|Janice and her conquering beard!|
It may just have been St Valentines day, but Janice and I didn’t celebrate this infamous holiday in the traditional manner, oh no, you know at this stage that’s not my style.
The day itself we went on a little pub crawl of the Galway Bay Pubs in Dublin, taking in the new bar Alfie Byrnes which is situated in the basement of the Conrad Hotel. Against the Grain on Wexford St. We then had a fantastic dinner in Bison, a 51oz Cowboy Steak (A Ribeye with the bone in) along with 5 sumptuous sides and a cocktail each for €50.
|Cowboy Steak from Bison|
Of course we ended the night with Alan and the crew in Brewdock.
Alas, I digress, on the Saturday we went down to Cork, to visit the 3rd Annual Franciscan Well Cask & Winter Ale Festival
|Bru Rí on the Cask Bar|
2013 Dublin Cup winner Twisted Hop by Hilden was also here on cask, a lovely straw colour with a white head and great smooth flavour. Trent and Amber both by White Gypsy were both also really good.
|Shamelessly hotlinked from Beermack|
Talk about leaving it to the last minute – I’ve only been blogging really for 6 months but have been consuming craft beers a long time. Its been a great year for the Irish Breweries, some fantastic innovation and product out in the market. Its great to see.
Ok, so here goes, I personally found it very difficult to whittle the categories to winners, so i’ve bottled it and am going to list my favourites!
Best Irish Keg;
The obvious choice would be Of Foam and Fury by Galway Bay, Jason and Chris really have upped the ante with their beers. It is of course an unbelievable DIPA. However we saw some great other beers, 8 Degrees had 3 Standouts this year, Amber Ella, and the Northern vs Southern Hemisphere Hop off of Cyclone and Hurricane. Since its debut at ICBCF Amber Ella was sensational. Also a shout out to my local Brewery, Bru, with their cascade hopped Red Ale, Rua, after some initial carbonation teething issues, this has gone from strength to strength. Blacks of Kinsale also impressed with their debut Kinsale Pale Ale and their Black IPA. So for me, after all that Amber Ella just shades it.
Best Irish Cask
As others have mentioned, there hasn’t been a whole lot of Irish Cask, but there are some stand outs, I haven’t tried many, but I enjoyed Coffee Porter by Franciscan Well on a recent trip south. The lads in Bru managed a Cask version of Rua, which when I tried it it was a bit young. Metalman Pale Ale on cask never disappoints, but the standout for me was Galaxy Pale Ale by Trouble Brewing – pulled with a sparkler – a rarity over here, was smooth and kept a lovely creamy head all the way down.
Best Irish Bottle
I normally stick to draught however I have some great bottled beers this year from our breweries. 8 Degrees with their Back in Black series late in the year rocked in with Zeus Black IPA was very good. Dungarvan’s traditional winter seasonal Coffee & Oatmeal Stout was once again superb. But I really enjoyed Mountain Man’s Hairy Goat
Being based in Dublin means i’ve some great bars to choose from, the Cottage Group is strongly represented in Dublin, and I must say The Brewdock has regained my favourite status, after a lull midyear, the management team was tweaked and the place is bouncing again. It would be remiss of me not to mention Against the Grain which is capably run by Paddy, however its just the wrong direction for me on my trip home. Also have been very impressed by WJ Kavanagh’s and their 5 cask taps, and their great food. We also had a great time in Cork, the Bierhaus, and Abbotts Ale House were both fantastic. So it’s the Brew Dock this year.
Best Off License
This is where it gets more difficult. Drinkstore in Stoneybatter, has an unparalleled range in what is an Aladdin’s cave of beers from around the world. They also have a great online store with reasonable delivery charges. My favourite in Dublin for 2013 though is Probus Wines on Fenian St. Not only does Paul carry a great range of world wines and beers. He also has a knock out deli on site. There are regular tasting events, which are ran each week and are suitably themed. A special shout out must go to The Winehouse in Trim, ran by Alan & Rodney attached to the Malt House Pub, this is a veritable treasure trove in the royal county, and people come from near and far – mainly to snaffle the Rua in Bottles!
I’ve got to say, @thebeernut and @beoirfinder both have great dry sense’s of humour. Andrew usually makes me chuckle. Even when taking the mick out of me. Keep it up in 2014. Also special mention to @taleofale, and @beermack_
I really enjoy reading Alex’s blog – Beermack Blog as he always has a wide range of beers for review. I also really enjoy Beernut’s Blog and Tale of Ale blogs. I’ll give the not to John and the beernut blog.
Food and Beer Pairing
I matched 8 degrees Howling Gale with Smoked Salmon Parcels on Christmas Day, and I must say the citrus matched the cream cheese salmon pate beautifully.
|The bar in the Marquee.|
On the weekend of the 2nd November, Kilruddery House in Bray hosted along side its regular weekly farmers market, a Craft Beer and Cider event.
