Friday, 30 March 2012

Dutch sweet-tooth.

De Molen's Bommen and Granaten is a 15.2% beer, essentially a barleywine I suppose. The aroma was pure prune juice with a hint of the alcohol. Some brown sugar and figs. It also appears quite oily.
It tastes pretty much like the aroma with prunes dominating. There is plenty of caramel in the body and it is incredibly sweet. I can imagine dental hygienists being horrified by this beer. There is almost no hop presence whatsoever. 
This is not a beer to swill with your mates. In fact, don't let them anywhere near the bottle unless it's only one or two and they are happy to share the bottle and sip it for an hour.
It's a lovely beer but perhaps a little on the sweet side for my taste.
I really want to get to their restaurant some day. I imagine I could spend the best part of a day there eating and drinking myself to bursting.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Dublin is the best drinking destination - In the world!

I can just imagine Jeremy Clarkson saying that, can't you? Seriously though, google best beer cities in the world or any variation of that and you will find plenty of listings. Most of them list the same cities like Munich or Berlin, Prague, Portland, London, Brussels but you can always be guaranteed that Dublin is not only in the list, it is also in the top ten. Often it is number three and sometimes number one. You can also be guaranteed that the picture and spiel as to why it was chosen mentions Guinness. Often it is the only reason, though some at least choose to mention some of our other good drinking establishments, like Porterhouse.
Some even get it very wrong and say:
visitors to Dublin know that it's best consumed at the source, served up from a cask at one of the city's classic pubs. 
If only the cask part were true, Guinness might have a little more respect among beer geeks than it does now. They do make some great products, they are just less flavoursome than their craft beer counterparts.

A new pub has just opened in Dublin, it's the sister to L Mulligan Grocer, one of the best places to drink north of the Liffey. This one is called W. J. Kavanagh's and is also on the Northside. I have not been in yet but rest assured I will soon enough and do a proper write-up. This got me thinking though. The Black Sheep has also recently opened and Kate's Cottage is about to become a craft beer haven as well.

You don't have to go to one of the specialist beer bars/pubs either because many regular pubs have caught on to the craft beer revolution and have a couple of taps and maybe some bottled beer available. In many cases it is flying out the door as more and more people crave something different than the faceless mass produced beer they have been forced to drink for decades.

In the past, Dublin has always been one of the best places to drink in a pub. The beer choice was non existent and every pub served the same beer but the atmosphere was what made it special. Today, the same is true except you can hardly walk 50 metres in the city centre without finding somewhere serving some decent beer, and the list of specialist beer bars has got to the stage that doing a pub crawl of them all might be very bad for your liver.

And don't just stick to the city centre, hop on the dart and explore the coastal suburban towns of Dublin. Not only will you find some great pubs serving good beer, albeit less often than the city centre, you will views of some breathtaking scenery, especially on the southern dart line towards Bray. The scenery is common place to Dubliners but it often shocks visitors. Especially on a bright and sunny day (like today), there are few places I would rather be than Dublin. That said, I will be in Denver this summer so that might change.

This means that Dublin is finally; fully deserving of a place in the best drinking or best beer cities in the world. And possibly at number one even? Well that depends on the person really. I would say probably not number one but certainly up there with the best.

Although be sure to make the trip to Cork, Galway and perhaps Belfast because they are also fantastic drinking cities.

If you are considering a visit to Dublin, a full list of the ever growing number of pubs/restaurants serving decent beer is available on the Beoir directory and also there's an app for that. Android users will soon have the same feature but for now, the release candidate is here. The apps/directory cover all of Ireland.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The black sheep - Dublin - It's Certainly not being shunned by punters.

The good people behind The Oslo, The Cottage and The Salthouse in Galway have done it again. Like when they took the corner of death on Wexford street and turned it into one of the best drinking establishments in Dublin, they have done it again North of the liffey on Capel street.
The location has been home to such places as The Living Room, The DeLux and The Bleu Note. I don't think it will be changing any time soon, not the way these guys run a bar.

The Black Sheep is very similar to ATG except it's a little bit smaller. It shares a similar feel, a shared atmosphere if you will. The décor is similar with farmhouse kitchen style table and chairs. Board games are available to play and there is no television to distract from talking. Music is played at a low level, though it can still be hard to hear because all those people talking at once creates its own noise. Still the atmosphere is excellent and relaxed.

