My 2017 Beer Highlights

2017 was a good year for beer, I had the chance to try some amazing beers at home and abroad and met some good folk along the way. The year opened up with a trip to a rather chilly Copenhagen. Fermentoren and Warpigs were highlights. I would recommend a trip but bring a few bob with you! You can read more here.

February brought the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair, a perennial favourite of mine. I was behind the McGargles bar for much of it and that’s one of the best ways to meet friends new and old. We even picked up silverware for best IPA and best Wheat Beer. Happy days! Alltech is on in early March 2018, you can buy tickets now and read more about this year’s bash here.

Fast forward to May and the summer festival season kicked off with a small but interesting event in JJ Harlow’s in Roscommon. A good atmosphere and a warm welcome are always guaranteed in Harlow’s and this has the advantage of offering even more drinks than they normally stock! More pictures and words anseo. 

The June Bank Holiday weekend saw me pulling pints at Bloom. I managed to to go the whole long weekend without seeing a single garden! 

The July Bank Holiday saw the return of the Midlands Craft Beer Festival which I am involved in organising. This year we had a mix of old favourites and new faces and it was great craic. Dead Centre launched at the festival and have seen continued success since then. Read more here.

Later in July we had a family holiday to Bath and Bristol a particularly memorable pub was the Bag O’Nails! Full of felines and quirky character. 

To round off a very busy month I headed up to Ballymote, Sligo for Hagstravaganza 3. White Hag’s third birthday bash. They brought some of the best breweries from home and abroad to pour some never before tasted in Ireland beers. Tickets for the 2018 have already gone on sale at eventbrite!

In August I was invited to the launch of the very cool Urban Brewing. The CHQ houses this excellent restaurant with it’s own experimental brewery. 

Later that month I hit The Big Grill. 

Hopfully launched at the event and I love their artwork and the beers are pretty good too! 

August finished on a high note with a trip to Altes Mädchen Brewpub in Hamburg for their Craft Beer Days event. It’s a great spot and you should check it out if you are in Hamburg. 

In September I made the annual pilgrimage to the Irish Craft Beer Festival.  Ironically one of the standout beers was American. The festival marked my first encounter with new comers Larkin’s and I would say they will be ones to watch in 2018. 

In early October I was in fair Verona launching McGargles Francis Big Bangin IPA as a seasonal special. While there I checked out a couple of small craft beer bars and found the tap badge of the year! 

Later that month I was in Salzburg (via Munich) for the Beer Tasting event. I met loads of really friendly people from around Europe as the maxim about beer people being good people held true. And I got to try some more interesting beers! 

I was a bit quiet for the rest of the year but I was lucky enough to bag a few nice beers to sup over the Christmas break. Galway Bay’s collaboration with Boundary; Harmonic Convergence was for me, a late entry but one of the most enjoyable I’ve had all year. There may be a few bottles left so you could do what I did and drink one now and keep the other up for a while. This 12% Barrel Aged Barley Wine should age beautifully. Thanks for joining me on this journey and here’s to a great 2018, sláinte! 

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Santa says… you really should get these as presents! 

It’s the start of December and so it’s probably ok to mention Christmas now. If, like many others, you haven’t bought a thing yet here are a few ideas for you:Kate O’Driscoll makes amazing truffles that go really well with beer. She even does some with beer in them. The Salted Caramel variety get two thumbs up from me. You’ll find her on Twitter Kate O’D and Instagram here! 

Beer Hampers are always a good shout too and The Beer Club has a number of options, some even feature the aforementioned tasty truffles. They also have monthly subscription options if you want to give the gift that keeps on giving! Check them out here: The Beer Club

Another idea is a brewery tour. I happen to know of one that, eh, is hosted by me! You can buy gift vouchers and let the recipient choose a date for themselves…Rye River Gift Voucher.

 …and if you’re unfortunate enough to know a complete beer snob who claims to have seen it all before you might have to bring out the big guns! 

YellowBelly are offering the chance to get exclusive beers every three months, a brew day with the infamous Dec Nixon, a barbecue, a t shirt and loads of other treats. Sign up that lucky person: here!  

Hopefully that will have provided some inspiration, enjoy the festive season, sláinte! 

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Caskmates: best mates 

A very handsome package landed on my desk in work recently. There was no shortage of volunteers to ‘help’ me with it. Inside, there was a bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey Caskmates IPA edition nestled next to a can of Franciscan Well’s Chieftain IPA. 

You may be familiar with Jameson’s Caskmates Stout Edition which was aged in Franciscan Well Stout casks. I was given a bottle as a Christmas present and I enjoyed every drop. 

