La Rochelle – A tale of the unexpected

La Rochelle – A tale of the unexpected

2017 has been a long year, so thanks to everyone’s favourite airline Ryanair, myself and Janice snagged a pair of staggeringly cheap return tickets to La Rochelle. It exists, it’s not just a place that crops up in French Text Books. The criteria for our trip was that it was not beer focused. You see invariably, we end up planning our trips around bars, breweries and things, this time we literally went in blind. No research, No scoping stuff out on Tripadvisor. Nada.


La Rochelle, is an old port city on France’s Atlantic coast, which has a rich naval and seafaring history. Also interestingly was home to Nazi U-boat pens which are huge in scale. Like most European cities it is a pleasure to walk around the central old town, take in the sights, sounds and smells of the life along the quais and narrow streets.

We had picked a hotel near the town’s market, which on a Wednesday and Saturday spreads out along the nearby streets with a wide range of stalls selling their wares, from honey to cheese, to roast chicken and full on bouchers

But let’s face it, you’re not here to find out how much we enjoyed rambling around this pretty old town, discovering some amazing food, cafe culture and friendly people. We of course came across a few spots that really stood out.

The thing about France is, generally beer is quite expensive, on average, a pint (500ml) was in the €5 to €6.50 euro range, demi’s (250ml) were usually a good bit cheaper. Clearly, France isn’t a huge beer drinking nation, but if we think the “tied” nature is bad here, it’s worse in France. It’s pretty much Heineken, or Kronenbourg everywhere. There were however a few rays of light for those who want to be able to get some interesting beers.

Captain Houblon
8 Rue de la ferté

Advertised as La Rochelle’s first Craft Beer bar, we literally stumbled upon this pub while we were exploring the side streets walking down to the port from the market. A small bar with 3 different beers on draught with a number of French Craft Beers, and other nationalities represented in bottle form. You can visit their website here

Le Troll Pub
48 Rue St Nicolas

Have a craving for Belgian Beers? Well look no further than Le Troll Pub, with 8 different Belgian Beers on draught, and a multitude of bottles, including some 750ml sharer bottles. There were some great beers on the bottle list, and the draught list too was good. This is based in the livelier part of La Rochelle, down in the St Nicolas Quarter. You can find them on Facebook here

Academie de la biere
10 Cour Temple

Another venue off the beaten track, not quite on the main street but this bar is worth a visit as they have a nice little tap list of French and Belgian beers, with lager and Guinness for those who need the black stuff. The guys were very patient with my terrible french, and then started to chat to us in English when they realised we were from Ireland. Also huge rugby fans and are looking forward to hosting Ulster when they take on the local rugby team, Stade Rochelais. You can find them on Facebook here

Of course what kind of self respecting folk would be if we didn’t seek out the local Irish pub. There were three that we came across, each of them sold an Irish Craft Beer.

General Humbert’s
14 Rue Saint Nicolas

This bar has a good happy hour, really good tunes playing, and music on most nights. Also a good spot to go for sports. They were pouring O’Hara’s Pale Ale and it was nice to have something hoppy after all the wine and cheese! Bowls of peanuts, and saucisson also available. You can check it out here

We also found Corrigans at 20 Rue des Cloutiers, which had Galway Hooker bottles, and McNulty’s at 9 rue verdiere which had a couple of the Galway Hooker beers on bottle too. All do a happy hour, and McNulty’s is great for the sport.

La Rochelle is a lovely city to visit, lovely food, easy to walk around, and not far from the beautiful Ile de Ré and it’s many lovely towns.


Christmas Ideas – Gifts for the Craft Beer Lover in your life.

So, now we’re past Halloween, and at the end of November we can start talking about Christmas. A time of beer and cheer. When families and friends make up any excuse to go out for a few sneaky pints. We in love this time of year.

With that in mind i’ve put together a list of presents you can get the beer lover in your life. Varying budgets of course, but there are so many you can choose from these days.

1: Craft Beer Hampers (varying prices to suit your budget)

picture courtesy of 

Ok, this seems like a simple one, but it’s one thats often overlooked. Who doesn’t love getting a box of beers, whether they’ve had them before or there are some new beers to discover. Now, i’m not gonna tell you what to put in your box, i’m going to defer to the wide range of speciality independent off licences i’ve purchased from before to lend you the benefit of their expertise.
If you’re not near one of the ones listed, most of them offer nationwide delivery for a reasonable fee.

Fear not if you don’t want to order online your local independent off licence will be more than happy to help you.

