Friday, April 18, 2014

Announcement for #TheSession 87 - Local Brewery History

In Session 87, I want you to give your readers a history lesson about a local brewery. That's a physical brewery and not brewing company by the way. The brewery doesn't need to still exist today, perhaps you had a local brewery that closed down before you were even born. Or you could pick one that has been producing beer on the same site for centuries.

The only thing I ask is that the brewery existed for at least 20 years so don't pick the local craft brewery that opened two or three years ago. This will exclude most small craft breweries but not all. The reason? There's not much history in a brewery that has only existed for a few years.

Also, when I say local, I mean within about 8 hours' drive from where you live. That should cover most bases for the average blogger and in many, allow you to pick one further away if you don't want to talk about a closer one. For instance, I live in west Dublin and the closest brewery to me is The Porterhouse, but they only opened in the late 90's. The most obvious brewery of course is Guinness, but enough people get told the history of Guinness by a very clever marketing team so I can't bring myself the re-hash the same old tales about the 9000 year old lease and all that. So I will be picking something else on the day.

Some of you may already know a lot about the history of a local brewery and others might have to do a little research. If you do pick a dead brewery, see if there are any connections today! Perhaps the brewery is dead but the brand was bought by another brewery and lives on today.

The most important goal is to have fun with your research.

One last thing, I notice that no one else has volunteered to host the next session. It's easy to get involved. Just go to the session page here. Down at the bottom are instructions on how to host.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No Sour Grapes

While I was in Belgium recently, I drank a number of spontaneously fermented beers, sometimes known as sours in certain circles. Here are a few of them along with some other beers I had along the way.

To my absolute surprise and delight, The Beer Circus had Girardin's lambic on cask for the princely sum of €2 for a 200ml measure. Needless to say, we consumed a fair bit of that with dinner. While not nearly as good as Cantillion, for that price I wasn't going to be fussy and it did the job nicely. In fact, being cask and basically flat made it easier to drink than its more acidic bottle conditioned cousins.

Another highlight was Troubadour Magma, a whopping 9% DIPA that's just bursting with tropical flavours. Pineapple dominates reminding me of all the Lilt I drank growing up.If there's one problem with this beer, it is that it's just too damn drinkable. In that way, it's like Of Foam And Fury. You can suck them down with wild abandon before you feel the 9% kicking in. It's only a bad thing if you do this though. I dread to think what this beer would cost in a bar in Dublin but in Belgium, it ran at about €3.70 a bottle in most bars.

One of the coolest places in Brussels is called A La Becasse. Their speciality is lambic style beers and they are served in various sized jugs. We were drinking Timmerman's Doux, a young sweet gueuze and in this place, it's just a little special for some reason.

Gandavum Dry Hopping is a beer brewed for Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant in Ghent. Incidentally, if you have the time to hop on a train for an hour, Ghent is a beautiful city to visit for a day trip from Brussels. The beer itself is a 7% ABV Belgian strong ale. For some reason, I didn't find it particularly pleasant. I thought there was a bit of a cooked vegetable thing going on but TheBeerNut didn't and quite liked it. That aside, it was a tasty enough beer with a little nectarine and citrus bite. 

Hanssens Oude Gueuze is an outstanding gueuze and I very much enjoyed drinking it. It's the sort of lambic that can hold its own alongside Cantillon, in fact I would love to have them side by side to see which one I prefer. It's a little stronger at 6% though. It's a very sour gueuze, just the way I like them but there is also a pronounced sweetness that remains throughout.

Gentse Strop was my last beer in Ghent and that's unfortunate because it wasn't my kind of thing. It's a very sweet Belgian ale. A little stale straw and and honey makes it almost pleasant but the cloying sweetness ruined it for me. Not to worry, I grabbed a few bottles of beer for the train ride to the airport. Word of warning, if you do the same and buy a gueuze, remember it's easier to open the bottle if you have a corkscrew.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Visiting The European Parliament - Thirsty Work

I was recently in Brussels with TheBeerNut doing our Beoir & EBCU duties. We visited the EU parliament and commission, met with a Dutch MEP and also learned a little about lobbying as well as discussed Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 with one of the top guys involved with it. This isn't a discussion for this blog though so I will skip past the meetings and move on to some of the beer I had.

