Brewdog – Indie Pale Ale

Brewdog – Indie Pale Ale

The brewery Brewdog seems to emote a wide range of emotions whenever their name is uttered among beer fans, whether it’s shouts of derision, and rolling of eyes. Or, their more vocal evangelical supporters, who may or may not be equity punks, no one can deny, that they push people’s buttons. Full disclosure, i’m an Equity Punk.

Maybe, it’s the brash marketing, this “punk” ethos, the constant crowdfunding, they selling of a stake to a US equity fund, or maybe it’s much more simple. Is it envy of their success? No matter what revisionist history you subscribe to, to get from where they were in 2007, to where they are now, a company worth appx £1bn is impressive. No matter what way you shake it down. There has even been some calls for James Watt and Martin Dickie to walk

It’s also extremely impressive, how they are very successful at exporting, and Ireland is currently in their top ten export markets, but realistically it’s the tie up to Sweden that is the cash cow that keeps them going. They also have a growing pub estate in the UK and further afield. They also, have been extremely successful at getting their beer in the hands of consumers. Dealing with Multiple grocers, and pubco’s like Wetherspoons, and also self distribution into other independent retailers, has seen them be able to price Punk IPA at both the top end of the market (about £5 a pint in their bars, or 4 cans for £5 in Tesco) This is all very impressive. Brewdog it appears are Marmite, you either love them, or hate them. The middle ground seems hard to find. I think the point gets lost sometimes, but they are in the business of selling beer. They are quite good at it. However are they taking less risks than before? Perhaps. They are undoubtedly still capable of great beers, Paradox Rye, Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin, and Jackhammer are testament to this, plus many of the small batch beers that never make it here that are exclusive to their bars.

The term Craft, is a term that has in my view been hijacked by marketeers, to convey something, and has by and large been bastardised, i’m pretty sure I saw a “craft” barber recently. But let’s put this into scale, in terms of size, Brewdog, are much smaller than many of the US brewerys they (and many beer fans) admire, take Stone for example, they produce much more, and have 3 breweries, 2 in the US, and one in Germany. Yet, they don’t get anywhere near the heat that Brewdog do.

I started this post with the intention of reviewing this new beer, and i’ll get to that. This just brings a wider context how inclusive is “craft” beer? In Ireland independent brewers hold appx 3.5% of the overall market share. This means that the vast vast majority of drinkers drink macro beer. In my view, and i’ve always thought this, there needs to be those gateway beers, and perhaps breweries, to bring people in, put an arm around them and get them to try something new. Something that won’t terrify them. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s akin to bringing someone to an Indian restaurant and recommending a vindaloo to someone who’s never eaten one before.  You wouldn’t do that (ok if you didn’t like them you might) but the point remains the same. Without denigrating the work of some here, but breweries in Ireland like O’Haras, Porterhouse, and Bru, are churning out pretty safe beers which are in the middle, and wouldn’t be too much of a challenge to you stereotypical lager drinker. For every O’Hara’s we have DOT Brewing, for every Porterhouse we have Galway Bay, for every Bru we have Whiplash. There are many people making a living now from this industry, and there is a place for everyone as the market grows, but consistency will be key to their survival. Right now there are an increasing number of brewers here who are touching on world class category, and they’re beginning to tell their story outside these shores.

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The beer itself, looks pleasing in the glass, I get hints of pears, and banana on the nose, almost like a Hefeweissen but not as strong. There is a biscuity and slight caramel taste, with moderate hop bitterness. All in all, not very offensive. It’s just a well made inoffensive beer. Not too much going on, but nothing wrong with it. Maybe they’ll tweak the recipe. To my taste, i’d reach for Dead Pony over it, or Whiplash Rollover. However, if you were out with a bunch of friends and their was a couple of non craft drinkers, this wouldn’t scare them away. It might just get them on the right path to more flavourful beer in the future. Is this the middle ground? Time will tell

 

Golden Pints 2017

Golden Pints 2017

It’s that time of year when we try to recall and relive our favourite beery moments through a rip roaring 2017. For the podcast this year it was a challenge to maintain our frequency due to my college course that I was doing until the summer time. It is our intention to return to more frequent recording from mid – late January 2018. I also want to be writing more.