For those of you who want a Craft Beer Advent Calendar – you’re in luck, Martin’s of Fairview have one for sale, the details are here – you can also secure for a limited time you can get a Mikkeller one which isn’t quite the full 24 days, infact it only covers the four sundays, but it’s a bit of fun after all mikkeller box

2: Beer Glassware (€19.99 plus delivery if applicable)

picture courtesy of Spiegelau

Anyone who has been to Belgium for a weekend will have marvelled at the fact that the beers are served in the right glass, even the branding. No Delerium Tremens in a Chimay glass for example. An amazing feat in itself. However, a lot of people don’t realise the difference the right glass makes to different styles of beer. Think the difference between a white wine and red wine glass and you get the idea. Spiegelau have been pioneers in the wine world for many years, and now after lots of R&D have brought to us a range of beer glasses that are of exquisite quality, and help accentuate the flavours of your favourite beers.
You can order your set right here

3: Jameson Caskmates (€38 appx)
Courtesy of – click to visit their page

Jameson Whiskey – a global whiskey Icon, a truly Irish beverage, distilled in Midleton Cork. Teaming up with Franciscan Well of Cork to produce a unique whiskey. After maturing the whiskey the casks were delivered to Franciscan Well to age their full bodied stout. Once the stout had been matured the casks were sent back to the distillery for the matured whiskey to be finished. From there this was bottled and unleashed on the world. The best of both worlds, a premium spirit with hints of stout to add complexity to an already great spirit. While you’re at it, why not pair with the Franciscan Well Whiskey Aged stout. 
Available at all good off licences. 

4: Craft Beer Tasting Day (€49)

Based in Dublin’s North King Street, the Dublin Bar Academy run a fun and educational Craft Beer Session which is led by our good friend James Winans of Vanguard Beer Collective. During the course you can expect to learn more about the history of brewing but most importantly of all you’ll get to sample the various styles now available and produced on this great Island. It’s a great afternoon and bit of fun. Click the link above to be brought to the information page.

5: Buy them shares in Brewdog (From £95)

Ok, so who wouldn’t want to own a piece of a brewery. Now, let’s be honest I don’t view my shares in Brewdog as an investment, more so membership of a club of like minded people. People who love great beer. What’s in it for me? Well you get depending on your level of investment varying levels of discounts both in bar, and their online store. You also get invited to exclusive equity for punks events. But the cherry on top for me is the chance to visit Aberdeen for AGM each year where you get to hear the vital statistics of how Brewdog is doing, but also get to party with thousands of like minded people while drinking great beers. And yes you get to bring a guest! So if you’re thinking of buying this as a gift for someone, the link is 

I know if I was to receive any of these presents, i’d be absolutely delighted! Have a great Christmas one and all.

The Price of Craft Beer – More than meets the Eye.

Those of you that follow me on twitter, firstly, Thank you! And secondly will have noticed in my feed last week I was taken aback at the price of a certain beer in a certain pub. Not only was I perplexed and shocked at this, MrsBeerSnob too was aghast.

Usually, I would talk to the business owners privately on this issue or any other issues I’ve come across during my travels. This time however I went public. Now, I’m not necessarily proud of becoming the ranting twitter maniac for a few hours. However, I do believe things happen for a reason.

//, the pub was Brewdock, and the company Galway Bay. Brewdock is a regular stomping ground for myself and MrsBeerSnob when we fancy a cheeky pint after work. It’s even in my best beer pubs in Dublin list. Now I’d not been in for a pint for a while and circumstances dictated this particular Wednesday that we had missed our bus and had an hour to kill for the next one.

In we walked and perused the taps, then the board above them. My eyes were instantly drawn to the price of the Camden IHL at €10.50 a pint. Now, I like IHL as much as the next man, but that price was shocking to me. Had we reached a nadir in the Craft Beer Scene in Ireland? I perused the wall board further. Out of 24 Taps, there was 7 Pints listed above €7.00 – this shocked me further. I suppose I’d been conditioned to accept more expensive beers in particular in GBB bars being priced and served at 2/3rds of a pint. 

Now I admit – this turn of events shocked us a lot – and off I went. Social Media and a few beers were not a good combo. The next morning Jason from Galway Bay reached out to me. So to add balance to this discussion here are some of the points that have seen prices creep up in all bars that serve craft beer not just the Galway Bay ones.

Firstly – since the beginning of the year, our currency the Euro has fallen very heavily in the last 12 months vs The Dollar and Sterling. Please see the table below to see how much 1 euro bought on these dates. Rates taken from XE.Com 

           01/01/15 17/07/15      13/09/2015 

€ buys £ 0.79      0.69 (-14%)  0.73 (-8%) 

€ buys $ 1.21      1.08 (-12%)  1.13 (-7%) 

Clearly currency and its fall in value affects the cost of bringing in US & UK beers a lot more – you also have to factor in that these beers come in one way kegs such as Key Kegs, which will add appx €15 to each keg.

