Sunday, 21 May 2017

O Brien's Craft Beer Fair

Yesterday O'Briens Wines in Naas held their annual craft beer fair where they invited along about a dozen breweries to chat and share a few beers with O'Briens customers. I only managed to make it down for the last hour but by all accounts it was a great success again. 

In my short time there it was clear the day had been a success again. Had a good chat with Paddy from 12 Acres Brewing and had a sample of the Rye IPA. Having been a long time fan of their pale ale, I was happy when the Rye IPA also hit the mark. Quite bitter, about 68 IBU's if I remember what Paddy told me correctly and a nice spice too. Would definitely recommend. They are working on a few new recipes too so expect more from the Laois lads soon.

Brehon Brewhouse and Wicklow Brewery were side by side so I tried a couple from these next. The former has a seasonal IPA called Fiesta on the way in new smaller 330ml bottles. These weren't stocked for sale just yet but got to try one. Nice and citrusy summer beer, looking forward to trying more. They already have a stellar reputation particularly for their stouts, more good things to come from Brehon. 

 I hadn't realised Wicklow Weisse from Wicklow Brewery was in bottles yet. Great to see this alongside the fantastic Hop Knut and Gingerknut. As I said to Colm, it's great to see a range from Wicklow Brewery on the off license shelves. I was in the brewery in Redcross about a year ago and had the pleasure of tasting their range of quality beers. Glad to finally be able to get some from my local O'Briens. 

 Manor Brewery also from Wicklow were there with their flagship Mont lager as well as limited supply of a couple of festival specials. 

Tall Poppy Syndrome was a bit sweet for my taste but the black lager was quite tasty, full of chocolate flavour. But the star from the brewery is the lager. Mont has undergone a revamp, not only from the bottles labels (which do look much better) but also tweaks to ensure a consistently clean, fresh lager. Being a big fan of hop forward beers, I tend not to drink a lot of lagers. But sometimes I get fatigued with hoppy beers and on those occasions I will be looking out for some Mont. Mike was telling me they are going to be available in handy 4 packs from this week too. More breweries need to start supplying 4 or 6 packs in my opinion. 

Lastly, I had to try Hope Brewing's new summer session IPA. Lovely and light, tropically fruity IPA. Picked up a couple of bottles to bring home. Now just waiting for a nice hot day to crack these open... meant to be good this week, fingers crossed. Was kindly given a handy wallet sized bottle opener here too. Sound. Cheers guys

I hope more off-licences start to take a page out of O'Briens book for showcasing great Irish craft beer. Eugene, Cormac and all the staff in Naas have done a great job again. Roll on next year. 

Cheers - TBH 


Monday, 27 February 2017

Post-Alltech 2017

What a festival it was this year! Have to start by thanking all involved for their fantastic hospitality at this years event! We were spoiled all day, can't wait to get back again next year. I arrived early enough in the day (around 1) as I had to collect tickets and wanted to wander around a bit while it was still quiet. 
Firstly what hit me what how better laid out everything was. I missed last years festival and noticed a big improvement on two years previous. There was considerably more seating, most noticeably benches in front of the stage/big screen which were full all day so obviously appreciated. Picnic style tables were located out in the foyer of the centre also with a massive screen projected onto the white wall for the match. This would be perfect for people wanting to get away from the madness to watch the rugby! Very impressed 

Pool tables, giant connect 4 and the like were scattered around the venue which added a bit of extra fun to the day. The food vendors (such as Mr. Donut, Barry John Sausages and Keogh's crisps which were all sampled with delight) were located in an L-shape along the side and back walls. This made more sense than being interspersed around the venue haphazardly as I remember from before. Keogh's chorizo and cherry tomato crisps are amazing by the way. Finally, although not a new addition to the Alltech festival, I have to say the glass rinsing stations are a God send. Other beer festivals really ought to take note here!  

First up for me was to pop by Eight Degrees to chat to my mate Derek and as I had had a Touching The Scald (Whiplash/Galway Bay collab) smoked porter in The Brew Dock on my way up I was happy out to see their Bandit smoked brown ale. Good choice for my first beer of the festival! I would stop by Eight Degrees later on in the day to sample their latest IPA offering - Trans Pacific New World IPA. As we have all come to expect from the Mitchelstown gang, this is a nice bitter but citrusy IPA. Combination of Aussie and US hops make a tasty tasty beer. Can't wait to pick up some bottles to see how they measure up. 

