The Great British Invasion…of cans?!

Craft beer cans

We’ve always had numerous beers from across the Irish Sea on the shelves here. Well, for as long as I can remember Real Ale bottles have been around and Craft Beers landed a few years back. CAMRA get hung up on the difference but as far as I’m concerned Real Ale is the more traditional of the two and has been around a lot longer and, well, Craft Beer is a bit more ‘trendy’. You could say something about cask vs keg but that’s not particularly relevant in Ireland where cask ale is a rare thing indeed.

But I digress, for the vessels I supped from this week were mostly cans. Two London breweries have launched very recently on the Irish market. Gipsy Hill is being distributed by Carlow Brewing Company over here and they kindly dropped off a few cans for me to try. The artwork on these cans is pretty cool and they all come with a feel for the personality of the people behind the beers. The beers? Beatnik is a very drinkable Pale Ale. Southpaw is a pleasant Amber with a touch of spice about it. And Hepcat has a lovely fruity hoppiness. There is also talk of some special limited editions landing, Urban Brewing would be the best bet to get to try those!

Craft beer cans

Five Points are the other new kids on the block. They are being distributed by Four Corners and they have a representative on the ground called Francesca. Both breweries have had launch events in Ireland but I was unable to attend either of them. This trio of cans was purchased in the Athlone branch of O’Brien’s. The branding is very clean but I could get easily confused between the XPA and the Pale Ale. The XPA went down very nicely indeed and the oats did a sterling job of adding body and giving the beer a smooth mouthfeel. The Pale Ale was nice and juicy and the IPA was pretty decent.

The Irish Craft Beer Market must look pretty lucrative from London when we have two launches so coincidentally close to each other. But I had two thoughts as I drank these beers:

1) we have Pale Ales and IPAs that are the equal of these here. I’m not saying that we should drink Irish or support local exclusively. That would be hypocritical and wrong headed of me. And consumer choice is great!

2) a few Irish Craft Beer breweries have gone out of business in the last few months. That, and the uncertainty about Brexit would give me pause for thought if I was launching in a new market. But I’m sure they’ve considered all of these factors already. And I hope both are successful. As I have said consumer choice is great and competition brings out the best in everyone, doesn’t it?

Just some idle musings on an afternoon. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. Sláinte!

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The West’s Awake!

As a very special treat my wife and I visited Ballynahinch Castle at the weekend. It’s lovely and the food is excellent but this isn’t Simon Says You Really Should Stay Here! The tap line up in the bar wasn’t for me, but I was happy to discover that they stocked a few Irish Craft Beer bottles including some from Galway Bay and Kinnegar.

We took a slight detour on our way home to have a look around Clifden. Guy’s Bar caught my eye and I was happy to see a tap line up which included Galway Hooker, Independent, Bridewell and Stonewell Cider. A pint of Connemara Gold went down very nicely indeed.

I spotted The Brass Monkey in Moycullen on the outward leg of our journey and I reckoned it was worth a look. They had a few decent beers on tap including Samuel Adams Boston Lager. I called for a Full Sail IPA and enjoyed it beside their stove.

No trip west is complete without a stop in Caribou. Wylam’s Swiperight Session IPA is a pure juice bomb and was very enjoyable indeed. I also rather liked Fierce Beer’s Very Berry, it’s nice and tart.

Irish craft beer and pizza

Dough Bros Pizza in Galway had just been announced as one of The Sunday Times’ Best 100 Restaurants in Ireland and a couple of people had recommended it to myself and my wife. I asked the ‘craft beer question’ and was told that they had their own Dough Brews Session Pale Ale brewed by Independent. So I finished the day the way I started, with a good Galway beer. It works very well with the pizza! So there you have a few spots to visit if you are travelling through Connemara and Galway. Sláinte!

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My 2017 Beer Highlights

2017 was a good year for beer, I had the chance to try some amazing beers at home and abroad and met some good folk along the way. The year opened up with a trip to a rather chilly Copenhagen. Fermentoren and Warpigs were highlights. I would recommend a trip but bring a few bob with you! You can read more here.

February brought the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair, a perennial favourite of mine. I was behind the McGargles bar for much of it and that’s one of the best ways to meet friends new and old. We even picked up silverware for best IPA and best Wheat Beer. Happy days! Alltech is on in early March 2018, you can buy tickets now and read more about this year’s bash here.

Fast forward to May and the summer festival season kicked off with a small but interesting event in JJ Harlow’s in Roscommon. A good atmosphere and a warm welcome are always guaranteed in Harlow’s and this has the advantage of offering even more drinks than they normally stock! More pictures and words anseo. 

