French Beer: where it’s coming from and where it’s going!

A glass Of Foam And Fury in Johnny’s Kitchen, Lyon

Festivals are back! My first mission of the year was the Lyon Bière Festival. Direct flights to Lyon are not daily so I had to head over there on Thursday. Our French friends Accasbel had a couple of things lined up to keep me busy in the run up to the main event. First stop was Irish Bar Johnny’s Kitchen for a Galway Bay Brewery tap takeover. The atmosphere was welcoming, the fish and chips were great and I made a few new friends. More importantly, the beers were well received!

Orgao Beer House, Lyon

Next stop was Orgao Beer House where Funky Fluid’s tap takeover was in full flow.  I enjoyed their Smasher: Cryo Pop B Blend.   An 11% Triple NEIPA that drank like fruit punch. A lively spot, I’d recommend checking out.

Põhjala in La Plante Du Loup

And then it was on to ANOTHER tap takeover. But it was pretty much over… undeterred, we asked if it was ok to have a night cap…and we were told there was no problem. La Plante Du Loup is a bottle shop but they have a long table for sampling. They had several chilled growlers of Põhjala beers and the Pime Öö PX 13.9% Imperial Stout was recommended. Some way to conclude the evening. If you are lucky enough to come across this one give it a try.

Brasserie Georges, Lyon

As always before setting off for a city that’s new to me I had a look at the very well travelled Beer Nut’s blog. One place that he had mentioned was Brasserie Georges and my colleague Cormac also had heard it recommended so, after setting up our bar on the Friday morning, and a brief siesta we headed there. This place is on the go since 1836 and has what looks like an art deco style to me. It’s a big hall with small booths and smartly dressed waiters. The food is very old school. I had a sausage that was made with veal, which turned out to be calf intestine with very buttery mash and a rich sauce. The flavour was nice, if the texture was a little chewy. And I couldn’t really think about it as I ate. Cormac had bone marrow, swimming in butter. He was also inspired to come up with the title of this post! I had the Munica Brune which I reckon was a fairly good pairing.

Platypus Brew Pub

We just had time for a brief stop in Platypus Brew Pub before heading to our next assignment. Cormac had the sampler flight which I robbed samples of and I had a pint of the Hoppy Lager. I thought the Hoppy Lager was a grand pint!

L’Alerte Rouge, Lyon

We landed in to L’Alerte Rouge to meet our opponents Big Mountain. This wasn’t a tap takeover, oh no, this was a BATTLE! Now the folks from Big Mountain turned out to be sound. And their beers were good too. We both had 8.5%ish dipas so it was a fair fight. But I’m not sure who won in the end. There was also some shenanigans with a loud hailer, siren and flashing lights. Great craic, en Francais. We didn’t stay out too late as we had a long day of festival to get through.

Lyon Bière Festival

We started off the day with a nice bit of soakage in the form of some fierce fancy hot dogs, green stuff and mustard on the outside, cheese in the middle. Apparently the chef is a big deal. The first beer of the day was a Pils from Mount Salève which was brewed with French malt. It looked hazy but tasted crisp and clean. We also took the opportunity to walk around before it got too busy and I really enjoyed a Czech lager from Sibeeria, a collaboration with Piggy, Jean Pierre Lager which was very traditional, and had a lovely bitterness to it. Then it was back to the bar…

Galway Bay Brewery taps at Lyon Bière Festival

We were pouring our two new specials: Caveat, the aforementioned 8.4% Double IPA which we brewed with Prizm and Sixty Ships Down, a 12% Imperial Stout which was a collaboration with La Pirata. They’re a pair of belters if I may say so, and the good people of Lyon agreed. We also had a 10 litre keg of 200 Fathoms and the anticipation was building for the 6pm tapping. I borrowed a cow bell from our neighbours to mark the occasion and rang the shite out of it. Even at 100ml servings the baby keg was gone in no time. Dot were our neighbours on the other side and I was delighted to get to try the delicious and fruity (red fruits) Big Bottle No. 4!

A mystery stairway

After the festival we made our way to the famous members only Darts Club. We had met the owner earlier in the day and Maud from Accasbel had signed us up. I honestly didn’t have high expectations for the beer selection. I was wrong. They had a Pils from Dupont and Bull’s Eye DIPA from Bapbap (Peter ex Wicklow Wolf is brewing there now)! And then the owner brought us down to the cellar and opened some of his stash. Unfortunately I was too tired to appreciate it fully. So it was definitely time for bed. I had sore feet but what a great day was had. Thanks to Accasbel and Lyon Bière Festival. Sláinte.

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A Sample of Beer in Catalonia: nano to macro.