I had great plans for the day, loads of beers I planned on trying but I can't say I got to them all unfortunately. Of the ones I had ear marked, I got to try 2 out of the 3 'beers that sound like desserts' - the Strawberry milkshake from Rascals and Trouble Brewing's Hard Candy rhubarb custard and vanilla cream ale. Both of these had the potential of being genius or down right awful! I was pleasantly surprised by both of them! For starters they tasted like what they were named for which is tricky enough to get across in a beer. But also neither were sickly sweet or cloying. I tried the strawberry milkshake ale first and the two friends I was with were very dubious. All tried and enjoyed with one of the more sceptical of the lads buying a half pint of it after tasting mine. Trouble Brewing's Hard Candy left a bit of a sharp after taste in my mouth so of the two, I preferred Rascal's beer. 

Fellow blogger and Rye River Brewing's beer guru Simon Broderick gave me the heads up when the much anticipated Brewdog v Cloudwater New England IPA was tapped. I got to try a very small taster of it and it was very fresh and fruity. Very low to no bitterness in my opinion, I enjoyed how soft and fruity this was. I did hear some were underwhelmed by it however. 

Stone Berlin had a stand next to these and I know several people sang praise for their Woot Stout. Didn't get a chance to try myself. Among the other non-Irish breweries were Barcelona Beer Company, St.Austell's, Shipyard and Schneider Weisse. I bought a pint of Proper Job from St.Austell's and got a free beanie hat!! Inner hipster satisfied for the day! Great to see some other breweries there that you may not get to try beer from otherwise. 

The beer highlights of the day for me were probably Hope Brewery's Oatmeal IPA and Lough Gill's Mac Nutty - macadamia nut brown ale. Both of these are relatively new breweries releasing some exciting new brews. Can't wait to try more from both. But aside from the obvious beery highlights, the great thing about Alltech is it's a fantastic social event. There is always a really friendly atmosphere at this event and it was such a pleasure to catch up with fellow bloggers and some brewers I've gotten to know. Also a great opportunity to meet new people and it can feel like a networking exercise at times. I may try in future to pop along on the opening evening for blogging duties and leave myself free to socialise properly on the Saturday! I found myself talking through most of the rugby even though I really wanted to watch it. 

The trouble sometimes with these things is you can't find time to do everything you'd like to and you certainly can't try all the beers you would want to. I tried a good few and tried to make sure overall they were beers that wouldn't be readily available elsewhere. That's what I love about this festival, there are so many one-off or hard to find beers and it provides that opportunity to the punter to taste beers they otherwise may never get to. Once again Alltech you have impressed me and proven to be the best organised festival of the year. Roll on next year, I can't wait to fill my boots already. 

Cheers - TBH









Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Pre-Alltech 2017

Who's looking forward to The Alltech Brews and Food Festival 2017? It all kicks off tomorrow evening and I for one can't wait to get there and try all sorts of strange and wonderful Irish and international beers.... albeit for me, it will be Saturday before I get my ass to Dublin. Fuck you day job!! 

So what beers are people looking forward to trying? Or any breweries anyone is hoping to try for the first time? Personally I can't wait to try beers from Lough Gill Brewery. They're probably the newest Irish craft brewery to pop up. Based in Sligo, and set up by former White Hag man, their cheeky branding has caught the eye. Names like Thieving Bastard (a sly did at Heineken) and Heino-weiser (also obvious digs) are playful and will endear them to many craft beer geeks! 
Some international breweries such as Brewdog, Stone, and Shipyard will be exhibiting at this years festival. The latter of which I have yet to try any beer from too so will be heading to their stand. 

Below is a bit of a checklist of some beers that are on my must try list.... no change I'll get to all of them or I'll be on my ear! Well probably will anyway... 

Trouble Brewing - Hard Candy: rhubarb, custard & vanilla cream ale. 
For sheer curiosity sake as to how they can make this one work, I'm entrigued! Have to try this one. As a dessert it sounds delicious, let's see how it works as a beer. 

