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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Hanging with Wolfgang and Helmut

Three times now, I’ve arrived in Munich just after Oktoberfest. One year I may get it right. I landed late enough Thursday evening and headed for Hofbräuhaus on the recommendation of Brewer Steve Loftus one of my Rye River colleagues. He told me to try the Dunkel, I dutifully did so and was not disappointed. It was about ten to ten at night when I sat down in the crowded, rowdy beer hall and I was left waiting ten minutes to be served despite asking for a menu. When my turn came they had ‘just’ finished serving food so I had to make do with a pretzel. Not ideal. 

The next day I was off to Salzburg for the BeerTasting.club event. The organisers took us to the Kalea warehouse where they put together their beer advent calendars and tasting boxes. 

And then it was on to the serious business of a two day beer festival. The Beer Tasting took place in the Panzerhalle which is a cool spot including a market, some bars and restaurants and event spaces. 

The event was very busy with locals trying a range of beers from twenty eight breweries. The McGargles beers which I was pouring proved very popular indeed! 

I found a few minutes before serving to try a sup of some of the other beers which were pouring. One of which was Next Level’s excellent Five O’Clock Earl Grey IPA. Johannes their brewer and I met at the recent Craft Beer Days Festival in Hamburg and it was good to see a familiar face. He was filling me in on the local scene. A very knowledgeable guy, be sure to check out his Craft Beer Store if you’re in Vienna. 

My bar neighbour on the Friday was a gentleman who grows and malts his own barley before brewing his award winning Schwarze Tinte (Black Ink). This one was single hopped with Sorachi Ace which worked very well in this malty dark beer.

That was about it for Friday bar a snack of raclette and some Japanese whiskey. On Saturday I filled my culture quota by visiting the Modern Art Museum. Then I paid a brief visit to Murphy’s Law (Salzburg branch) and hit the Augustiner Brewpub for the second time in, oh, around twelve years! By pure chance I sat beside Helmut Karl, a man who has been crowned world champion at the Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Championship in Lynchburg numerous times. He’s involved in the Salzburg Bulls Barbecue Team too and can be consulted on all matters carnivorous. His girlfriend and friends were also very pleasant but, you know, barbecue! I really like the Augustiner Brewpub and highly recommend that you visit. The food stalls are great there too. 

Back to the Panzerhalle I went for another busy evening. 

I had a new neighbour, Wolfgang who was a local man selling his beers under the shorter version of his name: Wolf. I tried his Elderflower Saison and it was delicious! 

Browar Dukla had driven a thousand kilometres to pour at the festival, they had a few juicy Pale Ales and they kindly gave me a bottle of their Russian Imperial Stout to bring home. They’re big comic book fans like our Wexford friends YellowBelly. 

I have to say the event was very well run and I met some very sound folks, hopefully our paths will cross again. Sláinte! 

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Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna 

During the week I was in Doolin for a wedding. On the way down we stopped in nearby Lisdoonvarna with the intention of visiting the Roadside Tavern. Alas, it was closed for a private function! 

On the way home, we happily found the door open. Coincidentally it was a Burren Food Trail night and every table was full, so myself and my wife took a seat at the bar. 

I was given a taste of the Gold Lager and Red Ale. The Lager didn’t really do it for me but the Red was pretty decent. 

The Black Stout though, it was top notch. Dry, slightly bitter and with a hint of smoky peat, this one ticked all of my boxes.  I would happily sup pints of it all night. 

At this point we were having a bit of craic with the lads behind the bar and they kindly gave us one of the very special desserts that Chef Vinny had concocted for the assembled foodies. It was comprised of beetroot ice cream, cucumber jelly and yoghurt. Savoury and delicious. I would say that if they injected some of the adventurous spirit from the kitchen into the brewery they could come up with some very interesting special beers. A visit would be highly recommended. I’ll be back for food and more of the Black Stout. Sláinte! 

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Beer spots in Verona 

Work took me to Verona last weekend. A bit of internet research showed that there weren’t too many options for the craft beer lovers of the city. I decided to check out one or two while there. 

Pictured above is Osteria la Mandorla which is just around the corner from the Arena. It’s a small bar but there is seating downstairs too and they had three craft beers on draught; two session IPAs and a Pils. They also had a selection of bottles and cans in the fridge and loads of wine if you’re into that sort of thing. 

I really enjoyed Maso Alto’s Stranger Pils and it gets extra points for the very cool tap badge. I picked up a couple of the cans to bring home with me as we don’t see too many Italian craft beers here. Nice spot, worth a visit. 

Archivio is a short walk from Juliet’s balcony. And you’d be thirsty after the excitement of seeing the scene of Shakespeare’s great tragedy. 

This cozy bar had two taps from local brewery Mastro Matto. I went for the Hell first and it was very drinkable. 

And I enjoyed the malty Dunkel after that. The lady behind the bar was busy preparing fresh juices for their cocktails but still had time to chat and was very welcoming. The bar also had a range of bottles in the fridge and a good selection of Scotch whisky. Well worth a visit too. 

Another pub I visited on my travels was Hartigan’s Irish Pub. No craft beer there but you’d be guaranteed a warm welcome. And they had some interesting Irish memorabilia. 

The purpose of my visit was the launch of McGargles Francis Big Bangin’ IPA which you’ll be able to find in selected pubs around northern Italy for the next two months. It went down very well with the publicans with some of them asking for it to be a permanent addition to their line up. I’d call that a successful trip. Sláinte! 

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