La Textil, Barcelona

Last week myself and my family took off to sunnier climes. Incredibly I found time to try some beers. Joan has been writing about beer for some time now as Birraire, in fact we met, way back in 2014 when the Beer Bloggers Conference was held in Dublin. You can check out his work here!So I gave him a shout and he recommended meeting in La Textil, Barcelona for lunch. I enjoyed their Writer’s Block Helles and their Quad 4 Pale Ale. They also had a small lunch menu and the aubergine with romesco sauce was lovely. The place is very cool with serious attention paid to every detail, worth a visit if you are in Barcelona. Also great to enjoy a beer with one of the people behind the Barcelona Beer Festival and a wealth of knowledge and stories.

BierCab, Barcelona

One of the more famous craft beer bars in Barcelona is BierCab so I felt I had to visit. I made short work of Fuerst Wiacek’s Stray Robot Session IPA and local legends La Pirata’s The Last Fool Southpaw 15% Imperial Stout. I had intended on checking out Garage and some other spots but time and opening hours didn’t work out.

El Tamboret, Cambrils

The next evening we took a walk to Cambrils which wasn’t too far from where we were staying. I wanted to check out brewpub On Tap. Alas, it was closed midweek. Luckily, El Tamboret was right around the corner. They had a nice local IPA pouring called Trapitxol from Ona which went down beautifully with some cheese. I also tried quite a bitter (in a good way) Galaxy Pale from Ales Agullons and a lovely Saison dubbed Nobel Ek from Brekeriet. The bar man/proprietor was very friendly, helpful and happy to recommend choices to me. From what I can tell, all of these are quite small breweries and it’s great to see.

Twins, Tarragona

Joan had mentioned Twins in Tarragona to me over lunch so we headed there. The twins in question are dead sound and they have a really relaxed place. We sat outside, as everyone else was and enjoyed a leisurely lunch of tapas. They also had a tasty IPA as well as some more unusual options like a Tripel and a surprisingly light Coffee Stout. If you’re in the area this is a must visit for great food and quality beers. You can check out some impressive Roman ruins in Tarragona too!

Craft beers from Esclat

I was tipped off that there might be some craft beer in the large supermarket Esclat which was a 20 minute walk from where I was staying. Alarmingly it looked like they had a two year shelf life and they were being stored ambient. Happily they were all pretty fresh. All decent examples of the pale ale hoppy type beer. And certainly a change from the dominant Damm lager.

Just some Damm beers…

In Ireland we have a couple of big breweries that are present on almost every bar in the country. In Barcelona and the surrounding area if you ask for a beer there’s a very good chance it’s going to be Estrella Damm. A lot of restaurants and tapas bars seem to only have one beer tap, so your choice is that, wine or sangria. Damm have a variety of bocks too which weren’t bad. If you Google craft beer in Salou the list is short. One bar that’s top of the list is The Butler. They had Damm’s (new?) IPA pouring and I was told it’s being brewed in a smaller facility (I’m thinking something akin to the Open Gate brewery) and that they grow the Nugget hops themselves in the mountains. It was pretty quaffable to be fair with a decent amount of juiciness. My least favourite Damm beer was Xibeca but at a couple of cents a can it’s hard to be too upset. Hopefully you can make the effort to find some of the hidden gems on your next trip to this part of the world. Sláinte!

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A great bunch of lads in Brussels

Killshot in Cantillon

It’s been about 20 years since I was in Brussels so when the lads in Galway Bay Brewery proposed a weekend trip I didn’t hesitate to sign up. A few of our Belgian beer loving friends joined us too. Most of us caught a very early flight on Friday morning. Bags dropped off we headed straight for Cantillon. This was my first time here and I think it’s fair to say we made a decent dent in the bottle list. Having only enjoyed the odd taste from this brewery before this was a very enjoyable experience. The Grand Cru Bruocsella was a particular favourite of mine.

L’Ermitage brew pub

A short stroll took us to a much more modern enterprise. L’Ermitage is a small brew pub where I enjoyed their Saison along with some cheese and sausage. We were made feel very welcome here so it was hard to move on, but press on we did!

Foeders in 3 Fonteinen

3 Fonteinen Lambik-O-Droom was our next port of call. This was quite a different experience to Cantillon as it was much more modern, having been rebuilt after an incident in 2009. Our tour was excellent and we learned about the brewing and blending operation. And we thoroughly enjoyed trying the various blends.

Het Boerenerf Eylenbosch

Our last brewery of the day was Het Boerenerf Eylenbosch. This is a nano brewery on some of the land that was the site of a much larger operation until the 60s. Senne’s growing some of his own hops and cherries and has most of his barrels stored in a lovely old barn. You can also get ice cream here so this is one for the whole family!

De La Senne Zenne Pils

The next day we headed for De La Senne after brunch. We worked our way through the menu with the Zenne Pils being fierce popular.

