Return of the Cask?

Cask Ale? Isn’t that just an English thing? It certainly hasn’t been popular here in my lifetime anyway. A quick search showed some evidence of a small resurgence around ten years ago in Dublin and if I remember correctly there was a cask engine in JJ Harlow’s, Roscommon and a handful scattered around the other large cities. But that was about the size of it and now if you really want a Cask Ale you might have to head to a Witherspoon’s. The irony is that the champion of Cask Ale CAMRA was founded in Kruge’s Bar in Dunquin, Co. Kerry, back in 1971. Their efforts have helped to keep Cask Ale pouring in the UK. Alas the style of dispense didn’t suit the dominant market players here and so it has largely dried up.

Dead Centre Sham Maths with handpull

Until now that is, Paul Varley, the man who decided it was a great plan to host a Wild Beer Festival in Mullingar had the brainwave of putting on a Cask Ale Festival in the same spot! Breweries from across the land answered the call and showed up with handpulls (some of which had never seen action before!). During set up there was some heartwarming cooperation with sharing of tools and equipment to get everyone up and running in time. I started off with Sham Maths American Amber Ale from Dead Centre. This chewy, malty, rich beer really suits the style. Maybe it’ll make an appearance in Athlone at some point?

Third Barrel Afternoon Delight

At the far end of the room Kev was pouring Third Barrel’s new Afternoon Delight, a dry hopped American Stout which weighed in at a punchy 6.5% and was indeed, a delight. Disclosure – I sell Dead Centre and Third Barrel’s beers in my role with Fourcorners. So you’ll have to try them yourselves to determine if I’m biased!

Sean Wide Street with his Plush Pale Ale

Wide Street’s Plush Pale Ale was far more sensible and sessionable at 4.3%. It’s a straightforward easy drinking little number perfect for an afternoon sup. Sean told me that most of this beer has been exported to Switzerland so if you see a can snap it up.

Galway Hooker Pale pulled by John

John Fahy was manning the sticks for Galway Hooker. I enjoyed the dry hopped Pale Ale, another very quaffable drop. John was sharing the bar with James Dundon who was pouring Brehon’s always excellent Shanco Dubh Porter.

Trouble Centenary ESB

Paul was pouring three beers from Trouble Brewing where he now works. He had a Brown Ale with Harry’s Peanut Butter and a session Pale Ale called Little Monster. I just had to go for the Extra Special Bitter Catenary. I think the last time I had an Irish ESB was in the Porterhouse in Bray and it was their Turner Sticklebract Bitter. This one was satisfyingly bitter and enjoyable.

Land and Labour Tom with his Geimhreadh

Tom Land and Labour was pouring something from an slightly different tradition, his Lambic style Geimhreadh which was zesty and refreshing. And it would fit in very well at the Wild Beer Festival.

Some of the lovely people at the Cask Ale Festival

Ballykilcavan are no strangers to cask, they regularly feature a hand pull on their festival bars. And their traditional beers really work well on cask. I enjoyed the Bin Bawn Pale.

Kate Ballykilcavan pouring a Pale Ale

Hats off to Paul for pulling the event together, hopefully it will become an annual occurrence. And fair play to Smiddy’s for providing this lovely space. Well done to the brewers for the great showing. And to everyone I clinked mugs with: sláinte!

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One night in Paris

Pumpkin Beer in Hoppy Corner

I’ve just returned after a few days in Paris. It was a family trip but I managed to visit a few places on Thursday. Before then I should mention a couple of places of note; L’Avant Comptoir, a small wine bar with good, quite rich tapas. Not really suitable for kids but they did tolerate them and supply apple juice.  Boullion, across from the Palace of Versailles, was quite the opposite, a family friendly bistro with a welcoming atmosphere.

Beer menu at Hoppy Corner

Back to the beer, I asked some of my well travelled friends for a few recommendations, and some more were volunteered. I kicked off my evening in Hoppy Corner, and I have to say, I liked it straight away. My first beer was Brumaire et Frimaire from Deck and Donohue. It’s a locally brewed Pumpkin Beer and was an easy one to enjoy. Next up was a 9.2% Imperial IPA from Canadian brewery Dieu de Ciel! (exclamation mark theirs) called Immortalité. It was really well executed and I appreciated the absence of hop burn. But the best thing about the place was proprietor Remy. He’s a cool dude and we had a great chat about beer and music. He reckoned we may have met at the Lyon Bière Festival last year too but my memories of that event are a little hazy. This place has to be on your agenda the next time you’re in Paris.