Now let’s talk about hops. Yes those wonderful plants that give our favourite beers their amazing flavours. With the increasing number of craft breweries, and infact macro’s too buying up more hops, this is making the supply slightly lower than normal and this in turn is pushing the prices of hops up themselves. Beers made in Ireland in the main use hops sourced via some of the large hop merchants in the UK who in turn source worldwide. As brewers are buying these ingredients in general in Dollar or Sterling, this is also a factor in the increases lately in beer prices. 

So there’re some of the factors that have increased the cost of beer – this starts at the brewers who have to pay more for their ingredients, then wholesalers who get charged slightly more by the brewer to buy the beer, then the pubs who are subject to the wholesalers margin reflecting the increased costs. 

Now, getting back to this infamous tenner pint – after speaking to Jason, I can understand what’s gone on. Galway Bay have a number of bars in Dublin and one of their most recent additions The Beer Market was opened with specials and rarities in mind, and no pints! Now being keen business men they guys listened to the feedback they were getting – why no pints!!? So pints were introduced in The Beer Market, and more pint options were rolled out into their other bars. This went against what they had previously done – sell the more expensive & rare beers in a maximum measure of 2/3rd of a Pint.

However the ten euro pint to me was so shocking. I was thinking, why would you want to be getting a reputation for selling ten euro pints? Or how a person new to craft beer would react to seeing this price on a board? Having worked in sales for years myself, I just felt optically it was the wrong message. I also understand we operate in a free market. The Galway Bay bars aren’t a charity, and they need to make money to be able to pay staff, suppliers, and ultimately invest in the business. So when Jason reached out it was great to get that side of the story. 

As a result of all this, Jason has confirmed to me that they will still sell pints of the beer to whoever wants to buy it – the prices won’t be on the chalk boards if the pint price works out above €6.75, only the price for 2/3rds will be on the board. But punters will be given the pint price before they purchase a pint. This is the best outcome in my opinion. So anyone who wants a pint and is happy to pay it – which is after all free market economics – can.

So in summary, the free market will dictate prices at every level of the chain. It’s fair to say that we appreciate craft beer costs more both to produce and buy as a consumer but hopefully this post will give you a little insight to the side we don’t often see when we are quaffing some great beers! And the decision on whether to buy or not falls to you. The Consumer.

A Belgian Odyssey

As I sit here writing this post – which is primarily a look back at the recent European Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference it strikes me that this in fact the 100th post on the blog. (100 might be a bit of a stretch as some are of our podcast episodes) but nonetheless. It is a significant milestone we have achieved here. It’s quite fitting we are now writing about our experiences.

Those of you that follow us on Twitter or who are friends with us on Facebook / Instagram etc will have seen that we were in Europe before the conference. We started off in the beautiful port city of Bordeaux in South West France, and met some great people – this will be covered in another post. We then stopped in Paris for a whistle stop tour less than 48 Hrs in length, but this didn’t stop us discovering some great parts of the Parisienne beer scene. 

This brings us nicely onto our visit to Brussels. I’m embarrassed to say this is my first visit to Brussels, not to Belgium, I know we stopped somewhere in Belgium on our way to Germany on a school tour when I was a teen. It was fitting that we were going to one of the most famous beer producing countries, even though they only produce 1% of the worlds beer, it’s a place steeped in tradition, pride and history. 

Ever since the itinerary for EBBC was published we’ve been really excited to see what Belgium has to offer. We are quite fortunate in Ireland we get a lot of really great Belgian beer however I was excited to try more of what Belgium has to offer, both from the long established brewers, and the new up and coming breed that are emerging in Belgium. 

We arrived, and registered. Once the formalities were completed we had a lovely lunch of local dishes with a range of diverse beers. Among the beers we tried was Dry Hopped Saison by Dupont which was brought to another level with the dry hopping. The hop used was Minstrel. However one that absolutely blew me away was the Timmermans Oude Geuze, a delightfully tart beer which served as a wonderful palate cleanser in between courses. However there was one beer that really challenged my perceptions and that was the Liefman’s Kriek Brut, for those who don’t know this is a mixed fermentation partial spontaneous and partial re-fermentation in the bottle. They put 13kg of Cherries in for maturation per hectolitre.  The guys from Liefmans even went a step further which included a chocolate covered cherry and a great blue cheese for matching. 

We then settled in for a packed afternoon agenda which included a press conference from the Belgian Family Brewers which gave us a very broad outline as to why they set up and what they hope to achieve – I’m going to discuss this in a later blog post. Which all lead up to the Live Beer Blogging, which saw us trying 12 beers from 12 different brewers in 1 hour. All the while blogging while trying. You can see my post on this here which i’ll fix up and add more notes to. Just imagine speed dating with beer. Next time, I might just do this on Instagram or Twitter! 