We’d so many highlights over the year, and as always it’s so difficult to pick them all out but we will try our best to get through all our categories.

Best Irish Keg Beer:
W –
we’ve been spoiled this year with so many brewers coming on in leaps and bounds in terms of quality and innovation, and I know i’ll always plump for it if I see it, and that’s YellowBelly Citra Pale ale, but the best beer I had by an Irish Brewer on keg this year was Ambush by Trouble Brewing. Now also in Cans, but this beer never disappoints. A truly juicy pale ale. Special mention to the lads in O’Brother who nailed it with Nightcrawler, a lovely Nitro Stout that came on the scene late in 2017.
J – having tried the freshly kegged and maybe not fully carbonated Rainmaker by O’Brother Brewing at the RDS festival, I knew it was going to be special so when I got to taste it but when I got to taste it fully carbed up, it was a thing of beauty, and one i’ve revisited many times. Also special mention to Whiplash for Body Riddle, such a tasty beer.

Best Irish Cask Beer
W – Not something we see a lot of her, as many brewers don’t do a huge amount of it, but kudos to those that do, and there has been some great cask ales produced, my favourite of the year though was Trouble Brewing’s Walk on the Mild Side, which was everything I wanted in a Mild. Special mentions to both O’Brother who have a steady supply of their casks in Porterhouse, and The Chancer is always kept well, and also the Yellowbelly lads too.
J – Not had a huge amount of cask beer this year, but really enjoyed Yellow Belly – Snooze Button on cask recently.

Best Irish Bottled Beer
W & J- Sometimes overlooked, this category, but there were some cracking bottles through out the year. One for me was Galway Bay – 200 Fathoms 2017 edition, given an extra six months in the bottle, this matured into a lovely sipper, a luxurious impy stout. Special mentions to St Mel’s – A New Dawn, a cracking black IPA from a brewery perhaps known more for their traditional styles.

Best Irish Canned Beer
W – 
Now, the cat among the pigeons, more and more breweries are packaging in to cans, it’s a larger canvas to show off their branding, but it’s the liquid inside that counts right? I really can’t look beyond Whiplash Beer – Saturate Mosaic DIPA, but every thing that followed, Let It Happen, Fantasm Planes, and Gravity’s Rainbow. All bangers in every right. Honourable mentions to Yellowbelly – Citra Pale Ale, and Hopped in Space, Trouble Brewing – Ambush.
J – For me, Rascals Brewing – Foggy Juice. A great beer and hopefully we see more of it in the future. Honourable mention to Yellowbelly – Are you not entertained? , and also to Westmeath’s Dead Centre Brewing  – Marooned Oatmeal IPA

Best Overseas Draught Beer
W – This is a hugely difficult one, we’ve been over to the UK a fair bit, and had so many tasty beers, I really need to start using untappd more. 😂 I think i’d have to say the pintage we had down in the Magic Rock Tap room with Steve from Hopinions has probably some of the standouts, Cannonball was a thing of beauty, fresh from the source. Also Modernisme and Time Quake. As we don’t see it here much, Cannonball was my pick. Brewdog – had a couple of big ones too in Paradox Rye, and Born to Die 13.05.17
J – One from Darkcity for me, Cloudwater – Speyside Chocolate BA Imp Stout, was amazing, also loved Northern Monk – Sticky Toffee Strannik. On cask had the Walnut Brown by Old Chimneys and that was lovely.

