The European Beer Bloggers Conference kicked off in Ireland for the first time on Friday. There was an optional pub crawl on the Thursday night but I reckoned two days was plenty for me. We had been forewarned to eat lunch before the event began. The Irish Beer Snob recommended the Ugly Duckling in the Epicurean Food Hall so we met there with 11pm Somewhere, Tale of the Ale and Carol Dekkers who had traveled from Florida for the event. I had the Pittsburgh sandwich which was huge, tasty and set me up for the day.
Then we made the short trip to The Church for the Expo. After collecting our name tags I was presented with the familiar Galway Hooker tap. Ronan told me this was the first beer from the new facility in Oranmore as he filled my glass to the top. Any consistency issues that had been there should now be a thing of the past and you’ll now be able to expect a proper pint of Hooker every time. I also decided that I was going to have to ask for smaller measures from that point on!
Sharp’s Master of Craft was the next man I met and he had some delicious aged Ale for us to try. Really funky aroma, but in a good way!
I then made my way to the Vanguard stand where James was doing his best to break things with his shoe. Vanguard generally do great work getting great Irish beer into pubs across the country. I had some of N17’s excellent Rye Ale.
Franciscan Well were pouring their Chieftan IPA which isn’t bad at all.
Trouble Brewing’s Big Bear Brown Ale is one of their current limited run beers and it’s well worth seeking out.
My favourite beer of the expo was Black Donkey’s Saison or Farmhouse Ale. Perfect afternoon beer. The label is from a full size painting by his brother in law if my memory serves me right.
Saucy. Sheep Stealer.
The conference part of the event began with Declan Moore from Moore Archaeological Group telling us all about the long history of brewing in Ireland. I loved his stories about the illegal brewing of Seven Days in Zambia. Apparently it takes seven days to gather the ingredients, seven days to ferment and seven days to get over the hangover. This led him to the realisation that the fulacht fiadhs (horse shoe shaped mounds) all over Ireland may not have been cooking pits as previously thought but in fact pre historical breweries. Five thousand microbreweries across the land! He has tried to recreate the drink (we’d probably call it gruit, as it’s ale flavoured with herbs instead of hops) for the past few years with varying degrees of success. Fair play to him for making such an effort.
Next there was a talk about the relative merits of cask vs keg and can vs bottle. In a nutshell there’s a place for them all. Casks have to be minded like babies and cans really are the way forward!
After that we had a panel discussion featuring three Irish brewers from N17, Trouble Brewing and Rascals. I liked what Sarah Roarty from N17 said she thought instead of ‘gentrification’ that beer should be about ‘craic, camaraderie, connection and community’, an admirable ideal indeed.
That evening we crossed the Liffey to St James Gate where Master Brewer Fergal Murray showed us around the brand new Brewhouse Four. It was very impressive but Beer Viking has written a comprehensive piece on it so I suggest you read that!
The night finished up in the Candle Bar where Pilsner Urquell’s Master Brewer Vaclav Berka tapped his unfiltered, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell for us. A true gentleman and great beer to conclude day one.