Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pesky Beavers

Sorry for the lack of articles recently. I have been building my man cave/brewery/gym as well as being generally busy.

I'm a little later to the Beavertown party in Ireland. I've had Beavertown beers in the UK and indeed met the owner once if I remember correctly. That was before the re-brand though. Everything from the logo to the packaging format has changed. Beavertown have jumped on the can bandwagon in a big way. The can artwork is nothing short of spectacular and in many cases, quite funny.

I enjoyed all of these beers on the balcony of our hotel during our 10 year anniversary at the Monart. I had to bring them with me of course. I left our beer and bubbly sitting outside in the shade where it was kept chilled at night and somewhat cool in the day.

Neck Oil is a session IPA (also known as a pale ale) and is 4.3% ABV. There's lots of lemon and grapefruit with a little bitter orange pith at the end. It's a Lovely beer with a lingering bitter finish. I could drink a lot of it and that's the way it was designed. To be sessionable but packed full of flavour.

Gamma Ray I found to be very similar to Neck Oil except that it was a little more bitter and a little less refreshing. This is described as an American Pale Ale and is 5.4% ABV. Personally, if I was given a choice between this and Neck Oil, I would pick Neck Oil for the drinkability factor. Otherwise, the flavours are pretty much the same.

Next up was 8 Ball, a rye pale ale that's 6.2% ABV. I found this to be sweet but at the same time it was also bitter. This tends to be something that rye does to a beer. It's a little ryvita like, not all rye ales remind me of ry crispbreads but this one did. There's not much citrus going on which surprised me. There was some tobacco on the nose and I found it had a sort of sticky orange fudge finish. Quite odd and not sessionable but it is tasty indeed. I think it's one to revisit for me. I suspect there's a little more there than what I garnered in one can, especially after the first two hop bombs.

Black Betty is their Black IPA offering. It's a staggering 7.4% ABV. I say staggering only because Black IPA or Cascadian dark ales, whatever you want to call them, they don't tend to go that high. That's almost double IPA territory. There was plenty of chocolate and a little coffee. It's stupidly bitter though, something I love but know many others might struggle with. There's a little ash in the middle along with a slightly wine like finish. A very good beer.

And lastly, Smog Rocket. It's a smoked porter that brings the alcohol levels back down to a more sensible 5.4% ABV. After the others, this seemed a little tame but the other 4 were hop forward and this is a different kettle of fish. It's essentially a malt forward porter with plenty of smoked malt. I found it tasted a little like iodine, something you get in some heavily smoked Scotch whiskies. Even though these beers weren't chilled, by the time I had this, the ambient outside temperature had plummeted so it had chilled right down. Perhaps a little warmer next time.

Some great beer from Beavertown and while they aren't cheap, with Black Betty costing about €4.50, they are pretty good value. They also look like one of the few beer cans I would happily keep and display on a bar.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

€800 Raised For Charity - Cancer And ALS

Three weeks ago, I mentioned that I was doing both the Shave or Dye challenge as well as the Ice Bucket Challenge.

That all came to a head on the last day of the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin. The results were vastly in favour of shave which was met with boos from the few who voted dye,
If you missed it, I doing the "Shave or Dye" campaign for the Irish Cancer Society as well as the Ice Bucket Challenge for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA).

I got most of my donations on-line and then during the beer festival I received a few hundred euro from attendees. I had two buckets. One for shave and one for dye. Everyone who donated on-line or in person mentioned if they wanted me shaved or dyed.

It was pretty straight forward. Towards the end of the beer festival, I went on stage and was publicly shaved. I then went outside to have icy water (and beer) poured over me.

You can watch the head shaving and ice bucket experience on the newly created BeoirTV YouTube channel.

So the tally at the end was €800 which is split evenly between both charities. There was a few euro in small change which I didn't bother counting and will simply pick a charity box and pour it in.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My First Belgian - #TheSession 91

It takes an Irishman living in Ghent to bring the first topic on Belgian beer in general to The Session. Sure, plenty of session articles have been written about Belgian beer. The second session topic in 2007 was about Dubbels but we have never been given carte blanche to write about Belgian beer as a topic.
In The Session 91,  Breandán at Belgian Smaak asks us write about our first Belgian beer experience. That can take any form we like and may not even be about your first experience with a beer from Belgium, perhaps you have been drinking it for years and suddenly you discover something new.

I could take the topic literally of course but if I did that, it would go something like this.
My first Belgian beer was Stella Artois. The end.