Following swiftly on from the Live blogging, was dinner in the beautiful Belga Queen which used to be a bank. It’s also home to the swankiest bathrooms i’ve ever seen. Here we were treated to more great hospitality and beers. One that I was particularly impressed with was the Mikkeller / Lindeman’s Spontanbasil collaboration. We finished off the evening in Delerium Cafe, however after a long day we moved on to the bar in the Hotel Metropole and a couple of beers on the terrace on a lovely summer’s evening. 

Janice and I with Aidan Sweeney of – Photo Courtesy of Aidan Sweeney

Day 2 was a similarly busy day – with a packed agenda again. Which undoubtedly contained the most hotly debated topic simply entitled “Beer Marketing – How does beer blogging and writing fit in to the broader subject of beer marketing?” Now I must confess I expected fireworks, as when I was chatting to Johnny of Brewdog in advance I got the impression that Jean had something to say. However we were led off by Sofie Vanrafelghem of Sofies World who is railing against gender marketing and is leading events to encourage women to try beer, especially those that say they don’t like beer! We also heard of the ridiculous restraints that Tom Young of Nogne has to deal with when they market their beers in Norway. Johnny Moran of Brewdog told us how Brewdog view bloggers as vital in spreading their company’s message of telling people about great beer. 

// the stage was set. You knew it was going to be interesting when Jean started with the dictionary definition of a brewer, and brewery. He then proceeded to rail against Mikkeller, and all gypsy brewers, going as far as describing these as Fake Brewers. Now, i think at this stage Jean had maybe misjudged his audience or even used a bad example. I don’t think his ire was specifically aimed at Mikkeller but more the private label operators who are setting up in Belgium who may brew the same beer for three companies and it’s not specifically identified where it’s brewed etc. This isn’t a uniquely Belgian problem. 

However when using Mikkeller as his example, who states where his beer is made on each bottle, was a little confusing. Ultimately the point he was trying to make was that Bloggers in particular are needed to state the truth – the truth isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t think bloggers would criticise someone like Mikkeller for being a gypsy brewer, as he’s always been upfront with that, but we do and often criticise some of the beer he produces. Thankfully this passed off without more than a difference of opinion, but it was an interesting insight into how some folks view Gypsy Brewers. 

I was privileged to be one of the Bloggers who got to give a five minute report on a subject of their choosing. Given the fledgling Irish Beer Scene, I spoke about this however it was really informative listening to Matt Curtis of Total Ales who gave a really good session on improving your photography on your blog, and importantly told us that you can achieve good results using your smart phone, just be sure to use natural sunlight and editing software. Also of particular interest was Jeffrey Michael the Biking Brewer who had cycled half ways around Europe to be with us! Also The Baron Ormskirk told us how it was possible to blog and produce audio for very little out lay. 

This and the next session The Science of Sour Beers – Presented by Petrus were my two favourite events. We got to try the main beers in the sour range by Brouwerij De Brabandere. The oud bruin, the aged red, and we also got to try the mother beer, the aged pale. Which as part of the history of this beer, credit has to be given to the late Michael Jackson who persuaded the brewery to unleash the mother beer on the public. But the fun didn’t stop there – we were encouraged to make our own blend of the beers as after all everyone’s palettes are different. Personally I loved the 100% Aged Pale, but give it a drop of the aged red and it was a different beast altogether. To that end I hope that they get a distributor here in Ireland – and i’ll start pestering the ones I know now!

We finished off with a monster meal courtesy of Pilsner Urquell where we were presented with a customised Beer Mug and the opportunity to pour our own pints of Pilsner Urquell which was being served from the tank which was shipped in the previous day. 

All in all we had a great time, was it perfect no, but it’s very hard to put something this big on with some things not being 100% but in the main it was a very positive experience. I certainly took a lot from it. We’ve so much to write about over the coming weeks and months we’ll revisit our visits to Bruges and Leuven also. Also – where else would you get to sample more than 125 beers! I don’t even know how accurate that count is! 

Podcast Episode 11 – A catch up and a Roadtrip

So, after a few weeks hiatus, like buses, the Irish Beer Snob team hit you with a double hit – not only a blog post – but a podcast too!

This week we cover off on a lot of different things, like what we’ve been up to the last few weeks.

Our podcast fuel was the excellent Road Trip beer from McHugh’s Off Licence, brewed in collaboration with Kinnegar Brewing. Available exclusively via their website and shops. hopefully they brew more as it was tasty! 

Among other things we rabbit on about a new bar in Dublin city centre, The Wiley Fox, what IrishBeerSnob has been up to, Registering for EBBC 15.

We also look forward to a number of other events, including our good friend Simon of Simon Says Beer who is hosting a craft beer festival in Don’s Bar in Moate, Co Westmeath in August. 

Carlow Brewing Company have been very busy, not only unleashing a number of Collabs, a new one with Pinta of Poland, but also a Hoppy Red IPA in Collaboration with Starr Hill Brewing of Virginia, USA. 

So come on, and have a listen! 

Direct Link is here
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