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Good King Henry at Dark City – gorgeous

Best Overseas Canned / Bottled Beer
W – So many amazing can’s are making their way to us now in Ireland, but only one winner for me and that’s Chubbles by Cloudwater / The Veil – a Triple IPA that was so juicy, and didn’t drink it’s ABV, also we’ve been spoiled by the Northern Monk beers, especially some of their collabs, such as I like to moob it moob it.
J – We’ve had some amazing beers coming in from Lervig and one of my favourites, was Tasty Juice, did exactly what it says on the tin. Also really like supersonic and the 3 Bean Stout by Lervig too

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Janice with Lervig Head Brewer – Mike Murphy

Best Overall Beer
W – For me, it’s trying to pick one from the many amazing beers that i’ve enjoyed over the year, but the one I probably drunk most of was Whiplash – Saturate – absolutely love Mosaic, and this hides its ABV really well.
J – All about the sessionability for me, Whiplash strike again with Body Riddle. Have it every time I see it.

Best Branding / Pump Clip
W & J- 
Yellowbelly have done an amazing job with their branding yet again, and we were even immortalised for our collaboration Juice Wayne. But with an increase in output and a range of amazing IPAs, it has to be Whiplash for me, the work by Sophie Devere, is gorgeous to look at and looks great on the cans.

 

Best Pub
W&J – 
To our friends Geoff and Maire, 57 The Headline again epitomises the best of pubs in Ireland, great range of beer, whiskey’s and gins, matched to a thoughtful food menu which is great any day of the week. Especially those Sunday Roasts. Keep up the good work guys. Honourable mentions to P.Macs and Bar Rua which offer something for everyone. PS the Halloumi fries in P.Macs are awesome.

Best New Pub / Bar
W&J – When Paddy Delahunty and Barry Kavanagh announced they were opening a bar, beer geeks across the city rejoiced. A constantly rotating taplist, which is live online (here) that has enough to keep everyone interested. A cosy space on Dame St, with meat and cheese boards now too plus spirits etc there was never going to be anywhere else getting the nod from us. It has to be Underdog

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Beer Festival of the Year
W & J – Spoiled for choice this year, first up early in the year we had Alltech Brews and Food, tickets are on sale already for 2018 edition, then we’d the Killarney Beer Fest in May, which was a lot of fun. Also had the the Brewdog AGM. But the bar was set very high by White Hag’s Hagstravanza which brought a whole new meaning to a piss up in a brewery, we’re really looking forward to next years. We also had a great time up in Belfast at the ABV Fest which is a truly unique festival which i’d like to see something similar in Dublin, and of course Dark City back in November. Winner is Hagstravaganza

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Beer Twitterer
W – Has to be the Beer Nut for me (again I hear you cry) John has a sharp wit, and is great to have a pint with.
J – I really enjoy Crafty Beer Tweets twitter account, he’s a sound bloke too.

Best Irish Brewery
W & J – not often we’d agree on something, but it’s a unanimous decision, our Brewery of the Year 2017 is Whiplash – not only are Alan and Alex two of the nicest folk you’ll meet, they’re also two of the biggest beer geeks ever. They’re literally bringing out beers they want to drink and have a ton of fun doing it. Moving into their own digs with Larkin’s brewery for 2018 we’re expecting more of the same awesomeness. Honourable mentions to Trouble Brewing, Rascals, Yellowbelly, who have been knocking out great beers all year, and have really been great.

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We left off a couple of categories for brevity, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year. May 2018 be a prosperous and great beery year for you all.

 

Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas Gift Guide

Why not let me make gift giving that little bit easier for you. Below is a few gift for your beer fanatic loved one. I’ve chosen items I would love to receive myself this year.

