The State Of The Nation? 

The last blog post and the recent panel discussion at the launch of the new Whiplash beers got me thinking…

How far has this Irish Craft Beer thing come in the last five years? And how much is left to go? One question from the floor was of particular interest to me as a beer lover living in the Midlands. To paraphrase, it involved the dearth of decent beers in the vast majority of pubs ‘down the country’. The Craft Beer Revolution, a bit like the Celtic Phoenix has mostly stayed in the major urban centres.  

There are some green shoots, Dead Centre are launching at next Saturday’s Midlands Craft Beer Festival. They are set to be Westmeath’s first brewery. Well, the first in a hundred or so years. Exciting stuff. Make sure you come and have a taste. 

That said, you’ll still struggle to find anything other than macro beer in a lot of Irish pubs. Tap and shelf space is limited. On the face of it all of the Irish Craft Beer Breweries are great pals but all may not be what it seems. There’s a quiet war going on in the background. It can be easier to take out a rival small breweries tap than to tackle those ‘essential staples’ of Guinness and Heineken. Especially when they come with some attractive bonuses. The big boys have deep pockets. And hey, that’s grand, sure isn’t it how business works? But when David starts fighting David we have a problem. Wasn’t there a famous war tactic: ‘divide and conquer’? I heard of one rep slating another breweries beer. Unfortunately the rep from the other brewery happened to be standing at the bar. I’ve only been working in this industry for about a year so I don’t know it all, but I’ve many years of sales under my belt. One ‘Golden Rule’ was; you don’t sell your product by running down someone else’s. Now I don’t expect everyone to espouse the hippy mantra of peace and love but maybe we could try not being dicks? It’s good for consumers to have a choice, and I’d like to think quality will win out at the end of the day. Perhaps I’m naive but that’s how I’m feeling right now…sláinte! 

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Eight Degrees, then, and now…

Howling Gale is one of those beers…it’s like Cornflakes, ‘have you forgotten how good they taste?’ I first wrote about it in one of my earliest blogs all the way back in October 2013. Ah, I was sooo cute back then… Anyway it still goes well with food and I supped that one with some tasty fried chicken in Crackbird.  

Eight Degrees have kept apace with the times and, while maintaining their solid core range, have brought out some exceptional specials. Cumulus Lupus is the latest, a Cloudy IPA which is in line with the current vogue for New England Style IPAs. This, though is serious value at around the €3 mark for a fresh 7% beer. I liked it so much that I went back to the shop for more. Get out there and grab it while it’s going. Sláinte! 

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Austria comes to Ireland 

Apparently Ireland were playing Austria in kickball the other evening. Fair play to them. Of far more interest to me was the launch of some Austrian beer in Ireland. Stiegl are being introduced to Ireland by Carlow Brewing. They had a launch in the very civilised surroundings of Café En Seine early Sunday afternoon. 

Michael Schmitzberger is Stiegl’s Export Director and a Beer Sommelier and he was there to talk to the assembled bloggers, blaggers, and to steal the Beer Nut’s word; liggers! He told us that the brewery is independently owned since 1492 and that they produce a million hectolitres of beer and year. If you’re insistent on categorising breweries then I wish you luck with that one, they’re not an evil Macro giant and they’re certainly not Johnny come lately craft. The obvious comparison would be with some of the more august German breweries. No matter, they seem to be very committed to producing quality beer and apparently Heinrich Dieter Kiener the owner is very hands on. 

The first beer I tried was the Weisse. This one goes down a treat with Germans holidaying in Austria and I’m not surprised. It’s a very good example of the style. Spoiler alert: it was my favourite!

Next up was Goldbräu, which Michael described as a Märzen Lager. I had several pints of it on a visit to Salzburg many years ago, never once suspecting that it would one day be available in Sean’s Bar in Athlone. (It’s on draught there now, in case that wasn’t clear.) Anyway it’s a grand easy drinking beer, made for having a few pints. 

The Grapefruit Radler comes in at a mere 2% and is Stiegl’s biggest seller in the USA. I could quite happily drink it for breakfast. 