There is a wall that splits the bar in two and I am not sure of its function. Perhaps it simply holds the roof up but it looks like it takes a lot of space away from the already small bar.
The other side of the partition is pretty much the same. The bar itself is split by the partition.
I only noticed the one flood, I don't think there is an upstairs like ATG but I could be wrong on that one.

The main thing is the beer, that's what you are going for after all. As you would expect, they have a fantastic range of kegged beer on tap and barely a drop of macro stuff to be seen, except Blue Moon (Coors) and this is a decent enough beer to be honest, at least on tap. I don't care for the bottled version much. While I might not drink Blue Moon, enough people will and it has flavour unlike many other mass produced beers.

Another feature is the food. I very much enjoyed my fish (hake) and chips. The fish was as soft as air and the mushy peas were lovely and generous. The chips (fries) came stacked like a game of jenga, the big slightly overdone almost potato wedge type I love, similar to the Bull and Castle. I should have taken a picture actually. Actually a game of Jenga using such chips intrigues me....

Monday, 19 March 2012

I'd turn Christian for beer.

Thought this was worth sharing. Hope everyone had a good St Patrick's festival.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Irish craft beer festival - Paddyfest

From the festival website.

This St Patrick's festival weekend saw the start of a new craft beer festival in Dublin, and there is no better time for a beer festival than the St Patrick's festival weekend, well except in the summer when it's warmer.
It ran from Thursday until today.

The entrance is an impressive arch and behind it you walk down a ramp to the festival area below.

Outside you find vendors selling various types of food, though the hot dogs, especially the large bratwurst type are especially good. Be warned, the large ones are €6 I believe. The regular size is €3.

There is one bar outside which has a few taps of kegged beer, namely O'Hara's beers and one cask engine. I believe it had Leann Folláin at some point but when I was there they had what I considered to be the beer of the festival from the Hilden brewery. Twisted Hop is a real hop juice type of pale ale. It is absolutely beautiful and when I was done at the festival, I was delighted to find it on cask at the Black Sheep (which I will write about soon).

The outside bar is also usually quiet so a secret weapon when the main bar is packed. It also contains some great beer so make sure you visit it.

I arrived before 7pm which meant it was free in. By seven it was very busy and I would say this is one of the reasons for a number of complaints on the first night. People were waiting nearly 30 minutes to get served at this point. The office crowd were getting off work and coming in for a few but by about 7:45 it had died off enough that some of the bar staff had no one to serve at times so getting a drink was no problem, though space in the tent was at a premium.

There was live music and to be honest I rather enjoyed it. They played covers and did a very respectable job of a Mumford & Son song or two.

There were a number of complaints on the Thursday night, partly was how long it took to get served but also was the bar staff not being experienced enough and pouring half a beer of head or refusing to serve half pints. I am guessing that words were had because there was none of that on Friday. In fact I saw people being served half pints and more importantly, I saw at least one very friendly bar man not only talk to people about the beer, but offered tastes before someone took the plunge and this is very important at a beer festival. Perhaps not practical at the end of work rush but once things quit down a little then it should even be encouraged because at the end of the day, this sort of festival is about introducing people to beer that has been carefully craft brewed by small independent brewery and while the bottom line is important, it's their livelihood after all, what is more important is the quality of the beer and ensuring people enjoy it.

There are certain things that perhaps could be done a little better. Having the seating, bars and band in the one tent was a little bit silly as navigating to the bar was an obstacle course in itself. I would reckon that having a bar tent for just serving the beer and then a separate seating tent, but adjoining the bar would be a better idea. There was plenty of space outside but being a cold and wet Friday evening, that was far less popular.
One of the problems with Thursday was the €10 cover charge which only entitled you to get in. Originally a souvenir pint glass was to be provided but health and safety said no to that at the last minute so for Friday I believe you were being given a free pint voucher so you were only really paying €5 in and I think that is worth it.
For some reason, on leaving the beer tent, you were stamped and then on entering again you had to show your stamp? I am not sure of the purpose of this because what if you had only arrived and wanted a drink, you would not have a stamp. Perhaps it was only at paying time and those who paid got stamped coming in or some other kind of token but I still don't understand the purpose that serves.