I was piggy backing in with the lads from Bru Brewery, but also in attendance were Mountain Man Brewing, Trouble Brewing, White Gypsy, and Dungarvan Brewing. On the Cider side we had Orpens, who will be setting up shop in Slane, Co Meath next year, and Craigies from Wicklow. Also in attendance was The National Homebrew Club, and True Batch Brew.
Firstly, if you get the chance to go down to this farmers market you should, they’ve a lot of local food producers, including the ever delicious Hicks Butcher.
The day was long, and the conditions were very cold, I wouldn’t have liked to be running the Hell and Back the next day. Fair play to anyone who did.
Trouble brewing brought along a keg of the pumpkin ale, quite possibly the last keg, and it was delicious as always. They also rotated the 2nd tap between Sabotage IPA and Dark Arts. Our neighbours from White Gypsy were pouring a lovely Baltic porter called Gota, and Belgian ale called Semoy.
On the Bru Stand we had the three products flowing, and after initial teething issues with the gas on the Rua we got things pouring great. The Dubh went down really well, but there were plenty of plaudits for the Amber Lager.
Mountain Man probably had the busiest stand, his stand has evolved from the RDS where now one of the taps is actually made with a 50 cal bullet casing for the green bullet. Phil is a gas man, and it was great to meet up with him again, and Mrs Mountain Man was great too! Hopefully you enjoyed your snack box on the way home!
One of the most interesting stands for me though was the team behind True Batch Brew. Essentially its a 1 gallon all grain brew kit contained with all the ingredients you need to make a small batch without loads of home brew equipment cluttering up space. They’d samples of their pale ale, and porter. The pale ale was very tasty. It was their first outing and judging by the visitors they seem to have captured the public’s imagination. The kit is €45 and comes with very clear instructions. Well done guys, I hope to pick up a kit to test and post the results on my blog! Best of luck with the venture.
Lastly, the ciders, Orpens cider, coming soon to the royal county, taking up home in the Old Mill in Slane near the infamous bridge on the banks of the Boyne. The cider is lovely medium dry, and it very refreshing, I can’t wait to have it more. Well done. We also had Craigies from Wicklow, who were there with their lovely cider. A bit on the dry side for my taste, but as I was tasting it I was thinking of the food matching possibilities, pork belly and cider mmm. Anyway, they’ve some pretty interesting plans for bottling into the future, and best wishes guys. A very tasty day.
A good day was had by all, and i’m sure there were some valuable introductions for all the exhibitors on the day that hopefully will mean we will see more of these bespoke, artisan, hand crafted products in more places in the future.
The day wound up pretty quickly from about 7 on wards it was very quiet, one or two comments from people locally was they were unaware it was on. Even though there was shuttles in operation and phone numbers for local taxi drivers in supply the crowd was a little light after the farmers market finished up, maybe for the next event, they could target market the locality, in pubs like Hollands, and others in the area.
|Pictures courtesy of @mountainmancork|
Ok, so I’ve got a few more to tell you about
I am going to start with the lads from Mountain Man Brewing from West Cork, it was great to be able to chat to Phil on the Thursday when it was relatively quiet. Lovely guy, but what really impressed me is the branding – its really out there. They came to the fest with the Green Bullet, and the new Hairy Goat IPA. I was really keen to try the Hairy Goat, and it was delicious. The pictures are above, they used an Antler for a beer handle! And also a picture of the manic crowd from Saturday.
Also there were Dungarvan Brewing with a casked version of their lovely Black Rock Stout with oak chips. Needless to say it was spectacular. Along with a number of other festival specials, I also was very impressed with the session DIPA, hopped powerfully with a very sessionable 3.9% ABV. Yet another good showing from the team.
I was also happy to see my favourite cider there, Stonewell from Kinsale, it was also great to meet Daniel and chat with him. Hot off winning 3 Star Awards from at the Great Taste awards. Congratulations again, well deserved. It was also an opportunity to try it on Draft. It was one very refreshing pint of cider and was very impressed. Not much notable difference from the bottles.
O’Haras, were one of the organisers of the event, however i’ve had a lot of their products, and was trying to try things i’ve never had before, their barley wine was impressive and potent, but I preferred Porterhouse Louder. Early on Saturday I had a pint of their Helles Lager and i’ve had it before, but it was the perfect quencher. Though not my favourite lager of the festival. I was however also very impressed though with “Belgian Connection” which was a collaboration with JW Sweetmans.
Its always going to be difficult to try everything – and also very damaging to your liver and wallet if you even tried. But I was more than happy with what I got to try. But more importantly it was great to meet the fantastic people behind the products. They were all more than willing to chat to you.
There were a few minor quibbles with the event itself, but not enough to stop me wanting to go back. I’ll probably cover these off on a later post, but I would be interested to hear any visitors thoughts