Wicklow Brewery - WB40 IPA

Tried an early incarnation of this at the Great Irish Beer Festival. Then called Aurora, this was a fantastic IPA. Have to have more of this. 

Eight Degrees Brewing - TransPacific IPA

New IPA from the guys in Mitchelstown launching at the festival. Don't know much about this one yet but 8D consistently knock out quality IPA's. Also an excuse to drop by their stand and get some Bandit smoked ale while I'm there. 

Rascal's Brewery - Strawberry Vanilla Shake

Seems to be a bit of a theme going on here? Dessert beers?? I'm happy to try them all! Likeminded folks at Rascals and Trouble Brewing - they've even gone and done a collaboration brew for the festival: Something Witty, a lemongrass, ginger, lime and pear wit. Would be rude not to give it a taste. 

Rye River Brewing Co. - Little Bangin IPA, Double Bangin IPA, Export Stout. 

RRB are launching 3 new beers at the festival. Big and little brothers to Francis Big Bangin IPA come a session IPA at 3.8% abv (could be the smart move for the day) and a double IPA at 8% abv. If these live up to the juicy, hoppy freshness of the original we are in for a treat. Finally there's also a 6% export stout launching. Promises big espresso and dark chocolate flavours! Sounds good to me. Maybe I'll have it as part of my dessert trio!! 

Of course, it's not all just about beer at Alltech (there's also cider and some spirits), food stalls and entertainment are a key part in the overall enjoyment of the day. The Pieman, Ploughmans Daughter and Keogh's are just some of the food vendors who will be there. Tokens bought at the event can be used for food as well as beer. And let's not forget... The 6 Nations is on and will be showing on Saturday!! Can't wait, great atmosphere, great beers and great food. 

It all kicks off at 12.30 on Saturday with the Ireland v France match being shown live at 4.50 also.

Hope to see you all there! Cheers - TBH 🍻

Saturday, 4 February 2017

6 nations of beer - Ireland

So the Rugby 6 Nations is over for another year sadly! And even worse... England won... again! So I got to thinking in the aftermath, which of the six countries involved has the best beer? Will England snatch the title again? ... possibly. 


May as well start with the most familiar and the country in which we are most spoiled with beer choice. From each of the 4 provinces, there are a great range of beers being brewed. Stouts, Reds, Pale Ales, IPA's, Weiss beers, Sours and barrel aged numbers, we're being spoiled at the moment! 
In Leinster, there are some amazing beers being produced. IPA's are everyone's favourite at the moment, Rye River Brewing's Big Bangin IPA and Kelly's Mountain Brew's Reality Bytes are  my favourite local beers!! Some newer breweries in the province are really pushing the boundaries such as DOT brewing and beer geek favourites Yellow Belly this year - looking forward to seeing what they roll out in 2017. Also this year there are some new breweries/side projects coming up! Third Circle and Stone Barrel have joined forces and moved in to their brewery, should be some good beer on the way from these lot. Also Jason from Wicklow Brewery just announced his own side project Storm Crow will be releasing beers from April onwards. If the beers he is producing for WB are anything to go by we're in for a treat. 
Down in Munster, we have arguably the best breweries as a collective in the country. Stylish beers from White Gypsy in Tipperary, kings of the IPA, Eight Degrees in Mitchelstown and founding fathers of the Irish craft beer scene Franciscan Well in Cork city still bringing great beers to the table (bought by Molson Coors). Eight degrees began a barrel aged series which got good reviews before Christmas and their latest offering, a barley wine aged in Chardonnay barrels in due to be released late spring. Fran Well continue to host great beer festivals in their awesome bar in the city. Make sure you visit next time you're in Cork. Also cant talk about Munster beer without mentioning my favourite stout - Worlds End from Blacks of Kinsale. An imperial stout released late in the year, loads of vanilla and chocolate flavour in this one.

In Ulster, particularly Belfast I believe the craft beer scene is hampered a bit by the pubs being controlled by the likes of Tennants. There is only a small number of free houses in the city. But there are some great breweries up north! I had a fantastic sour stout (interesting style I've only tried the once) from the Boundary brewing co-op at The Great Irish Beer Festival last September. Kinnegar Brewery also releasing some of the most popular beers in the country. They often release beers under the kettle sour series, the latest of which, Olan's Tart - a collaboration with Dan Kelly's cider is out now. 