Negatives are in the minority though because I really enjoyed myself and so did the thousands of others around me from what I could tell.

Anyway I wanted to get this post published today because the festival is on today from noon. Even better is that it's an absolutely stunning day out there today and great weather for a beer festival. Tomorrow it's free all day so another good reason to go. Don't forget, it's €10 in today but that includes a free pint of your choice!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Celebrate good times.

The latest release of celebration stout from The Porterhouse* is a big animal. At 11% ABV it is the highest strength beer produced in recent times in Ireland. It's also a bargain at €2.99 a bottle.

The Beer Nut wrote about it here and compared it to the normal celebration stout so if you want to know how they differ, check that out.
For me, I only had the one lonesome bottle and I am going to have to buy some more to keep for a while because it's a fantastic beer.

On the nose is oodles of vanilla-oak. Caramel, Muscovado, dark fruits. There is a slight smokiness, though I don't think it was aged in peated barrels. I got a lot of chocolate and the slightest hint of coffee at the end. It tastes exactly like it smells. I did find it just a little on the fizzy side, though that does not stick around too long and since this is a sipping beer, it dissipates after about 5 to 10 minutes. There is a real port or sherry feel about this beer. The alcohol is incredibly drying and I found myself wanting water very quickly while drinking it. If there were ever hops added into the beer, I think they ran away in fear but to be honest I did not miss them too much. I suspect I would like it even more if there was a little earthy hop character though.

Speaking of celebrating, apart from it being my Sister's birthday and Mothers day this weekend, tonight I am going to the St Patrick's day craft beer festival (or Paddyfest as I call it) in Dublin. It does not look like the best day for it though and I heard a lot of beer has already run out since yesterday.

* Nice new website it looks like

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Great Divide - Grand Cru

I am a big fan of Great Divide beers and this summer I will find myself in Colorado so I plan on trying to get to the brewery, or at the least, their tap room for some beer.

I was more than a little curious to see what their interpretation of a Grand Cru would be like so I had to buy a bottle. For research purposes of course. Now a Grand Cru usually just means that it's a special limited release that is likely to be a little bit stronger and more special than a regular release beer.
That said, I associate them with being very local beers brewed in Belgium and France that tend towards a slight sour note but not as sour as a Lambic for instance. I only think of it that way because the ones I have had tend towards that sort of profile.
At 11 % ABV, this is a beer to be respected and enjoyed. The 660ml bottle is great for sharing, or keeping for myself like I did. A waft of dark fruits, namely prunes assaulted me from first sniff. A slight sherbetty lemon fizz followed. It tasted more or less how it smelled. A strong winey quality along with the strong prune juice. A slightly spicy finish along with a hint of honey to finish. An absolutely beautiful beer and not a hint of sourness at all. I think I may have consumed it too fast because it was gone before I knew it.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Brew # 42 - Cascading Amarillo

Not a very original name for a beer but last weekend I brewed this pale ale. Essentially taking my New Zealand pale ale recipe and Americanising it. The only real malt difference worth speaking of is a little light crystal (30EBC). At the same time I kegged my International Homebrew Project beer as well as bottled my small beer.

Cascading Amarillo

14-B American IPA
Author: Reuben Gray
Date: 04/03/2012
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 23.04 L
Efficiency: 76.74%
Attenuation: 81.0%
Calories: 137.79 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.042 (1.056 - 1.075)
Terminal Gravity: 1.008 (1.010 - 1.018)
Color: 8.64 (11.82 - 29.55)
Alcohol: 4.44% (5.5% - 7.5%)
Bitterness: 68.8 (40.0 - 70.0)


3600 g Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
600 g CaraPils Malt (brupaks)
125 g Light Crystal
36 g Amarillo (11.2%) - added during boil, boiled 60 m
19 g Cascade (7.0%) - added during boil, boiled 30 m
21 g Cascade (7.0%) - added during boil, boiled 15 m
29 g Amarillo (11.2%) - added during boil, boiled 5 m
1 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.20

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Well I suppose it's nice and all, but there is more to Ireland than Guinness.

