The Irish Craft Beer Festival is Reborn!

Some of you with long memories may remember last year’s post about The Decline of The Irish Craft Beer Festival. A point about necessary change was made. And behold, the 2018 event popped up in a big top in Rathmines. This wasn’t my first time to attend this festival but it was my first time to man a bar. I was stationed behind the Rye River/McGargles bar for the two days.

Unfortunately I managed to catch a head cold so I couldn’t fully appreciate the aroma of the many beers on offer. But I gave it my best shot!

It was good to catch up with lots of my beery pals. Shenanigans may have ensued as the party continued post festival in 57 The Headline and in Blackbird.

There was a decent array of beers, gins and food to choose from but there were no new breweries. This may be indicative of the rate of growth in the industry starting to level off. I think that the event benefitted from the new venue and am looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings. Sláinte!

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‘Fruity Lagers are the future!’

‘Fruity Lagers are the future!’, this is according to Paul Digan from Carlow’s Brewing. He had tried our Ól Orange Lager at The Big Grill. And he gave me a Sleeping Limes from Wild Beer as further proof.

I opted to open the Rye River Ól first. This one is very sessionable at 4.4%. Orange zest was added in the boil and again in the fermentation vessel. But this isn’t a straightforward Lager as it was hopped with El Dorado and Amarillo, hops more commonly found in IPAs. The juicy flavours make it really easy to drink.

I’ve had, and enjoyed, Wild Beer’s Sleeping Lemons before, but Sleeping Limes was a new one to me. This Lager was brewed Gøse style with the addition of sea salt. This gave the beer a pleasing balance. The beer is very refreshing and interesting. Both beers are widely available nationally so pick up the pair and give them a try!

Roy Quare Swally’s recent post about bloggers and their motivation gave me pause for thought. I really can’t claim to be completely unbiased especially as I work in the industry, for Rye River, but luckily I have plenty of people to keep my feet firmly on the ground! And sure look, if someone (anyone?) wants to pony up for an all expenses paid trip to Portland to drink all de beerz who amongst us would turn it down? All of that said, I admire Roy’s principles. I’m quite sure discerning readers like yourself know the difference between a genuine opinion and sposonsored content. Well, I really hope so anyway! Cheers for reading, let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject…

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Guinness X Timmermans

Beer samples

The Open Gate Brewery Tap Room has been on the go for quite a while now but I visited it for the first time on Thursday evening. Padraig Fox had mentioned that something a little bit special was going to be happening with some Belgian beers and invited me along. My knowledgeable friend Séan Lightholder also happened to be over from America at a work conference in Dublin. Séan has been known to enjoy the odd pint of Guinness but is no fan of Belgian beers, something to do with the taste of the yeast…I on the other hand am a bit of a Belgian brew enthusiast. We started off with a paddle of Open Gate Belgian Style beers, a Saison, a Dubbel, a Tripel and a Belgian IPA. Surprisingly Séan enjoyed most of them. We agreed that they were all very good with the exception of the IPA, we found it too bitter, astringent and a bit lacking in aroma.

Then it was time for the main event. Peter from Open Gate and Thomas from Timmermans introduced their beer. It is a blend of West Indies Porter, Oude Kriek and Special Export Stout. We got a brief history lesson too, apparently Timmermans is the oldest Guinness distributor in the world and they were also instrumental in formulating the recipe for Special Export Stout.

Samples of the blend were given out in very elegant Timmermans glasses. I have to say we felt very classy indeed. The beer itself was darn tasty. It clocked in at 6% and was quite light, I think I was expecting something more viscous. Still, the cherry chocolate combination worked well. A real dessert beer. There were some delicious Belgian chocolates on offer and they complimented the beer excellently.

I finished off the evening with a glass of the Tripel and some frites. It was a very enjoyable event, the vibe was cool and the company was good. Sláinte!

*I was an invited guest. But as unbiased as ever.

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A meaty one…

Consider the blog retitled Simon Says You Really Should Eat This or Simon Says Meat for this post. I was at The Big Grill last week and am only back to normal now. I was there for the full four days and helped to set up and take down the Rye River bar. I had attended the event for the preceding two years but this was my first time manning a bar. On day one I drove home and just tried some food from the excellent Kinara and Mikkeller’s 0.3% Drink’in the sun.