From Brasserie de la Senne we have Black In Japan, a 7.2% ABV black IPA. I won't get in to the reason it's named that way. The beer has an aroma of chocolate with a little liquorice and some unidentifiable hops.
On tasting, I found it quite stout like. Lots of citrus hops and a little liquorice with a lingering bitter finish. It's a rather good beer that I still found disappointing when compared to many other so called Black IPAs I have had.

Also from de la Senne is Jambe De Bois, an 8% ABV abbey style trippel that has had some extra hops thrown in. It's a slightly lemony affair with hints of fresh bails of straw and some hops. A little lemon and honey makes for an interesting affair. I don't go for Belgian tripels usually but I rather enjoyed this one.

From Struise we have XXX Rye Reserva from 2012. It's a bourbon barrel aged, 10% rye triple. Unlike some bourbon barrel beers which can be overpowering and alcopopy, this one just has nice hints of bourbon with vanilla, chocolate and a little cherry/dark fruit. Slightly boozy and prune finish. Absolutely lovely beer.

The Brussels Beer Project is an interesting thing and it reminds me somewhat of what Beoir is doing. We have one beer under our belts that will be released soon (Beoir#1). The main difference is that we crowd-funded an up and coming brewery at the time (now in full production) and BPB are looking to establish their own brewery. Anyway, that''s enough digressing. Dark Sister is a beautiful black IPA. The 6.66% ABV becomes clear when you realise that Dark Sister is the "evil twin" to Delta (see below).
It's packed full of dark fruit and Is quite tart. I found it very fizzy as many Belgian beers tend to be. Quite bitter, more so than expected and a lovely chocolate and dark fruit combo. A very drinkable beer and very moreish.

Delta is the angelic twin of Dark Sister. Where dark sister is dark, delta is light and has a 6% ABC, a whole .66% less than its evil twin. Yeast and hops are the dominating characteristics a first before a slight lemon sherbet peeks through. It's somewhat sour with a little grape juice. A bitter and dry finish seals the deal for me. It's very enjoyable.

I love Rodenbach and there was no way I was turning down a 2011 vintage edition while I was there, so I had two of them. I now realise I didn't write about the 2010 edition I had in November so here it is. Sour with tart raspberries. Sherbety with some dark cherries perhaps. Wood and a hint of vanilla. An utterly fantastic beer.

Dupont's Bons Voeux is a 9.5% ABV trippel. Again, not my favourite style of beer but when in Belgium....
Honey and straw but also slightly sour. There's a big bubble gum hit and a slightly boozy finish. Better than I expected considering I'm not a fan of the style. This could be a result of it being more like a super saison than a traditional Belgian tripel. 

The award for strangest beer of the trip goes to Kameleon Ginseng. It's a 6.5% ABV beer that litterally tastes like ginseng. I used to eat ginseng pastilles and that's basically what this tasted like, right down to the sugar. I imagine the base beer is a blonde ale. There's some slight spice and herbal notes. Think leffe with ginseng added and you approach what the beer might taste like. A fascinating beer that I never intend to try again but am glad I tried it once. 

In my next article, I'll mention the various brands of gueuze I tried on the trip. The beer I wrote about is only about a 3rd of the beer I had over the course of the 4 days. Just the more interesting ones for better or worse.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ireland Bans All Non Irish Beer

From today, Ireland is taking the bold step to ban all beer produced by a company that is not considered Irish. The move is is seen as the first step towards left wing nationalism. The move is expected to meet harsh opposition from certain well known breweries based in Ireland but owned by foreign multinationals. A government spokesperson said the following:
"We consider any company not headquartered in Ireland to be foreign and not eligible for sale in the state". 
To me, this seems like a rash decision and I implore everyone reading this to contact their local officials and complain vigorously. The government sees this as an opportunity to promote our own independent breweries but I suspect the move will backfire. Some of Ireland's larger microbreweries have been exporting for years and there's the potential that retaliatory moves might be made by other countries.

An opposition official had the following to say:

"The government have their heads up their arses if they think this will be anything other than a disaster".

