Bristol Beer and Craic 

Bristol is only a short hop away from Bath so I resolved to spend an evening checking out a couple of the better spots. A small bit of interwebs research later I was aboard a train for an arduous twenty minute journey. First stop was The Steam Crane. I was given a warm welcome as I perused taps and the food offerings. 

There could really only be one first choice considering the location, and that was Bristol Beer Factory’s Summer Cascade. It went down fierce easily after a long days trek around the safari. ( The family had visited Longleat earlier!) 

I plumped for the Ploughman’s Platter which sated my hunger nicely and featured some awesome cheddar. 

I couldn’t resist the wonderful pump clip and name of Boss Beatles Juice, and happily it lived up to all of the implied psychedelic expectations. It was like a juicy summer party in my mouth. The lads helpful called a taxi to take me to my next destination which was the Grain Barge. 

The Grain Barge is owned by Bristol Beer Factory and so I went for another of their beers, a hoppy Summer Session Ale called Nova. 

I supped that out on deck and enjoyed the last warmth of the Summer’s evening. 

I was somewhat interested to see what my next pub was going to be like, having read a few bits about it. 

The Bag O’Nails has a few quirks, for example, hand written signs instructing you not to ‘…order an IPA if you don’t know what the fuck it is!’…as well as a lot of cats and kittens reclining on the bar. 

I started off here with the Cumbrian 5 Hop which was decent before moving on to some rather more exotic fare. 

Italian Porter and Belgian Quadruple, as you do on a Monday night. There had been a beer festival the week before and luckily for me there were a few drops of each left. The Quadruple was outstanding. Fruity, boozy and warm. The barman, Harry, who originally hails from Belfast was very entertaining company. 

 I hit the Small Bar last. And there found my new favourite glass, featuring my initials. Not many places have a personalised glass waiting for you! 

I enjoyed the Left Handed Giant Sonny Boys IPA. It was a great finish to a fantastic evening of craic in Bristol. The lads in Small Bar were dead sound too leaving me with a very positive impression of the pub scene in Bristol. Cheers for reading! 

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Beers in Bath

In our house we prefer city breaks to sun holidays, our most recent excursion was to Bath. Our destinations are one of the very few things that myself and my wife argue about. Bath seemed to tick all of the boxes however with a safari for the kids, a spa for the aforementioned wife and most importantly beer for me! I asked the Twitterati on #irishbeerchat for some recommendations and they came up trumps. Bath Brew House got a few mentions and a rain shower provided a good opportunity to check it out. I started off with their Emperor, a hoppy Pale Ale. Now I’m not an expert on Real Ale but I think it’s fairly safe to say that the bar for hoppiness is lower in the cask stuff than it is for the kegged ‘Craft Beer’ that I’ve become accustomed to. That said, this was a very tasty pint. 

As was Lupulus, a fruity IPA brewed with Moteuka hops. A busy spot, worth a visit. 

The following day I made my way to The Raven for a Pieminister pie and a pint. I actually did it the wrong way around and supped their house Golden Ale with my beef pie. The pie is baked with their house Dark Ale. The pie was delicious anyway, the Golden Ale was light and refreshing but the darker Ale had some lovely caramel complexity to it. 

Later in the evening I ventured as far as The Pig and Fiddle which was very close to our accommodation. 

It was a cool looking spot with a bit of character. I had a Dagger’s Ale which was brewed by someone who had been a part of the pub in the past. Nice bit of provenance and a grand pint. 

The Saracen’s Head was a couple of doors up and boasted that it was the oldest pub in Bath. I thought it would’ve been remiss of me not to check it out. Sadly any character that it had once had been tidied away neatly. Age is no guarantee of personality. 

Greene King’s East Coast IPA missed the mark badly, boasting on the (rather nice, in fairness) glass of being filtered. It was pretty bland stuff. 

We went for an Indian in The Eastern Eye. The grub was good but the beer, Bangla, ‘voted UK’s best beer to go with curry’ really wasn’t. Still, you have to try them all at least once. 