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  • Monthly Subscription to The Beer Club It’s the gift that keeps on giving. A box of beers to drink away while discussing the aromas and tastes during a twitter hour on Tuesday nights hosted by us! You can purchase a monthly box that will be delivered right to their door. Why not surprise them by signing them up for three, six or even twelve months? They also have put together some pretty nifty looking hampers.
  • Speaking of subscriptions, take a look at this incredible one the guys at Yellow Belly Beer have on offer. This includes some awesome exclusive beers and swag. Not to mention an invite to a brewday with them!!
  • No Christmas is complete without something sweet right? Well look no further than Kate O’Ds. She makes the most amazing truffles. I can assure you they go down a treat. We’re particularly fond of her stout truffles!
  • Why not treat the beer lady in your life to a fabulous piece of jewelry? Wayne purchased me a beautiful hop pendant from Feral Strumpet. It came packaged in a beautiful organza bag with dried lavender. This was a lovely early Christmas present.
  • Have they ever been on a brewery tour? Many of our wonderful Irish breweries offer such an experience. They get a guided tour around the brewery itself. Then afterwards an opportunity to sample the beers. We’ve been on many tours like Mc Gargles and Brehon Brewhouse. Both have impressive tasting areas.
  • One that has been on our list for quite sometime is a trip along the west coast. I’m not only talking about the States, but our very own Ireland. Plan a trip to include all the breweries with this handy guide Wild Atlantic Way Breweries
  • Beer festivals are always fun. They are a great way to meet fellow beer buddies, talk to the brewers and of course try new beers. Tickets are now available for next years  Alltech Craft Brews & Food event. This is held in the convention centre in Dublin and its great craic.
  • You can also purchase a case of this stunning beer 57 The Headline from  This is limited so be quick. Also why not visit them for some quality beers and grub!

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Yellowbelly x Irish Beer Snob – the tale of Juice Wayne

Yellowbelly x Irish Beer Snob – the tale of Juice Wayne

The weekend that Storm Doris was lashing the UK & Ireland out of it seemed like as good as any to drive down to Wexford to brew a beer with that awesome bunch of lads at Yellowbelly.

We’d hatched a plan to brew a collaboration beer with Yellowbelly as part of Sheffield Beer Week. We were over there to attend Beer Now, and the stars were aligning. I’d met with Declan and Danny in Bar Rua one evening after work to discuss, the plan, the concept was simple, make a Pale Ale / IPA that paid homage to that most awesome of soft drinks, Rock Shandy. An awesome thirst quencher in a glass, mix of Orange and Lemon. The lads came up with the name!

In fairness, the lads were also in the middle of commissioning their new Wild Goose canning line, having worked through the night to package their Lager in cans, they were still working at the brewery as we were leaving the house at 530 that morning. We met the lads in the brewery and got a sneak peak of the machine, and their new bigger brewery.

So after a quick breakfast in Simon Lambert’s, which was delicious I must say, we began on the brew. The recipe was really simple. Pilsner Malt, Jumbo Oats, and some dextrose. We used Lemon Drop to bitter, and used Azacca with Mandarina Bavaria as late addition / Whirlpool hops, with some fresh Orange & Lemon zest. It finished up at 7.2%.

A few short weeks later we found ourselves in Sheffield, in the UK for Beer Now, and Sheffield Beer Week which was set up by our good friend Jules Grey. Ran every March it’s a veritable treat for all beer lovers with many events. We were going to be part of the YellowBelly TTO in The Sentinel Brewery & Tap House, which i’ve written about here. For the night they developed an Irish food menu to go with the beers. It was great to have the beers with friends who’d come from far and wide to share this moment with us.

The brewday was a long day but Declan and the lads, made it a good laugh, and it was great to have some grub and beers after with them. Next time I have to try a rizzole, after seeing Matt from Boundary enjoyed his so much.