We were lucky enough to get to try Stiegl’s 2016 Seasonal Special: Sonnenkönig III; a Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Oatmeal Porter. I say we were lucky because there were only around 2,000 bottles produced. It was very unusual, strong with a boozy warmth and rich fruit flavours. I’m not sure you could drink a lot of it but it was good to be able to get a sample. 

The Columbus 1492 followed that, Christopher’s voyage coinciding with the brewery’s foundation. It’s a fairly straightforward Pale Ale but it went down nicely after the strong special. 

Finally I finished with the Max Glaner’s Wit. A pleasant summery beer, I can imagine it going well with light fish dishes. 

That was quite enough drinking for me on a Sunday afternoon. I made my excuses and met my family for an excursion to the National Gallery. 

I was a guest of Carlow Brewing, thanks folks for looking after me so well, it was a very enjoyable event. Sláinte! 

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Bloom 2017

‘​I was giving out about ‘having’ to go to Bloom, turns out it wasn’t so bad they had a number of stands from the Irish micro breweries!’…That’s what I said about Bloom back in 2011. Zoom forward six years and I’m working behind one of those ‘micro brewery stands’! 

I pulled a lot of pints of McGargles Session IPA and Stout over the five days. They were tasting great. I checked them to make sure every morning. It’s called dedication. We even tried a thing called Coole Stout where I added some of our friend’s Coole Swan into a glass of the McGargles Stout. A lovely drink for your breakfast. 

On my lunch breaks I was able to take a stroll around the Bloom Inn where I sampled some beers from the other Irish breweries. Boyne’s Vienna Lager went down very nicely indeed while the sun was shining. 

There was cheese in the beer tent and I had a taste of The Little Milk Co’s Brewers Gold. It was washed in Dungarvan’s Red Ale and was very tasty indeed. It had a fairly distinctive aroma too, so it’s not for bland mild cheese fans. 

Manor Brewing were pouring their Mont Lager and a new limited edition IPA dubbed Triumph and Disaster. Son0vagun bought me a pint of it and we agreed that it was a nice drinkable old skool malty IPA. ( he also took the picture of me featured above!) 

Costello’s also had a special brew on, it was called Beyond A Pale, a European Pale Ale. Ger Costello explained that it was brewed with Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria hops from Germany. I got a pair of pints for myself and the aforementioned Son0vagun. We both enjoyed the juicy fruit flavours. 

Wicklow’s Ginger Knut is a lovely summer thirst quencher. I think it might be the only Irish Ginger Beer available, is it the first? It has a bit more bite than some of the others you may have tried. 

Porterhouse’s Nitro Red Ale was a fitting accompaniment to the beef and blue cheese ciabatta I had for lunch on the last day of the festival. 

There was almost as many distilleries as there were breweries in the Bloom Inn and I had a wee drop of The Pogues Whiskey. It’s very smooth and drinkable indeed. Now, where’s my bed after that week? Sláinte! 

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Sheridan’s Festival of Irish Food, Beer, Cider and Cheese! 

It was a busy weekend of festivals with events taking place in Killarney and Belfast. I didn’t go to either of those but I found plenty to quench my thirst at Sheridan’s Irish Food Festival.  

Olan from Dan Kelly’s was offering more options than cider. He also had some very tasty Apple juice and cider vinegar. He suggested frying some red onion in the cider vinegar and using it to top your favourite burgers. 

Sally-Anne from Boyne had their new Cooney’s Cider but I was awkward and had a wee drop of their rather nice IPA instead. 

And all the way down the back of the event I found the O’Cleirigh mobile pouring some fine ales from it’s side. I opted for a Shurlukit Session IPA and it was absolutely perfect for the sunny afternoon that was in it. 

When we got home I stuck on the barbecue and grilled a few of the burgers we had picked up and topped them off with some of the delicious mature cheddar and enjoyed it with another of O’Cleirigh’s beers; Whisht Golden Ale. A perfect end to the day. Sláinte! 

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