After a pair of poor pints I was very happy to get XT’s IPA 3 into me. Very enjoyable beer. I had it in The Cork which was very busy, I had come in at the end of a table quiz, the host had ran it for nine years and was going to pursue other comedic endeavours. There was a lot of love in the room. 

Brewed up the road, my final pint of the night was Bristol’s Mischief. Solid beer, they seem to be a fairly consistent brewery. 

Another pub which had been highly recommended was The Old Green Tree. It took me three attempts to find it open and serving but it was worth it. This is a quintessential olde English pub. Proper. I had a pint of their house Ale. It went down very nicely indeed on what was a warm afternoon. 

I was a bit conscious that I wasn’t in any of the pictures so there I am, twice in a row. Just in case anyone thinks I’m just making this all up. It was our last afternoon in Bath and I called into Independent Spirit. I was glad I did. It’s a really good, well stocked off licence with a vast range of beers. Apologies for the lack of pictures! I picked up a couple interesting beers and had a good chat with the lads. Definitely check it out if you are in Bath. The Independent Spirit men said I should go as far as Hunter and Sons before leaving their fair city. 

Hunter and Sons is so edgy I’d say the staff are constantly running out of bandages. It’s all mismatched furniture and squashed avocados on sourdough toast. But we’d already had lunch. I was glad to see BrewDog’s latest collaboration with Cloudwater; IPA V2 on draught. It was £7.50 for a half but damn it was a well made beer. Head and shoulders above V1 which I had found underwhelming. Juicy as fuck. 

After that, the only way was up so my last beer in Bath was To Øl’s whopper Goliat. This one was lusciously dark and creamy. It concluded my visit nicely. 

Those of you who keep an eye on my social medias will be aware I also visited Bristol. A much shorter blog on that trip is coming your way tomorrow. Cheers! 


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Midlands Craft Beer Festival 2017 WOW! 

Yesterday saw the third annual Midlands Craft Beer Festival in Don’s Bar, Moate. And it was whopper. I may be slightly biased so feel free to get a second opinion. 

We had a great line up of breweries and Dead Centre launched at the festival, sampling their Magnificent Beast Oatmeal IPA. It got very positive feedback from all quarters. 

We could not have asked for better weather. People started to arrive early and we had a couple of technical problems with electricity. 

Luckily Dan Kelly’s had delicious cold bottles of cider at the ready for the thirsty folks. 

Athlone’s Hot Property were cooking. They started off with some laid back blues before building up to a cracking ‘When The Levee Breaks’. The lads have a long standing Monday night residency in Flannery’s if you want to hear them play. 

I was double jobbing yesterday serving lovely pints of the McGargles Session IPA and doing some other organising as well. Thanks to John and Derek who shared the load! 

St Mel’s were pouring the first in their new series of limited edition beers. A New Dawn is a delicious roasty Black IPA. 

Whiplash had their very tasty Body Riddle Pale Ale pouring and it proved very popular indeed. 

Rascal’s had their (last keg in the world? ) Strawberry Milkshake IPA and Yankee White IPA and they both tasted great in the sunshine. 

Toxic Twins have played all three years at the festival. Dave told me he loves it. We love you too Dave. 

Speaking of Dave. Mr Guilfoyle brought Arty to the party. Trouble Brewing’s new Stagediver American Amber was very tasty. 

Pic by Janice Dunne

Oisin Foley, pictured above with the cards, provided some fantastic entertainment for everyone. You can check him out on Facebook.

Pic by Janice Dunne

We attracted some of the bloggeratti with the phabulous Two Phat Cows and Mr and Mrs Irish Beer Snob. Traditional media was represented by the Westmeath Independent so pick up a copy next Wednesday. Cheers for the support! 

Big thanks to Specsavers Athlone who helped to defray some of the costs involved, and Studio 93 who looked after the printing. The beer bucks went down a bomb! Finally, a huge thanks as always to the crew at Don’s Bar for once again putting on a great show. Cheers to everyone who turned out, I hope you all had as good a day as I did. See you all next year. Sláinte! 

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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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