I could write about my first lambic experience of course but then, I already have. It was Cantillon Kriek on cask in Rome and I was very confused. How things change!

What I've decided to do instead is to concentrate on the first Belgian beer I wrote about on this blog. That involved delving back to my first few articles and back into a world of old post cringeworthiness. In February 2009, I wrote an embarrassing post* about how Caledonian 80 was better than Duvel. This was my first experience with Duvel and if I'm honest, I haven't had that many since. The problem is that it's so prevalent I just never think of it. So what do I think now? It's over 5 years later? My tastes have changed completely during that time so I must have a different opinion of Duvel now.

There's a fresh cut straw, honey and caramel and pilsner malt in the aroma.
On tasting I find it very fizzy, that's to be expected in a Belgian blonde. Honey and pils malt with a crisp mouthfeel. Alcohol is obvious but it's not sickly sweet like other Belgian blondes. There's a slight sour finish that's barely perceptible. It finishes chardonnay dry.

Do I like it? Sure, it's a great beer. I still don't quite get why it's on such a high pedestal? Maybe because it's hard to make such a big beer as refreshing as a pilsner, dry as a chardonnay and as effervescent as champagne. Either way, it's a worthy beer to mention for this months session. It's not quite my first Belgian beer, but it looks to be the first one I wrote about over 5 years ago.

*I say article these days but this was definitely just a post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Combining the #ShaveOrDye And #icebucketchallenge Campaigns For Charity

I don't really like internet trends and I was nominated for an Ice Bucket Challenge by Wayne the IrishBeerSnob and refused. I don't like a number of things about the challenge but it's in aid of a good cause.
I did say I would do something else and this is what I came up with.

I decided to do the Shave or Dye campaign and combine it with the Ice Bucket Challenge. On Sunday September 7th at the Irish Craft Beer And Cider Festival in Dublin, I will tally the donations. Those that donate online can include a note to say Shave or Dye. Those that personally give me money can specify and at the beer festival itself, there will be collection boxes. One for Shave and one for Dye.
Whichever gets the most money in the end will be publicly performed at the beer festival and I will also do the Ice Bucket Challenge while I'm at it. If I'm going to publicly make an arse of myself, I might as well do it properly.

Money will be split between Cancer and ALS going to:
1. Irish Cancer Society
2. Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association

If you're heading to the beer festival, please pop some money in the collection box of your choice or else give whatever you like online and specify what you want done to me.
It will be put on youtube for your viewing pleasure.

Donate Here

Friday, August 22, 2014

Excuse My Tardiness - Here's A Competition To Make Up

It's one month to the day since I last posted an article on this blog. The reason for that is I have been busy finishing off the Beoir magazine. It was a mammoth undertaking which started around April. A lot of time was spent designing the layout, writing articles, trying to get sponsors and then trying to get their artwork. Then also rounding up other articles by contributors. Finally, putting it all together and going over it hundreds of times to look for mistakes.

The magazine finally went to print at the weekend and should be delivered in time for the Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS in two weeks time. Here's a picture of the cover for those that are interested in a quick look. If you would rather read the whole thing digitally, then you may do so here.

Hopefully I will have more time to write on the blog now that the magazine is finished.

Competition time!

I have two pairs of weekend passes for the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival to give away. As usual, please only enter if you can actually attend the festival so they don't get wasted.

Answers in an email to: competition at taleofale.com (I assume you know what to do there). Closing for entries are Monday at 1pm GMT. The two winners will be randomly chosen in the afternoon.

  1. What is the title of the article on page 6 of Beoir magazine.
  2. The organisers of the ICBCF organise two other beer festivals. The Irish Craft Beer and Food Festival in Dublin over the St Patrick's weekend and Doolin Irish Craft Beer Festival. When is the Doolin festival?
  3. What's the name of the newly appointed membership officer for Beoir? (hint: membership menu)

All answers can easily be found using the links in this article.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Some Of The Beer From #EBBC14

The European Beer Bloggers Conference was a resounding success for showcasing Irish beer this year. As always, there was a lot of different beers available and while the majority were Irish, not all were. Here's just a very small sample of the beer available. Most of the Irish beer I have had before so have already mentioned them at some point. I'm not really reviewing these beers I should point out, I made no notes during EBBC14 on any of the beer. I refuse to make notes at big beer events as it lessens my enjoyment and I also can't do the beers justice. So the following is just my mental recollection.

