Brews by the Sea

Today was Father’s Day and when my wife asked what I wanted to do I didn’t hesitate before saying that I’d like to attend the Brewha in Bray’s Harbour Bar.

Helles Lager, Irish craft beer

This small festival saw some local breweries showcasing their wares. Larkin’s Helles Lager was a great one to start off with. It was very clean and drinkable. I resisted the sweets and crisps that were also on offer, the beer was enough of a treat for me.

The Garden County Brewers were offering samples of their home brews. They couldn’t accept payment but they had a tip jar. I suspect all monies were swiftly invested in more malt and hops. I enjoyed their fruity Citra IPA.

Speaking of hops, Kev from Third Barrel put all of them into their new, brilliantly named, Shut Up Juice. It’s great to see Third Barrel up and running and developing a small range of hop bombs.

Food...pork...

The lovely people from the Harbour Bar provided some delightfully messy pulled pork sliders and ribs.

Porterhouse had a new special on offer. I loved the Dudesque can artwork of Hazy Border. It’s a collaboration with Hillstown from the top part of our fair isle. If Brexit commentaries all tasted like this I’d have no problem.

Wicklow’s Chocolate and Coconut Stout did exactly what it promised on the tap badge. It’s one of the most coconutty beers I’ve tasted in a while and it would be lovely with some chocolate cake.

Wicklow Wolf’s Ranchero Rauchbier was smokey and interesting. This was a local affair but Wicklow Wolf were definitely the closest brewery to the event. They could’ve just rolled the kegs down the road for the weekend!

I saved the biggest beer until last. O Brother were pouring an untitled 9% Imperial Stout. It was very chewy and a great one to finish an afternoon session with. Fair play to Antrim Man aka Mark Molloy and the Harbour Bar crew for putting on a cracking wee festival. Hopefully this is one that will be returning in 2019. It’s going to be a busy summer of beer festivals so stay tuned for more. Sláinte!

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#MCBF18 is on!

Beer Festival, Moate, Irish craft beer

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we’re a go for the fourth year! We will have breweries from Westmeath, Longford, Carlow and Kildare pouring this time round. Anyone who has attended past years will know that it’s a nice small relaxed event. Hopefully see you there! Sláinte!

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Going Wild in the city!

Last Thursday evening there was a Wild Beer event in 57 The Headline bar. I was invited to head along by Paul from the Carlow Brewing Company who import and distribute Wild Beer in Ireland. Brewer Bill and Mad Scientist Nick from Rye River Brewing accompanied me there. There were several Wild Beer taps to choose from but I went for Nebula first. It was a hazy juicy IPA and it went down a treat. Perfect for the balmy summer evening that was in it.

Next I tried Sleeping Lemons Export, it’s a Gøse brewed with preserved lemons. I would love to try this one with a meringue head!

Three bottles of Wild Beer

After that there was a tasting with Giles from Wild Beer. The throng of beer fans was broken into smaller groups who assembled in the wee back room of The Headline.

Giles gave us some of the background of Wild Beer and explained their ethos. They produce a range of forty five beers and the one they started with was Modus Operandi, a blended sour. He told us that they made beers which provoke quite different reactions and said that no one would like all of their range. So, a bit like that famous contrarian Neil Young then. He was very frank and engaging. He also gave us a taste of Jambo, a Chocolate Raspberry Imperial Stout. This beer was gorgeous in it’s own right and then 57 main man Geoff appeared with a plate of truffles made with Millionaire Stout. It was beer pairing heaven.

Staying with stouts I had a glass of Millionaire, the Salted Caramel Milk Stout after the tasting. Sadly the truffles were all scoffed by then and I couldn’t try the pair together.

Wild beer in 57 The Headline bar

I saved a big one til last, there was only one keg of Wildebeest in Ireland. This 11% Imperial Stout was like a boozy mocha milkshake. I asked Geoff for a cheeseboard and I have to say that I loved the blue cheese with it. It was a top notch event, fair play to all involved. I thought the pricing was decent at €4 for a glass all of the Wild Beers. And it was great to meet up with some of my friends in the beer scene again. If you weren’t there you missed out but you will be able to find some of the Wild Beer range in good off licences. Sláinte!

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Donkeys, Dogs and Smoked Hogs!

Smoke has just opened in Athlone this weekend. It’s a proper southern style barbecue joint with a menu that reads like a carnivore’s wet dream. I started my afternoon with a Happy Out Pale Ale from Black Donkey. This one has a familiar looking label and there’s a reason for that, it’s an evolution of their Belgian Style Pale Ale Scythe. Apparently some people couldn’t get their heads around it. This beer should face no such problems being a very tasty Pale which has a lovely dry finish from the Belgian yeast which is still present.

Smoke is the first Irish ‘Dog Dealer’, I have no idea what that means but they have two BrewDog taps.