Brussels Beer Project

Brussels Beer Project were holding a Chantier (building site) party in their very nearly completed new brewery. The place was packed and the atmosphere was fantastic. We enjoyed the flash tour too.

The crew in Bar Du Canal

We headed for dinner in Bar Du Canal. It was mostly (very good) small plates and wine (which I don’t talk about). But it made a change from the beer.

De Biertempel

Sunday was relatively relaxed with a quick visit to De Biertempel to pick up a few bottles. And then it was time to head home. We’re already planning our next trip! Sláinte!

Bromance – it’s a thing!
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Bier & Big, Eindhoven

Drinker’s pub, Eindhoven

This isn’t a beer post. Not really. I mean there was beer had alright but…anyway, the point is, I was at my first beer festival on the continent in quite a while. Bier and Big has been running for a few years in Eindhoven. And Galway Bay Brewery were pouring at it. Myself and my colleague Steve landed early on Friday and dropped off our bags before a stroll around the town. We visited De Bierbrigadier which is a great off license, stocking 600 plus different beers and ciders. We wanted to visit Van Moll but it didn’t open until 3pm so we spotted the Drinker’s Pub and passed a bit of time there. When we did get to Van Moll I was impressed with the range of draught beers from across Europe as well as their own.

Lervig Rackhouse barrel aged beer

In the evening we went to Lervig’s unofficial Bier and Big pre party. They were pouring their new Rackhouse barrel aged beers which you can read about in the previous blog post. The event was in an industrial estate, outside, with sand and deck chairs. It was raining so it did feel a bit like Galway! Luckily we were able to shelter under some canopies.

Exciting times: Galway Bay Brewery at Bier & Big!

Bier and Big had 29 breweries from around Europe. It was great to be able to meet and share beers with loads of passionate and friendly people. They’re really into Untappd and as a result we had massive ques for our barrel aged 200 Fathoms and Boulevardier. A few people even said that they were the best beers at the event!

This is how they do pulled pork in Eindhoven

There were a few cool food choices including a Massey Ferguson agricultural machine that had been transformed into a grill and rotisserie. I just had to get some pulled pork on my break.

Some lovely people I met at Bier & Big

The weather stayed good until evening when the rain returned. It didn’t dampen spirits though and new friends were made whilst sharing umbrellas. Bier and Big was a very enjoyable event and it was fantastic to be working at a busy festival. Almost back to ‘normal’!

Het Lagerhuys

The next day we had to fly out of Amsterdam and Het Lagerhuys came highly recommended. (Cheers Marlou!) They had a nice selection of large mixed fermentation bottles but we took it easy with a few of the draught options. And the grub was good too, proper comfort food. Next stop… Brussels (later this month) Sláinte!

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Rackhouse by Lervig

Rackhouse Blue Plate Special

Lervig have been keeping secrets. Apparently they have been working on a barrel aging project since day one and are only now telling us about it! I was surprised and delighted to get an email from Davide Callegari, their Barrel Manager, who said they wanted to send me some samples to try. The program is called Rackhouse. And according to their letter it has grown from ‘a few barrels sitting in the dank basement’ to ‘an 800 square metre area with 600 barrels, foeders, brite tanks and a bottling line where wood and it’s influence on beer is the focus.’ Sounds pretty impressive to me!

I opened Blue Plate Special first. The brewer tells us about growing up in ’80s America and enjoying the Blue Plate Special in the diners. Pancakes with maple syrup, bacon and coffee. He has managed to conjure up the wonderful smell and taste of that classic meal with this Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Breakfast Stout. It’s rich, sweet, sticky and has a treacle like viscosity. Special indeed.

Rackhouse Canadian Lunch

Naturally lunch follows breakfast so after a water break I got stuck into Canadian Lunch. This one has cocoa nibs, peanut flour and maple syrup added to the Imperial Stout which spent 12 months in bourbon barrels. I think the peanut oil may have affected the ability to form any kind of head here but, no matter, I’m a fan of the resulting flavour. It’s a little like the Reese’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. So that’s your Halloween candy pairing sorted!

Rackhouse Off The Rack No. 1

Off The Rack No. 1 spent 11 months in Tennessee whiskey barrels. They left this one ‘unmolested’, so there are no adjuncts present. But there is still plenty going on with beautiful vanilla and coconut flavours combining to produce a delicious fudge like Imperial Stout. In hindsight I probably should have had it first! This trio all clocks in around the 14% mark and there’s eating and drinking in them so you should definitely share with a friend. I asked Lervig’s Irish distributor Four Corners if they’d be getting these beers and they said they would ‘possibly be getting a very small amount’ so if you do see them, don’t waste any time, snap them up. Many thanks to Davide and Lervig for this package. And kudos on the cool glassware too. Sláinte!

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