Pale Ale in La Fine Mousse

La Fine Mousse had been on my list of places to visit for a while, and more recently Mario from Garden had also recommended it. It was a bit quiet when I arrived but it was still early in the evening. They have a great selection of beers and I enjoyed Galipot, a Pale Ale from Normandy brewery Spore. This was accompanied by a chunk of comté and half a baguette.

La Fine Mousse exterior and menu

I’d heard of the Pigalle area before, possibly in Anthony Bourdain’s books, so perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Bourdain fan Dave directed me to a couple of bars there.

Mai Tai in Dirty Dick’s

When you’re a ‘beer guy’ you sometimes forget that there are other alcoholic beverages available. So, I had never had a Mai Tai, and also had never been in a Tiki bar before rocking up to the bar at Dirty Dick’s. It’s a ridiculous, unwieldy concoction and I managed to knock most of the almonds on to the bar, are you supposed to eat them first? Nevertheless, it was tasty, and definitely worth a try for the craic. Next time I’ll wear a Hawaiian shirt.

Pigalle Country Club

Just up the street is the misleadingly/ironically named Pigalle Country Club. It’s very much a dive bar but, with €4 pints at happy hour you can’t argue. I had an IPA of unknown origin.

Le Chalet du Parc exterior and taps

I concluded the evening with a burger in the neighborhood where I was staying. The novelty for me was being asked if I wanted it medium or rare. I washed it down with a Paranoia from Delirium which was grand. Le Chalet du Parc is a pleasant bistro if you are in the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris area.

La Chouffe in Le Montmartre

Bonus content: it was going home day but we had some time to kill so we headed to Montmartre. I had a Chouffe whilst waiting for what looked like a promising spot to open.

À La Bière Comme À La Bière exterior and shelves

À La Bière Comme À La Bière is a wee gem. I walked past it completely by accident. And there wasn’t much time before we needed to make our way back to the airport. Undeterred, I swiftly perused the massive selection before opting for a whopper Pastry Imperial Stout from UK brewery Beak. It was €11 but at 11% I was getting bang for my buck, and it was very tasty. I belatedly noted that there were a few taps at the back of this Aladdin’s cave and had a small drop of Mazout, an Imperial Stout from French brewery Hoppy Road. It was a more traditional impy with some nice bitterness, if you happen to be there I would say maybe try them in the opposite order. Thanks for reading. I hope you get to visit some of these spots on your next trip to Paris. Sláinte!

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My first Oktoberfest by Simon Says Beer

A beer at the Viktualienmarkt

Ah, I don’t think I’d like Oktoberfest. Sure it’d be too busy, too messy, not my sort of scene at all. And I’ve been in Munich a few time before….

The boss: ‘lads, we’ve spaces in the Hofbraü* tent and accommodation organised, who’s in?’

Me: ‘g’wan so!’

When I first looked at flights the direct ones to Munich seemed a bit expensive (not a surprise given the amount of visitors expected) so I flew to Nuremberg and got the ICE train for €17! Would recommend.

Käsekrainer and sauerkraut

I was in Munich first so I waited for my colleagues in the Viktualienmarkt. It’s a lovely market and beer garden in the middle of the city. They rotate the pouring beers from the local breweries and it just happened to be Hofbraü’s turn. Tasty bit of grub too had me set up for the evening.

Outside the Hofbraü tent

Then we headed for Theresienwiese, a huge area with a clatter of massive tents. There’s also a rake of torture equipment or ‘amusements’ if you are interested in that sort of thing. As we were already late we skipped them and made our way into the Hofbraü tent.

The view from the balcony of the Hofbraü tent

Even a hardened cynic like myself couldn’t but be impressed by the scale of the tent, it holds about ten thousand people. The atmosphere was brilliant. The bands playing a mixture of traditional drinking songs and some slightly more modern classic hits. The beer, a 6.3% Märzen was so clean and light that you barely knew you were drinking it.