Finally there's Connacht. Probably one of the biggest success stories since the craft beer boom began here is Galway Bay brewery. To date, not only have they release quality beers such as Of Foam and Fury double IPA and their barrel aged 200 fathoms but they have also opened 11 bars. These bars in Galway and Dublin along with the likes of The Porterhouse pubs have created meccas for beer fans in Ireland. Mescan Brewery over in Westport are brewing up some lovely Belgian style beers with an Irish twist. Their head brewer is a Belgian man so you know he knows how to brew a good beer. The best beer I had from them was the Christmas special, Beoir na Nollaig. 

So next week I'll have a look at England and Scotland? Sure. Why not? 😉

Cheers - TBH

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Brew day with Brú

Hey beer fans! I had a super day in Navan last Saturday... I know Navan, right? 😉 So my wonderful wife got me a voucher for a brew day with the guys up in Brú Brewery for Christmas. For 2 weekends in January, Brú House Navan are hosting groups of 16 to brew a beer on their 300ltr test kit out the back of their pub (sold out I'm afraid but I'm sure they will run these days again). 

Day started off with pick up from the 2 other Brú houses (Fairview & Newbridge) - the latter for me. Had a good chat with Founder Dave O'Hare on the way up to Navan, sound man. Have to say I was impressed with how open and honest he was with regard to the brewery and future plans. A lot of people in the industry are cagey with the information they give out but Dave was happy to chat away about plans for more seasonals this year being trialled on the test kit, planned food menu and bottled beer changes in their pubs. 
So we got to the Navan bar and sure it would be rude not to grab a beer before we got started. I had a spiced winter ale, a recent seasonal on draft in the bar. Lots of cinnamon and nutmeg flavours, would be ideal for sipping on in front of a big open fire! 

Lovely modern, bright bar but we were off out back to get a-brewin' in the beer garden. Here we met other founding Brú man Daire who would be guiding us through the brew day. Funny bastard is Daire, got everyone in great form for the day. He gave us a quick guide to different malts and hops and we decided on brewing a pale ale. 

We got to see the brew through from start to finish, including mashing in, boiling the wort, hop additions, chilling and transferring to fermenter. Half way through the day we stopped for lunch and I have to say the food is fantastic in the Brú bars, well worth popping in for a bite if you're near any of them. 

These brew days are a great way to get to meet fellow beer enthusiasts and after a few cheeky pints we were all having a great bit of banter. Also if you homebrew or have any interest in getting started, this day will help understand the processes involved. 

 The day is an absolute bargain, as well as learning how to brew a beer start to finish, you get a two course lunch, guided beer tasting, 12 bottles of the beer when it's finished and are picked up/dropped back from your chosen Brú house! Happy days 🍻 

I also got to catch up with the beer snobs (Wayne & Janice) for a couple of beers so great day altogether! If you weren't following #Irishbeerchat on twitter this Monday evening, they are launching their own beer school with - you can check it out here

Cheers - TBH




Saturday, 24 December 2016

Wicklow Brewery 12:12:16

Had the pleasure of drinking a special from Wicklow Brewery last night, (Bottle 1 of 2 - cheers to Jason for sending them on) - their anniversary beer named 12:12:16. The date coincides with the 4 year anniversary of the signing of the lease for the brewery and also the 2 year anniversary of the opening of the beer hall (which is awesome by the way, well worth the visit). 

Now on to the beer! Described on the bottle as Oak Barrel Aged Strong Ale I was expecting a whiskey soaked, heavy, very dark beer. Pleasantly surprised to find this beer quite light and delicately well balanced. Has a smokey aroma and you can get the smell of the treacle too. The colour is a dark burnt orange, again would have thought darker but there is obviously a careful balance of malts used  which are listed on the label too. 