The lonely planet has released their top booze destinations. As you might expect, Ireland gets a spot (number 2) for Guinness, ignoring all the other great beers and indeed whiskeys that are produced here. Which leads me on to another thing about the list. Where is the Whisky, specifically why is Scotland not on the list? If ever a country is synonymous with Whisky it's Scotland.
Tennessee gets a mention for Whisky, and not to take anything away from Tennessee but I would personally hold Scotland above Tennessee as well as Ireland.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the Czech Republic. They manage two spots in the top 10, one for Becherovka* and the other for Absinthe, both of which are hard spirits and only one of which originated in the country but no mention of the beer? Ahem, the Bohemians are responsible for creating Pilsner, the golden lager that has been imitated by thousands of breweries around the world. Fact is, the brewery that created it is still going. Pilsner Urquell is not on that list and the question has to be asked, why not? The Czech Republic is responsible for creating the the worlds most popular alcoholic beverage (clear golden lager-pilsner) and according to wikipedia, only water and tea are more widely consumed in all categories of drinks. That refers to beer in general but Pilsner is the most popular type of beer.

Now coming back to Guinness. Why does Ireland always make these sorts of lists? The reason being is almost always Guinness? In reality Guinness is a testament to clever marketing as are most of the large breweries but Guinness  has always been ahead of the game I think. Remember the Guinness is good for you campaigns years ago?
Sure Guinness is an iconic drink and to be honest I rather like it but there are so many better stouts and porters out there, even in Ireland that it means we are only celebrating the ability to advertise. Since that's the case why not mention Bud? Terrible beer but great advertising.

Previous lists have seen Dublin among the top beer cities in the world when in fact the sad truth is, there is a lot of beer drunk in Dublin but most of it is mass produced macro stuff and most pubs serve the same lineup of boring mass produced beer, all of which is owned by foreign companies, Guinness included. Things are changing of course but compared to somewhere like London or San Francisco, the choice of beer is pretty bad.

Judging from the comments on that article, it seems I am not the only one questioning the list and who puts it together. At the end of the day, the article appears to be nothing more than something to generate interest in a travel book.

*nasty stuff that tastes like Christmas and I can't drink anymore after a 3 day hangover from a night of stupidity years ago.

Friday, 2 March 2012

What's local?

This month's session is hosted by some Hoosier in Indianapolis. The topic is simply local beer, a term that is synonymous with craft beer for me because it's the very first term used when I discovered it.

As the story goes, I was in a bar in Michigan in a lovely little town called Saugatuck and was getting lunch. I was thirsty of course so I went to see what they had at the bar and saw taps I did not recognise. When I asked what they were I was told it was local beer so I tried what I believe was a Bells Oberon and maybe something else. That was Christmas 2004 I think and I never looked back. Each trip to the US was a joy of discovery. It took many years for me to find out about the Irish craft breweries I'm afraid to say.

What does local beer mean anyway? Well if we take an Irish perspective here. In Ireland, I would like to say that we take pride on our local enterprises. We do have a fanatical following of the GAA sports and a Tipperary man will defend with his life the right to say that Tipp is the best hurling or football (Gaelic) team there is. Just like a Kilkenny or Kerry person will. There is a sense of county pride and even local town pride when we get down to that level. When there is a GAA match nearby, the winners will drive around honking their horns, waving their flags in a convoy throughout every housing estate in the town. Flags will adorn the streets and mascots can be seen in some cases.

Local beer however does not enjoy the same level of pride, and I think that's wrong. In fact if we could somehow get the GAA to help promote local produce, beer included, then I think things might change outside of the bigger cities and towns. Tipperary has it's local pride and it has it's local breweries that should share that sense of pride. Now we might have neighbouring Kilkenny supporters not wanting anything to do with local Kilkenny shite but since they have no brewery, they will just have to man up and set one up.

I long to see the day when every county has at least one local brewery and the locals are proud to drink and be seen to drink their local brew.

Cork is the closest to local beer pride I can think of, where no real rebel Corkonian would be seen dead drinking a Guinness when there is Cork brewed Murphy's and Beamish to choose from. It would be nice if they took more interest in their local craft breweries as well, though enough people seem to drink craft beer in Cork*, and in ever increasing numbers to be very encouraging. In fact they have invaded Dublin and a number of pubs now serve Cork brewed craft beer under different names.

*As The Beer Nut pointed out, Rebel Red is widely available.