The June Bank Holiday weekend saw me pulling pints at Bloom. I managed to to go the whole long weekend without seeing a single garden! 

The July Bank Holiday saw the return of the Midlands Craft Beer Festival which I am involved in organising. This year we had a mix of old favourites and new faces and it was great craic. Dead Centre launched at the festival and have seen continued success since then. Read more here.

Later in July we had a family holiday to Bath and Bristol a particularly memorable pub was the Bag O’Nails! Full of felines and quirky character. 

To round off a very busy month I headed up to Ballymote, Sligo for Hagstravaganza 3. White Hag’s third birthday bash. They brought some of the best breweries from home and abroad to pour some never before tasted in Ireland beers. Tickets for the 2018 have already gone on sale at eventbrite!

In August I was invited to the launch of the very cool Urban Brewing. The CHQ houses this excellent restaurant with it’s own experimental brewery. 

Later that month I hit The Big Grill. 

Hopfully launched at the event and I love their artwork and the beers are pretty good too! 

August finished on a high note with a trip to Altes Mädchen Brewpub in Hamburg for their Craft Beer Days event. It’s a great spot and you should check it out if you are in Hamburg. 

In September I made the annual pilgrimage to the Irish Craft Beer Festival.  Ironically one of the standout beers was American. The festival marked my first encounter with new comers Larkin’s and I would say they will be ones to watch in 2018. 

In early October I was in fair Verona launching McGargles Francis Big Bangin IPA as a seasonal special. While there I checked out a couple of small craft beer bars and found the tap badge of the year! 

Later that month I was in Salzburg (via Munich) for the Beer Tasting event. I met loads of really friendly people from around Europe as the maxim about beer people being good people held true. And I got to try some more interesting beers! 

I was a bit quiet for the rest of the year but I was lucky enough to bag a few nice beers to sup over the Christmas break. Galway Bay’s collaboration with Boundary; Harmonic Convergence was for me, a late entry but one of the most enjoyable I’ve had all year. There may be a few bottles left so you could do what I did and drink one now and keep the other up for a while. This 12% Barrel Aged Barley Wine should age beautifully. Thanks for joining me on this journey and here’s to a great 2018, sláinte! 

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Santa says… you really should get these as presents! 

It’s the start of December and so it’s probably ok to mention Christmas now. If, like many others, you haven’t bought a thing yet here are a few ideas for you:Kate O’Driscoll makes amazing truffles that go really well with beer. She even does some with beer in them. The Salted Caramel variety get two thumbs up from me. You’ll find her on Twitter Kate O’D and Instagram here! 

Beer Hampers are always a good shout too and The Beer Club has a number of options, some even feature the aforementioned tasty truffles. They also have monthly subscription options if you want to give the gift that keeps on giving! Check them out here: The Beer Club

Another idea is a brewery tour. I happen to know of one that, eh, is hosted by me! You can buy gift vouchers and let the recipient choose a date for themselves…Rye River Gift Voucher.

 …and if you’re unfortunate enough to know a complete beer snob who claims to have seen it all before you might have to bring out the big guns! 

YellowBelly are offering the chance to get exclusive beers every three months, a brew day with the infamous Dec Nixon, a barbecue, a t shirt and loads of other treats. Sign up that lucky person: here!  

Hopefully that will have provided some inspiration, enjoy the festive season, sláinte! 

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Caskmates: best mates 

A very handsome package landed on my desk in work recently. There was no shortage of volunteers to ‘help’ me with it. Inside, there was a bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey Caskmates IPA edition nestled next to a can of Franciscan Well’s Chieftain IPA. 

You may be familiar with Jameson’s Caskmates Stout Edition which was aged in Franciscan Well Stout casks. I was given a bottle as a Christmas present and I enjoyed every drop. 

A ‘boiler maker’ is when you have a whiskey with your beer. So that’s exactly what I did. The whiskey has a lovely floral aroma. The sweet maltiness of the beer definitely carried over into the whiskey. And the citrus fruity notes from the hops are also apparent. The pair went down very nicely indeed on a wintry afternoon. I would like to try the return legs of both of these Caskmates, that is to say Stout and IPA aged in Jameson barrels.  

Speaking of which, a random encounter with an old friend led me to another Jameson beer combination. He said, ‘I’ve something at home that I think you’ll like!’, and he was right. New Zealand’s Garage Project aged their Rebel County Strong Ale in Jameson barrels. The resulting 13% beer is rich and tastes like Christmas pudding. 

If you like the sound of the Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition you can pick it up in O’Brien’s stores nationwide, in a few Dublin and Cork pubs and of course the Jameson distillery. Sláinte! 

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