Janice and I are extremely grateful to the team in Yellowbelly for firstly being such a sound bunch of lads, but also for the opportunity to brew with them. It was great sharing beers with them in Sheffield and hopefully we’ll be doing the same next year. It’s great to see where they’ve come from to where they are going and no doubt they’ll continue knocking it out of the park. Sláinte

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Homemade GrapeFruit Radler

Homemade GrapeFruit Radler

Ever since I tried it at a recent beer event I’ve been obsessed by the humble radler. What is it you ask? A radler, is a low alcohol beverage made 50/50 of lager or pilsner and sparkling lemonade. After a quick google search i found it dates back to 1912 and originates from Germany. However, as the story goes it was created by an Inn Keeper in 1922, Franz Xaver Kugler, who realised he didn’t have enough beer to serve to his regulars who were cyclists. He mixed his remaining beer stock with fresh citrus lemonade and they loved it. Probably for the same reason I do, its thirst quenching ability.

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This type of drink is more commonly known here in Ireland as a Shandy. Growing up I remember my Father drinking this. To this day my Father in law would be a fan of it. Our version would be half a pint of Heineken or Carlsberg mixed with 7up.

The beer event I mentioned was an introduction to an Austrian Brewery, Stiegl , that are being imported by O’ Haras. You can read more about that here thanks to SimonSaysBeer. I fell in love with their grapefruit radler. It was so full of flavour and so easy to drink at 2% abv. I’ve been hoping we’d see more of this by now.

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More recently, on a shopping trip to Lidl I noticed they sell Perlenbacher in cans and bottles. We purchased a few to see what it would be like. We were pleasantly surprised. It was light and refreshing with a zingy lemon punch to it. My Sister happened to visit and I gave her some to try and she enjoyed it too. Since then I’ve been hunting down a grapefruit one. It wasn’t until Wayne mentioned it, that i made my own! He found this recipe and off I went.

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I had all the ingredients already so I was set. The first step was to make the fresh grapefruit soda:

  • Juice one whole grapefruit (room temperature) pour into a seal-able container and refrigerate.

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  • Cut up juiced rind into chunks, place in a large plastic mixing bowl, add sugar and cover tightly with clingfilm.
  • Let this stand at room temperature stirring every 45 minutes until sugar is dissolved. I’d plenty of time so i did this over 4 hours. You can leave it up to 12 if you prefer. I didn’t start it early enough for that.

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  • Measure reserved grapefruit juice, and juice remaining grapefruits to get 300 ml
  • Add to sugar mixture with lemon juice and mix well
  • Strain through a fine mesh strainer or piece of muslin cloth into a glass container. this can be stored for up to a week.

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I of course didn’t wait that long and used it immediately. It was a hot sunny Sunday after all and we were thirsty. So to make the radler:

  • When ready to serve, add soda water to the fresh grapefruit syrup. Adjust to taste. I made mine quite tart.
  • For each radler add your chosen beer to a glass and mix with the grapefruit soda. I served mine in a pint glass.

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It was great fun experimenting with this recipe. I had two different styles to work with. The first was Cotton Ball Brewing Mayfield 5 lager. This working incredibly well. The lager is really refreshing and crisp and carried the grapefruit syrup really well. The oohs and the gasps from Wayne confirmed it was indeed a success. The second was a bottle of Stiegl wheat beer. This was still nice but lacked the refreshing thirst quenching character of the lager. Have a go yourself and see what you come up with.

 

 

 

#Hagstravaganza – White Hag Brewery’s 3rd Birthday Celebration

#Hagstravaganza – White Hag Brewery’s 3rd Birthday Celebration

Well, now that the dust has settled, and the body is mended after what was simply a great event up in Ballymote this past weekend to celebrate White Hag’s Third Birthday.

The format was simple, get breweries and beers pouring that the Irish beer drinking public wouldn’t be previously exposed to on our native shores, and get 1000 of those beer lovers to descent on sleepy Ballymote on a Saturday in July. So in numbers, 22 breweries, 60 beers, and 1000 people. They’re pretty nice numbers to look at aren’t they?

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Guest brewers from around the world, who White Hag have met on their travels while increasing their export sales, quickly showing that not only were they off showing how far the Irish beer scene has come, but making connections that make events like this possible.