There is a lovely sweet but delicate fruit flavour at first tasting. For the brew they rehydrated raisins and cherries in 10 year old port and added this to the whiskey barrel aged beer! This precise and careful attention to detail is what I would expect from Wicklow brewery having tasted some of their other fine beers (can't wait for aurora ipa next year). As the beer warms up (admittedly had it a bit too cool at first) you start to get the warmness of the alcohol from the whiskey and the smokey flavours from the oak barrel. This beer has a smooth mouthfeel and a slight tartness in the aftertaste. Bags of flavour to this beer and I can't wait to try my next bottle... serve at room temperature is Jason's (head brewer) advice. I will definitely heed this advice! If you can find a bottle of this and I wish you luck as there are only about 1000 bottles, get your hands on one! 

I believe there are big plans next year for a range of new beers from this brewery including some more barrel ageing! Keep your eyes peeled and also get down to Redcross to visit the brewery and taproom! They have glamping accommodation onsite too so would make a good long weekend. 

Cheers - The Beer Hopster 


Sunday, 6 November 2016

International Stout Day


So yesterday may have been all about the boys in green but Thursday was all about the all black - International Stout Day. Yep that's a thing and this was the 3rd year running. I was lucky enough to be invited along to a gathering in The Open Gate Brewery  by friends Kelly's Mountain Brew to celebrate the dark, malty, roasty wonder that is stout! 

5 guest breweries along with some media & bloggers were invited to come along to celebrate stout day. Of the breweries invited there was the aforementioned Kelly's, 5 lampsPorterhouseDungarvan Brewing Co. and from London, 40ft Brewery. All in attendance were showcasing their own stouts/porters and there was a great many takes on the style to taste. 

Try as I might, unfortunately I wasn't able to try them all. The guest breweries had one or two beers each and Guinness themselves had about 8 varieties to choose from. So... what did I get around to tasting? Well, first off I got chatting to Domhnall and a couple of the other lads from Open Gate and decided to try the Sea salt and burnt sugar stout. This was delicious! Desert in a glass. A dry stout (salt effect) with a brown sugar/salted caramel finish. Anyone who thinks that all the big beer companies make is bland beer needs to visit the Open Gate. They are serving some cracking beers in there. 
Of the Guinness beers, I also had their weisen stout and apple stout. The former was a light and smooth stout and probably the most sessionable beer I had that evening. The latter was impressive in that they managed to get the subtle flavour of apple into a dark beer but personally I don't think the two belong together and I didn't enjoy this one. 
Also had a long chat with Peter Simpson and he gave us a sample of two different barrel aged stouts on the night. 

The Antwerpen export was the 2nd time the barrel had been used so I don't think it got the full benefit of being aged. It was a bit sour, not bad but in comparison to the other barrel, it didn't compare. The 2nd barrel had the West Indies porter aged in Rye bourbon. This was smooth and had a fine vanilla flavour as well as the bourbon. I really enjoyed this beer. Along with the burnt sugar stout, these were my favourite of what Guinness had to offer. 

Of the other breweries, stand out beers were Wakey Wakey by 5 lamps and 40ft deep by 40ft brewery. Wakey Wakey is a collaboration beer between the Dublin based brewery and coffee roasters that I cannot recall the name of now. If you had served this to me in a cup I would honestly think you had given me cold coffee. Massively roasty coffee flavour and well hidden alcohol. I'm not a coffee drinker myself but I love when a beer tastes of what it is meant to. Too many beers don't quite live up to their names/expectations. 
The 40ft deep was a dry Irish stout style beer. Chatting to Ben he said he had tried an Irish stout and loved the dryness of the style so decided to brew one himself. I think they managed to make a beer that is true to the style and I really enjoyed drinking this and talking to the guys from 40ft. 

A quick note on the non-beer side of things. There was a cheese mongers serving a selection of hard and soft cheeses along with crackers and apple slices and also The Cupcake Bloke was serving up some delicious treats. Blas na hEireann gold winner this year had some delicious cupcakes and brownies to soak up the beers. The nice thing was they had used some Guinness beers somewhere in each of their recipes. 

Hopefully there will be similar events next year, it's a great way to celebrate a lovely and actually quite diverse beer style. All in all, fabulous evening. Hope you all enjoyed some great Irish or international stouts on the day too. 

Cheers - The Beer Hopster 🍻