I for one agree with the sentiment and ask that the government remove their heads from each others arses.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Irish Cask Premium

It seems to have taken me a while but I finally had a chance to sample the Galway Bay American Amber and it was on cask, apparently a rarity. First off, the beer is outstanding as I have come to expect from Galway Bay. You can read TheBeerNut's thoughts if you want to know more about the kegged beer but I suspect it was a lot better on cask. It was €6.30 for a pint (it's 7.4%) but they wouldn't take my Beoir voucher for .50c off "because of the cask premium". That didn't bother me as I can use the vouchers for plenty of other beers but it got me thinking.

Why is there a premium put on cask beer in Ireland? In my experience, whenever I am in the UK I always notice just how much cheaper cask ale is compared to keg. In some cases, that difference might be influenced by fact that your average cask ale has a lower ABV so it costs less to make but that can't account for all of it.

Here is perhaps the best example of the price disparity. The above image was taken a few weeks ago at The Hanging Bat in Edinburgh. It was during a Tiny Rebel tap takeover. Everything on the left is cask and the rest is keg. Many of the cask beers are duplicated on keg. They are the same ABV so that doesn't come in to it. Taking an example, Fubar is 4.4% and on cask it costs £2.40 but the kegged version is £3.40? Go ahead and click the image to see it full size.

This shows that cask beer is typically cheaper in the UK but why is that? A little reading seems to indicate that it costs more to keg a beer than to put it in a cask. I'm not really sure how that can be to be honest, perhaps something to do with the kegging equipment costing more but that would only be an initial cost and not an ongoing cost surely?
I believe the real reason is consumer expectation. Consumers simply expect cask beer to be cheaper, perhaps because it has a significantly shorter shelf life (a few days) compared to keg. It needs to be a high turnover product or else it goes to waste and charging the same as keg isn't likely to make the average person pick a cask ale over a kegged ale.

In Ireland, cask is only now making a comeback in the last 5 years. We have gone from zero pubs serving cask ale to dozens around the country. Not many are 100% sure what they are doing and almost none have proper cellarmen capable of keeping the casks in optimum condition.

To make things more difficult for the future of cask in Ireland, a premium is charged by pretty much every bar I have been to on their cask products. The average pub goer isn't going pay more for a beer that is essentially warm and flat when they can spend less money for the same beer and have it cold and fizzy.

I'm not sure where the fault lies though. Maybe with the breweries or the pubs or perhaps even both. I do think something needs to change if cask is to have any real future in Ireland. It needs to be a little cheaper than the kegged version. If that means breweries cutting their costs or pubs reducing their profit margin to gain higher turnover, then that's what needs to be done. If it doesn't, the cask revival will not only fade away, it will be good riddance because all people will remember is paying a premium for a beer that was served in bad condition, probably well past its best and by bar staff who likely didn't know how to treat a cask ale in the first place.

One of the few places in Ireland doing cask properly are J.W. Sweetman in Dublin. They only tend to put on cask at the weekend which means it's gone by Sunday. I don't think they charge any more for it, though I don't think they charge less either. At least the beer you get is in good condition because it's fresh but also, the on-site brewer only allows it to be sold if he is happy with it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Irish Craft Beer Village - This Paddy's Weekend - Competition

It's back for another year but this time in a more civilised fashion. The Irish Craft Beer Village moves next door to the CHQ building in Dublin's IFSC.
The festival opened at 5pm yesterday. It runs from 4pm until 10pm from today, (Friday) Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Free admission before 6pm today (Friday). Admission is €5 at the door after 6pm and all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Please note that last entry is 8:30pm so don't be late.

The beer festival is complimented with a food market. If you decided to pop along and have any questions, just flag down your nearest Beoir volunteer.

I have a pair of tickets to give away to the event. 

To win, just send an email to with the answers to the following questions.

  1. On what date did Beoir go to Black's Brewery for a collaboration brew?
  2. According to the beer festival website, what radio station is sponsoring the event?
  3. According to this recent article, which brewery recently launched in the Cork suburb of Mayfield?
It's a short competition open only until 5pm today.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Black's Brewday Collaboration With Beoir

On Saturday, we had our collaboration brew with Black's Brewery in Kinsale.
If you keep an eye on Beoir, you might recall that we crowd funded Black's last year, here's the article.

Anyway, here's the video that I took throughout the day. About 33 minutes of brewing and the reset is our banter in the tasting room.