On Friday I was able to give the Rye River special brew Big Smoke a proper try. We only brewed two kegs of this Rauchbier and it went down a treat with the smoked brisket from Tesco’s Fire Pit.

I didn’t get to visit a lot of the bars at The Big Grill but I had heard several beer fans recommending the Dot brews. I asked for half a Pint Please. Oh how we laughed. In my head anyway. Lovely sessionable 3.1% fruity Ale.

I had a break from all of the meat with Jess Murphy from Kai’s beans on toast. It was tasty but unfortunately didn’t quite meet the pinnacle of beans on toast regularly prepared by my wife…with plenty of tabasco and goats cheese.

Mario Portella quarted a whole Dexter cow and cooked it overnight over his open fire pit.

And the results were divine.

And I also tried some smoked goat…which was a new one for me. It wasn’t my favourite but it was certainly interesting and worth trying. I had a drop of McGargles Daragh’s Session IPA to accompany it.

Brewer Brent and I enjoyed our Cranky Yankee Corn Dogs…Man, I missed out on these all summer up to this point! Nick is a legend!

I had heard great things about John Relihan’s Smokasa and the burger did not let me down. The man’s passion for cooking with fire was infectious.

I also enjoyed Brewtonic’s brilliantly named Relax The Cacks Session IPA.

Our neighbours Metalman were pouring a very quaffable special Pitmaster Pale.

And Richard tempted me over to his Black Donkey bar with the promise of some fresh Savage Pale Ale brewed with Wild Irish yeast. Until next year, sláinte!

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#HAGSTRAVAGANZA 4

On Saturday all roads led to Ballymote for White Hag’s fourth birthday bash. A few even arrived by rail and by air. There was a great buzz outside as we waited to be let in.

Inside I picked up a glass and tokens and was greeted by Barry, a Galway based Cicerone trained server who had volunteered to help out at the event. I wet my whistle with a drop of the rather tasty Black Pig Stout from White Hag. Man, that lad can pour a beer like nobody’s business!

I met Twig from Canvas outside the main doors. He was delighted to be pouring his first commercially available beers at Hagstravaganza. I tried Raspberella, a lovely light and fruity Ale, this brewery is one to watch.

I stuck with fruity low ABV beers for my next one, Malmö Brewing Co’s Berrybarb Pie which was a Florida Weisse (yeah, new one on me too) with Raspberry, Rhubarb and Vanilla. It was nice and tart, lovely colour too!

I met lots of my beery brothers and sisters, brewers, bloggers and general beer lovers and we had mighty craic.

Irish craft beer festival

I went for Wild Beer’s Geuze Style Blend 18 after that…a cracking beer but the best fun was hearing everyone trying to pronounce ‘gueuze’ correctly! I went a bit more mainstream then with Cloudwater’s DDH Pale Citra. It tasted a bit boring after the full on taste workout I had just put my palate through so I’ll have to try that one again someday to give it a fair shout.

The two piece were providing some rather pleasant background noise in the form of a rake of Neil Young covers. No complaints from me on that score.

It was time to up the proverbial ante so I turned the dial up to 10% with Northern Monk’s Moobing On Up. As many of us present were sporting well cultivated moobage I’m sure this was a popular choice.

I took a wee break then for a burger and some water. I may be getting sensible in my old age. I finished off with the Galway Bay Uliltje collaboration brew, High Viscosity, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Stroopwaffles. It was delicious, chewy, malty and soupy. All of the pours were 150ml which meant that I was not messy at all. I had to make my excuses and leave the festival then, but not before picking up a take away bottle of White Gypsy’s Scarlet and a couple of Noisy Nuts. I headed in to Sligo to meet up with my family in the Swagman where I enjoyed some chicken wings with a pint of Kinnegar’s Crossroads.


And then I met some friends from the Midlands who were going to a gig in the Model arts centre. Fuzzy Hell and Woven Skull played very memorable sets and I had a couple of cans of White Hag’s Little Fawn to complete the evening. Fair play to the team involved in organising this year’s Hagstravaganza. It should be noted that I was an invited guest of White Hag. Looking forward to Hagstravaganza 5 in 2019. Sláinte!

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