*edit* Ian Bergin, BrewDog’s Irish ambassador has quickly filled me in, as follows:

‘”Dog Dealers” means they will pour punk 365 days a year on a dedicated tap, & also have access to some uber special international only beers to pour on rotation each month (these beers don’t even turn up in OUR bars or in cans/bottles)’

I opted for the Indie Pale Ale. This beer received a fairly poor reception when it launched but I’d heard that the recipe had been tweaked and there was a fresh keg on so I threw caution to the winds and called for a pint. I should’ve just asked for a taste, and that wouldn’t have been a problem so it’s my own fault. It’s a fairly bland Pale Ale and isn’t a whole lot better than some of the ‘crafty’ macro beers that are widely available. I think my t shirt was appropriate.

Then my food started to arrive. I had some fairly tasty nachos to start and a pint of the old reliable Punk IPA to wash it down with. My main course was pulled pork and I had some burnt end beans and dirty mash on the side. The pulled pork was on point and the dirty mash was divine.

I was with my family and another family and it was the opening weekend. We were early for the evening menu but opted to wait over a half an hour for the bigger menu. There were some delays and mix ups with the food and they had no ice cream for the kids but they happily substituted brownies which kept the peace. I’ll visit again when they get bedded in. If you go, my recommendations are Happy Out and nachos, Punk IPA, pulled pork and dirty mash. Let me know how you get on. Sláinte!

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Hunting Craft Beer in Northern Italy

Craft Beer in Northern Italy

Northern Italy is experiencing a craft beer boom with the number of micro breweries growing exponentially over the last five years. However, in many ways it’s still like Ireland in that you have to go looking for it. Many bars are happy with a single Peroni tap or, if you’re really lucky, some German beers. I’m going to skip over the misses and just share some highlights with you.

Starting with Archivio which I first visited last Autumn, you can read more here! This time round I had another Mastro Matto, the Schwarz, it was malty and sweet, not bad at all. But Crak’s Mundaka Session IPA was really good! It was zingy and fresh and I’d highly recommend it. I was told their other beers are of a similar standard if you come across them. Archivio is a pleasant bar with friendly staff and decent music in the background so check it out when in Verona. It’s only a short walk from Juliet’s balcony so it’d be rude not to.

Craft beer in Northern Italy

Assobar in Bardolino is another very decent bar, they had nothing that grabbed me on draught but the menu had a fairly broad international range of craft beers listed. The lady recommended taking a look in their fridges. And yes, there were three fully stocked with something for every beer geek. Including just one Italian Craft Beer. Robb De Matt from Lambrate, a Rye IPA that’s light on Rye but is hoppy and drinkable enough to make a sunny afternoon even more enjoyable. As I once again perused the shelves of the fridge in was told, ‘not that one, it’s a standard Golden Ale, this one is much more interesting!’, always nice to get a steer when in uncharted waters.

Craft beer in Bardolino

Oh Deer Sour from Bevog is an Austrian Cherry Sour. Sours are lovely and refreshing and so, despite this being a Christmas release it still worked well on a warm April afternoon. And the guy was right; it was way more interesting than a Golden Ale!

The campsite I was staying at; Bella Italia in Peschiera del Garda was lovely but unusually, the Fish and Chips shop had the best draught selection in the place with Birra Antoniana’s Lager, Schneider Weisse Tap Seven and eh, Kilkenny.

The best discovery of the trip was Il Covo Beer House, also in Peschiera del Garda. Giacomo has six taps, all Italian Craft Beers and a range of bottles too. The Drunken Duck pub had been recommended to me but I wasn’t able to fit it on my itinerary this time round, luckily a lot of the beers on draught were supplied by The Drunken Duck Distribution so I had a sample of what they would offer.

Hammer’s Wave Runner IPA, Lariano’s La Gringa Pils and Il Birrone’s Cibus (?) were my favourites. All six were worth trying, and I did, over the course of two evenings.

Some tasty complimentary snacks were also provided. I have to say, I like the Italian habit of giving you some crisps or nuts beside your beer but Il Covo went over and above. So, please, make it your business to pay this lovely establishment a visit.

Biggest surprise of the trip was a street food festival in one of the squares in Peschiera del Garda. The Birra Di Classe Van was pouring seventeen beers from it’s side.

This impressive mobile operation was set up to promote Independent Italian Craft Beer and involved cutting a large restaurant fridge to fit it into the back of a van. Where there’s a will there’s a way! The Gøse Sal Aqua was another one from Lambrate and Giacomo from Il Covo had recommended it. T’was very tasty indeed. Nice and dry. The Truth IPA from East Side also tickled my tonsils. Keep an eye out for the big yellow van as they may be turning up at an Irish street food festival this year! Cheers for reading, hopefully this will be helpful to some of you on your summer holiday this year. Sláinte!

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