A ‘boiler maker’ is when you have a whiskey with your beer. So that’s exactly what I did. The whiskey has a lovely floral aroma. The sweet maltiness of the beer definitely carried over into the whiskey. And the citrus fruity notes from the hops are also apparent. The pair went down very nicely indeed on a wintry afternoon. I would like to try the return legs of both of these Caskmates, that is to say Stout and IPA aged in Jameson barrels.  

Speaking of which, a random encounter with an old friend led me to another Jameson beer combination. He said, ‘I’ve something at home that I think you’ll like!’, and he was right. New Zealand’s Garage Project aged their Rebel County Strong Ale in Jameson barrels. The resulting 13% beer is rich and tastes like Christmas pudding. 

If you like the sound of the Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition you can pick it up in O’Brien’s stores nationwide, in a few Dublin and Cork pubs and of course the Jameson distillery. Sláinte! 

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Hanging with Wolfgang and Helmut

Three times now, I’ve arrived in Munich just after Oktoberfest. One year I may get it right. I landed late enough Thursday evening and headed for Hofbräuhaus on the recommendation of Brewer Steve Loftus one of my Rye River colleagues. He told me to try the Dunkel, I dutifully did so and was not disappointed. It was about ten to ten at night when I sat down in the crowded, rowdy beer hall and I was left waiting ten minutes to be served despite asking for a menu. When my turn came they had ‘just’ finished serving food so I had to make do with a pretzel. Not ideal. 

The next day I was off to Salzburg for the event. The organisers took us to the Kalea warehouse where they put together their beer advent calendars and tasting boxes. 

And then it was on to the serious business of a two day beer festival. The Beer Tasting took place in the Panzerhalle which is a cool spot including a market, some bars and restaurants and event spaces. 

The event was very busy with locals trying a range of beers from twenty eight breweries. The McGargles beers which I was pouring proved very popular indeed! 

I found a few minutes before serving to try a sup of some of the other beers which were pouring. One of which was Next Level’s excellent Five O’Clock Earl Grey IPA. Johannes their brewer and I met at the recent Craft Beer Days Festival in Hamburg and it was good to see a familiar face. He was filling me in on the local scene. A very knowledgeable guy, be sure to check out his Craft Beer Store if you’re in Vienna. 

My bar neighbour on the Friday was a gentleman who grows and malts his own barley before brewing his award winning Schwarze Tinte (Black Ink). This one was single hopped with Sorachi Ace which worked very well in this malty dark beer.

That was about it for Friday bar a snack of raclette and some Japanese whiskey. On Saturday I filled my culture quota by visiting the Modern Art Museum. Then I paid a brief visit to Murphy’s Law (Salzburg branch) and hit the Augustiner Brewpub for the second time in, oh, around twelve years! By pure chance I sat beside Helmut Karl, a man who has been crowned world champion at the Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Championship in Lynchburg numerous times. He’s involved in the Salzburg Bulls Barbecue Team too and can be consulted on all matters carnivorous. His girlfriend and friends were also very pleasant but, you know, barbecue! I really like the Augustiner Brewpub and highly recommend that you visit. The food stalls are great there too. 

Back to the Panzerhalle I went for another busy evening. 

I had a new neighbour, Wolfgang who was a local man selling his beers under the shorter version of his name: Wolf. I tried his Elderflower Saison and it was delicious! 

Browar Dukla had driven a thousand kilometres to pour at the festival, they had a few juicy Pale Ales and they kindly gave me a bottle of their Russian Imperial Stout to bring home. They’re big comic book fans like our Wexford friends YellowBelly. 

I have to say the event was very well run and I met some very sound folks, hopefully our paths will cross again. Sláinte! 

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Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna 

During the week I was in Doolin for a wedding. On the way down we stopped in nearby Lisdoonvarna with the intention of visiting the Roadside Tavern. Alas, it was closed for a private function! 

On the way home, we happily found the door open. Coincidentally it was a Burren Food Trail night and every table was full, so myself and my wife took a seat at the bar. 

I was given a taste of the Gold Lager and Red Ale. The Lager didn’t really do it for me but the Red was pretty decent. 

The Black Stout though, it was top notch. Dry, slightly bitter and with a hint of smoky peat, this one ticked all of my boxes.  I would happily sup pints of it all night. 

At this point we were having a bit of craic with the lads behind the bar and they kindly gave us one of the very special desserts that Chef Vinny had concocted for the assembled foodies. It was comprised of beetroot ice cream, cucumber jelly and yoghurt. Savoury and delicious. I would say that if they injected some of the adventurous spirit from the kitchen into the brewery they could come up with some very interesting special beers. A visit would be highly recommended. I’ll be back for food and more of the Black Stout. Sláinte! 

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