A massive mug of Märzen

One tip for this, and indeed any beer festival, don’t forget to eat. I reckon the hearty grub saved my bacon if you’ll pardon the expression. I had a nice few litres and managed not to make a complete show of myself. And no I didn’t dress up. Many thanks to Andreas and Hofbraü for their hospitality.

Augustiner Dunkles

Around midday the following day we were ready for a few more beers and Gaststätte Scheidegger had been recommended. Here I enjoyed an old favourite, Edelstoff and a Dunkles for a change. It’s a nice relaxed spot with good food and service.

Augustiner tent craic

We paid a brief visit to the Augustiner tent for a few frothy bois. And last on my agenda was a look at Oide Wiesn which replicates the Oktoberfests of yore with stalls and a more traditional ambience. The lads went back to the Hofbraü tent and it was time for me to head home. I think I might have to do this all again…Ein Prosit!

*I’m working with Fourcorners who sell Hofbraü in Ireland so we were their guests.

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Hagstravaganza no. 9 dream

Green Cheek Beer Co. Don’t Tell Brian courtesy of Tara

The minute I landed at Hagstravaganza Tara wrested my empty receptacle from me and returned it filled with the last drop of Don’t Tell Brian from Green Cheek Beer Co. It’s an Imperial Banana Coconut Chocolate Vanilla Cupcake Stout! And it’s 13.1%. So much for starting off with a few sessionable ones. I don’t like a lot of banana flavoured things but this one was made with real bananas and was delicious.

Deschutes King Crispy and Tom

Taking a step back from the abyss (more on that in the next sentence) I thoroughly enjoyed Deschutes King Crispy, a 4.8% German style Pilsner. Later in the day I paired Burgersluts American Classic cheeseburger with a drop of the 2022 Abyss. I’d say my timing was a little off there but it was certainly an interesting pairing. (Crisp lager and burgers is a much safer bet!)

Let me tell you about this Helles Lager

Speaking of Lager, Round Corner’s Fuggling Helles, a Lager hopped exclusively with Fuggles was an experiment that worked. I bumped into the brewer, bizarrely enough a Leitrim man who recommended trying their World Champion Steeplechase Pale Ale. I thought it was a perfect ‘beer that tastes like beer ‘! He seemed happy with that assessment.

With Paul Cloudwater Jones

Paul Jones from Cloudwater is no stranger to Ballymote. I introduced myself as I’m now selling some of their beers in my role of Territory Sales Manager with Four Corners. And I enquired about the cans in his bucket, he gave me one and it was a collaboration with Other Half, a Double IPA canned a couple of days earlier. But he said I had to share it, I had no problems finding volunteers to try it. As you’d expect, it was a very well put together Double IPA.

The dynamic duo of Erwin and Bob

Longtime White Hag supporters Brickyard were running the Barrel Aged bar at the event. I sampled Alesong’s Silver Lining which is a dry hopped Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale. It was a nice change of pace for my palate. And I had to try Brewfist’s Trinidad el Vasco ’17, a Port Barrel Aged Barley Wine which was warming as the evening chill came in.

Myself and Mel enjoying a quiet train can

I had a great day and am looking forward to Hagstravaganza no. 10. Well done to all involved in pulling the event together. Serious plugging. It was great to see so many sound people enjoying great beer. I bumped into Mel of Galway Bay Running Club fame on the way to the slightly earlier train and we had a pair of very civilised train cans.

Jazzy Beatles covers in Bree’s

I rounded out the evening with a pint of Dagda in Bree’s Bar, Strandhill. There was a band playing some very tasty tunes including a couple by The Beatles, if you can imagine them in the style of Steely Dan. Thanks to Kevin and the guys for their hospitality too. Hopefully I’ll see some of you again on the 26th of this month in Moate… sláinte!

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Midlands Craft Beer Festival 2023

Midlands Craft Beer Festival 2023 poster

This year’s event is going to be the biggest yet. We have more breweries, lots of music and Don is expanding the space. Craig Kearney of has done a savage job of updating the website so give it a look:

Hope to see lots of you there. Sláinte!

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