoms and a little of the Teeling Small Batch whiskey. 200 Fathoms was aged in the same ex-rum barrels that are used to age that whiskey. It's a beautiful marriage of imperial stout and whiskey notes. I have a number of bottles of 200 fathoms from the last few years cellaring at home. I'll have to do a comparison one of these days. 

Thanks to Teeling and Galway Bay for the invite. It was a great event that ended up with a load of us walking to The Beer Market for afters.

If you don't want to read a bit of a rant, best stop reading here.

Since I'm writing about Teeling, it might be worth bringing up a slightly touchy subject and my own opinion on it. It was brought to my attention on Facebook a few weeks ago that there's some controversy with the barrels that Teeling use. They are ex-rum barrels from Nicaragua, specifically from the producers of Flor de Caña rum, or so I was told. Apparently, the company that owns that brand owns the sugar cane fields used to produce that rum and a number of other sugar based products. 

It would seem that at least 20,000 people have died of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Central America in the past two decades. A number of those would have worked in fields used to produce the sugar used in said rum. The disease is said to be caused by overwork,  lack of shade, lack of water etc although no scientific study has proven that. If you want to know more, here's an article in The Guardian.

The Facebook post was pretty heated with people calling for Teeling Whiskey to be boycotted until they stop using those barrels. Someone said the barrels needed to be ditched. I stepped in with what I hope was some voice of reason.

If I can take a step back and look at this dispassionately.
All Teelings did was buy old barrels from a rum producer or perhaps a 3rd party. Would that be accurate? Or are they in some sort of ongoing deal with Flor de caña?

Can they really be blamed in any way? They are essentially recycling the barrels. Should they be expected to destroy them and buy different ones because of harsh working conditions among sugar farmers?
Can Teelings really be blamed? Even indirectly?
I'm not familiar enough with Teelings or how they produce their whiskey to be outraged by this yet.

This got some interesting comments, one of which was that no one suggested destroying the barrels. That's true, no one did but by default it amounts to the same thing. I replied:

it's just someone else suggested they need to ditch the barrels and to suggest that means they would need to ethically destroy them. To pass them on or sell them would be hypocritical if they are ditching them on ethical reasons.
I won't mention where any of these comments came from but my point was that Teeling shouldn't be held responsible for the treatment of workers in sugar cane fields just because some second hand barrels they use can be linked indirectly to their plight.

It's all very well for us to sit behind our expensive computer screens in one of the richest countries in the world and be up in arms over the plight of the those in less well off countries. The problem is, if you look hard enough, you will find many everyday products have some sort of link to some sort of injustice. The computer, phone or tablet you are reading this article on was likely manufactured or has many components manufactured in a country with questionable labour conditions. You might as well boycott everything mass-produced and just produce everything yourself while living off the grid. You would probably have to build your own tools while you're at it, just to be safe and of course spin your own fibres to produce clothes after you have built your own loom because the manufactured ones probably contain materials of questionable origin.

This has turned into a bit of a rant on the proliferation of PC craziness that has been sweeping across richer countries in recent years.

I'm a realist myself so will not be put off by this and I certainly won't be boycotting Galway Bay because their 200 Fathoms was also aged rum barrels. Can we apply a little common sense to this PC crap please?

Rant over.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Black's - Discovery IPA Series

Black's have been living the dream since 2013. You may recall that I helped crowd-fund them a few years ago when I organised Beoir members to raise €2000. This resulted in us brewing a limited release beer called Beoir#1. You can watch the video above if you like.

Always up for being innovative, Black's have just released an experimental series and sent me some samples to try. Their Discovery IPA Series features different hops. Unlike other ventures, the base beer isn't a standard affair. Each beer is different and designed to highlight the hops being used. At least that's what they would have us believe. I reckon that they are just using it as an excuse to have a bit of fun and try new things.

The first up is EXP 431 and it's perfect timing for summer. A 4.3% session IPA using hops called exp431, themselves an experimental strain. The result is fruity and bitter with citrus - grapefruit and orange pith. There's not much depth to it but it's very easy going. An excellent lawnmower beer.

A little more up my street is the Mosaic. This 6.5% West Coast IPA has intense tropical fruits and citrus with plenty of fresh pine resin. There's a  pervasive bitterness but there's also some malt body to balance it out. It's absolutely delicious. 

Not content with the other two, Sam literally went Overkill with the next one. A 9.5% Imperial Black IPA. There are notes of molasses mixed in with citrusy grapefruit and pine. This is a bit of a beast with more going for it in the malt department than the hops. Big, chewy and bold. There are plenty of hops there of course but they struggle with their identity. It's incredibly smooth and at no point did I think I was drinking a 9.5% beer. 

Why call it overkill? Pretty much because it has all the feckin hops in it. Mosiac, Exp 431, Citra, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Vic Secret and Equinox. That's overkill to me, especially since the same results could probably have been achieved with just one or two of those hops but then again, the overuse of hops gives the beer its whole identity so fair play to Black's for the ballsy move.