Janice and I were guests of White Hag on the day, and sadly we couldn’t make the barrel tasting as we drove up from Navan on the day. By all accounts that was a very informative session with Joe and Alex.

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Despite a snaffu with the chillers, meaning only three beers were pouring at the start time, it gave me the chance to try the MacIvors / White Hag collab which had been aged in a barrel. Really impressed and gave a lovely zing on the palate.

There were so many great beers on display, and it was particularly great to get to taste some from White Frontier, who many people will know Chris Treanor (ex Galway Bay) is their head brewer. It would be impossible to name all the ones that were drank, however, i can say it wasn’t close to 60! I really enjoyed the variety of styles on display, it wasn’t all just IPAs and super hoppy stuff. Stand outs for me were the two brett beers by Irish brewers. Kinnegar’s Phunk Bucket Brett Pale Ale, and White Hag’s Olcan Barrel Aged Brett IPA were both really well made beers, and very different.

It was great to bump into Rick from Kinnegar, and i’ve long been saying I need to get up and visit K2, Rick politely reminded me, that every time I see him I say I must pop up, so we’ve a gentlemans bet that if I don’t make it up before the end of the year, I will make a charity donation to a charity of Rick’s choice. So I guess i better get planning.

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Obviously White Hag have learned some tricks attending other festivals around Europe, where they’ve implemented a sensible pricing structure for tokens and measures of alcohol. Tokens were €2.50. Giving a glass glass, also gets a big thumbs up from me. This isn’t the first festival on the island to do this, that falls to ABV Fest. But it’s nice to see a change from the usual, buy tokens, Q at a brewers stand, drink, rinse repeat.

There was ample pourers working behind the bar, and I don’t recall ever having to wait too long to be served. Another huge positive was a proper rinse station, that had brushes to clean, then rinsers too. Meaning your glass was sparkling clean after washing and ready for the next beer.

There was also great entertainment in live music put on, which was just right for the mood of the event, if it got too much you could go outside. But even then, the music came out too sometimes!

It’s fair to say this was a significant step up from last years edition, but there were one or two issues the lads themselves would hold up their hands and say “It’s a fair cop guv!”

  • Lack of free drinking water – I understand that this was planned originally but unfortunately wasn’t implemented, you’d to buy from one of the food stalls
  • Given the pre fest announcement that card payments were preferred, it was surprising to see only one card machine on the day itself.
  • Lack of toilets, the Queues were quite bad at times, perhaps a urinal circle could be added like concerts it would help alleviate the crush, and save the poor bushes.
  • Pour sizes, while it was great value, I do wish that the bigger beers 8% + were served in 1/3rd measures as opposed to 250ml, if you’re a taster who wants to get through as many as you can, this might cause you some problems. It wasn’t too big an issue for me, as I only finished with a couple of strong ones.
  • Seats outside, while there were plenty of seats there could have been a few more,but most made do sitting on the concrete in the sun

However the whole experience was a really positive experience, with the great and the good of the Irish Craft Beer community being there, and it really highlights the potential there is from a beer tourism point of view. The atmosphere was great, and everyone I encountered was in great form. It was also great to see the mix of demographics, that it wasn’t just as much as I hate the term, Bearded Hipsters there in their droves. This really was an event for everyone. It was great to share beers with so many folk that we’ve gotten to know online, and to meet people behind the pseudonyms! A big cheers to Paul who was being a beer fairy giving people a taste of Alechemist Heady Topper! Bravo sir! How could I forget those amazing Black Boar truffles by Kate O’D! DELISH!

The added bonus of a train back into Sligo was a great touch, and it’s safe to say The Swagman was bouncing with punters and brewers alike, until the small hours.

Well done to all of the team in White Hag for putting on a great event, and of course all the brewers who sent beer to the festival, we’re really looking forward to the 2018 edition.

Sláinte

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