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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Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair 2018

Well that was a week. Wednesday saw the pre-launch of the Rye River Seasonal in the brewery tap room. (I work for Rye River- just in case anyone doesn’t know!) This week the first in a series of seasonal limited edition brews. First out of the traps was a Belgian Imperial Stout brewed with Trappist yeast. We invited a few friends out to the brewery for the first taste and the consensus was that we had created a great beer. So, for once, you don’t just have to take my word for it! Check out #ryeriverseasonal on the social medias. This delicious dark beer will be hitting selected shelves and taps this week, so, if you didn’t get the chance to try it at the Alltech event there’s still an opportunity to grab it!

The fifth annual Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair took place from Thursday to Sunday in the Convention Centre Dublin. Early on the Thursday the sad news of Dr Pearse Lyons’ passing came through. Having briefly met him at some of the earlier events I remember a genial gentleman who took time out to chat to my young twin daughters. He used his massive success in the Agricultural Sciences to fund his original passions of brewing and distilling, first in his adopted home of Lexington, Kentucky and then back here in Ireland. As well as the biggest Craft Beer Festival in Ireland we also have a brewery and a fine distillery on this island. In his memory we should use the hashtag; #askforcraft . There was many a glass raised to honour him over the weekend.

A small army of my colleagues and myself had a great time working at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair. We enjoyed getting great feedback on our new beer as well as the core McGargles range. I was delighted with the new bar which was built by our Celbridge neighbours RKD.

On the first day I was very abstemious and had no beer, apart from a little quality checking early in the evening. I did enjoy one of Pieman’s Chorizo pies though! I also got stuck into some of Barry John’s Sausages and a Peanut Butter Rolling Donut, not in the one sitting mind…

On Friday afternoon I was lucky enough to be able to attend the very informative and educational Brewer’s Lectures. Logan Plant spoke passionately and candidly about putting on an event like Beavertown’s Extravaganza. I was able to have a short chat with him and share some of our beers with him at the intermission. Sound chap!

Friday evening I got the chance to sample beers from Lough Gill, Priory, Rascal’s and the aforementioned Beavertown.

I also poured my first (?) pint of cask ale – Hobgoblin, for myself at the Wychwood bar.

On Saturday I tried Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea and Porterhouse’s Bounty, bit of a nautical theme there! I foolishly didn’t take a picture of Black’s new Kinsale Gin which has some marvellous and appropriate sea faring inspired artwork. Tastes good too.

My buddy Dave from Stationworks brought me over a taste of their excellent NEIPA and I also enjoyed Carrig’s Starwolf.

I loved Hopfully’s Carnivale, Boyne’s Dubbel ticked my boxes and Five Point’s Pale Ale was tasting great on draught. I also had a drop of Hope’s Vienna Oatmeal IPA which was very smooth.

My beer blogging buddy Ian was rocking his new role as BrewDog Brand Ambassador and he gave me a grand pint of Off Duty Alien.

I tried a few other beers too from Bridewell, Larkin’s, had a small taste of Slingsby’s Rhubarb Gin and someone may have snuck in some cans of the just released Midlands Beer Collective beer. All told the standard of beer was very good indeed. The level of organisation that went into the event was excellent so thanks once again to all involved. And it was great to meet up with so many old friends and to make some new ones. Sláinte!

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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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