I'm going to start with a side by side comparison of three versions of Pilsner Urquell. On the left we have the new canned version, in the middle the regular kegged version and then on the fight is the unpasteurised, unfiltered wooden cask version. I found the new canned version to be quite lemony with a dry finish and quite lactic. A very different experience and I'm not sure I liked it. The kegged version on draught was crisp and clean with a great noble hop profile. The cask on the other hand was sweeter with a bigger hop nose in the foam. Not as crisp due to the lower carbonation. Personally, the cask version is my favourite but I was very keen on the kegged version. I have always been a Pilsner Urquell fan, except in bottles and I guess I am now not a fan of the cans either. That said, the cans were far superior to the bottle. I believe they are going to switch to brown bottles soon so that might be better.

Maisel's Chocolate Bock is a beautifully rich chocolate flavoured bock. It was woody and had a real chewy toffee body. There was even a hint of spice mixed in with the massive cocoa hit. A lovely beer and I personally found it easier going than most bocks.

The limited edition Progress from Black Sheep was a stunning 10% old English ale. It's basically a barley wine in my opinion. Thick molasses, figs and various other dark fruits. There was also a lot of vanilla and a nice grassy bitterness. Awesome beer!

13 Guns is salute to the American IPA from Thwaites and while it is an excellent IPA, it seems more subdued than the brash American versions. It just seems more reserved, more English. That's not to say anything about the hops because they are all American. The result is very tasty but never overbearing. It has everything you want in an IPA without being loud-mouthed about it.

Night Porter, I mentioned it already. This is the internal Guinness competition winning beer that is only available in the Guinness storehouse. If there is one reason to go to the Guinness storehouse, this might just be reason enough. It's an outstanding beer that can stand beside any craft beer and be confident that it's in the right company. In a way, it is craft beer. It was brewed on their 100 litre pilot system. It's the kind of beer that would earn Guinness some of the respect it lost with beer aficionados after stunts like covering rival taps on Arthur's day and just Arthur's day full stop.

Now to me on the Irish scene was the first beer  from Black Donkey. In fact, this might have been its first public appearance. The beer is called Sheep Stealer. I know one or two bloggers might not have questioned the branding but I like it. It's an incredibly tart saison that just resonated with me as one of the best summer thirst quenchers I've had in a while. I'm not sure when it goes on sale yet but hopefully it will be pouring at the ICBCF in September.

One of the unexpected highlights at EBBC14 was finding Stuart Howe personally manage the Sharp's stand. Stuart knows what bloggers want (he's one himself) so he prominently placed the specials in front of the regulars like Doom Bar and encouraged us to try them. I doubt anyone in the room hadn't had Doom Bar before so I think that ended up being pushed aside to make room. Single Brew reserve 2013, pictured above is phenomenal in its simplicity. There's a single hop at play here called Premiant. Think Saaz on steroids and you have an idea what to expect. The beer is dry hopped for two months using said hops and the result is a very complex but also sessionable (4.5%) blonde ale. Lots of grass, citrus (lemon and grapefruit), tropical fruits and a fair bit of caramel too.

I was intrigued by the Honey Spice IPA as I was curious to see if it's the kind of beer my wife would enjoy. Ever the fan of Fullers Honey Dew, I suspected she might be. This is a 6.5% American style IPA that employs local Cornish honey and black peppercorns to add a little honey and spice to the overall beer. Notes of lychee, grapefruit and lemon with a big malt body. Hints of honey, not overpowering and then the pepper cuts through the heavy malt. The result, a beautiful and interesting beer and one I intend to try again if it appears over here.

Of the three Sharp's, the 6 vintage blend was the biggest and most complex. They basically take 5 aged beers and blend with a standard base beer to create this wonderful beer. When I say blend, I don't mean they take the same style aged for various lengths of time. Everything from IPA to Belgian dubbel is included. It's a stunningly complex beer and I'm just sad I didn't nab a bottle for consumption in my own time. 

And lastly, a fairly new beer to the Irish market. Four provinces is a new Dublin based brewery which is great because Dublin has been left behind in the brewery stakes due to the higher cost of premises in Dublin. The Hurler is an American hopped copper ale. I like what they are doing here, they avoided the Irish red pitfall and made a compromise. A "copper" coloured ale packed full of hops. The result is an extremely bitter beer but with an ever present malt backbone to balance it out. It's a fantastic beer and I look forward to having it again.