European Beer Bloggers Conference – Day One

Now in it’s fourth year the European Beer Bloggers Conference came to Dublin last weekend for the first time. Following on from a successful event last year in Edinburgh, Dublin had big shoes to follow.

Dublin is undergoing a craft beer revolution at the moment and it was going to be interesting to see what foreign visitors from the UK, Europe and the USA thought of it.

The Thursday evening pub crawl was arranged by Reuben Gray who had a major part in getting the conference to Dublin this year, and this highlighted the best craft beer bars Dublin has to offer. Ian (11pm Somewhere Podcast) and I arranged to meet early to film a pre conference hangout, the videos are below. We were joined by Carol Dekkers from Tampa Florida, Eric & Flo of Brewsweplate and Brian of Irish Craft Beer Show. 


So along comes Friday and conference proper. The advice was to eat before we arrived as there was a trade show displaying the best of Irish brewing before events kicked off at 2pm. I could think of no better place than the Ugly Duckling Cafe in the Epicurean Food Hall. I went with the McWurly, which is a battered beef burger in a bun with cheese and salad. Accompanied with a side of chips. This set me up for the day. 


From here we made our way to the Church Bar, which used to be a Church funnily enough given the name. Arthur Guinness even got married there. Where we registered and made our way through the samples. It was great to see some of the newer brewers there especially Black Donkey Brewing who really came with a great farmhouse ale called “Sheep Stealer” (Review to follow) There were some other great beers including the Honey IPA by Sharps, the Big Brown Bear by Trouble Brewing and N17’s famous Rye Ale. 



The events kicked off with a history of brewing in Ireland which was fascinating to learn that it goes back thousands of years. Though it would explain a lot. Which lead onto a great discussion on the merits of Cask vs Keg, and Can vs Bottle. I expected this to get a bit heated, however it was a well delivered presentation which I think covered all the pros and cons in a balanced way but ultimately there are some styles that aren’t suited to certain packaging. There then the last talk for the afternoon which had a panel discussion with Sarah of N17, Cathal of Rascals, and Paul from Trouble Brewing. A wide range discussed, including the topical pricing issues. I think Sarah summed it up best when she said as a brewer she wants to “keep it in the hands of the people!”

From here we had a break before the big festivities of the evening, Dinner in St James’ Gate hosted by Guinness, and the legendary Pilsner Urquell party. Taking the opportunity a few of us recently acquainted bloggers went to the Norseman to try the Kinsale Pale Ale which was pouring through a Randall. We caught up with the group as they continued along Fishamble St on the Way to St James’ Gate. 

I’m going to leave this post here, as I feel the Guinness event and Pilsner Urquell event really deserve a lot more detail. 

All in all, Day 1 was a fun day. Met some really interesting people, Sarah, Sean, Richard and Carol. The craic was mighty all day. We had some fantastic drinks. And it meant the second day was also going to be great. 


Franciscan Well – Cask & Winter Ale Festival 2014

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 

For those who don’t know Franciscan Well is a Cork based brew pub and brewery who are massive supporters of Irish Craft Beer. Cask is really a niche within a niche of craft beer consumption in Ireland but it offers such a different way to enjoy some of your favourite breweries. There was also some of the newer brewers present on Keg, such as Otterbank with their amazing Farami, Rascals with their award winning Ginger Porter, and N17 with their Rye Ale.

Bru Brewery had 3 of their products on that day, I didn’t see the Dubh, maybe it ran out on the first night, as i’d had a sneak of it previously and its such a great stout on cask. I was really impressed with the which is their west coast IPA. Very bright in colour, a nice malt base that allowed the hops to do their thing with the piney citrus aroma followed by a smooth bitterness. Daire mate you can be truly happy with that as the feedback from everyone I spoke to was great. 

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.


Another real standout for me was Hop Magnet by Blacks of Kinsale, fresh off the back of their success at Alltech, they’d brought a fantastic Double IPA to the party. Not long ago Ireland was a wasteland in this style now we have 3 of these. At 8% this is not to be treated lightly, but it like Of Foam and Fury is eminently drinkable despite its ABV. The aroma was nice and you got a great citrus, clementine taste on the tongue as well. Sam already has two great permanent fixtures, be great to see this become the third.

As an aside to the beer, and the proper stone oven cooked pizza provided by Pompeii pizza. There was also a meet the brewer series. I only attented the talks by the utterly inspirational Sarah Roarty who outlined her journey from Industrial Chemist to Brewer, and what her motivations and aims are. Thankfully I didn’t make Sarah cry this time! A truly great story and keep an eye out for N17 Brewing coming to a pub / off license near you. 

I also attended Phil from the Mountain Man who held a great informative Q&A session. One thing is for sure I can’t wait to see your set up at the RDS this year and my offer to man the bar is still there (Better start growing the beard now, or at least get a decent fake one) We also got a sneak peak of the next Mountain Man beer, Crazy Horse, the 100 IBU is delish.

All in all a great day was had, we got the train back to Dublin that evening. I’m already looking forward to this next year where i’m sure it will as great as it was this weekend. Coming up shortly is the Irish Craft Beer Fest in CHQ in March and potentially a return to Franciscan Well for their Easter Fest.



The 2nd Alltech Craft Beers & Brews Festival #alltechbrews Dublin February 2014


2014, it promises to be a great year for Craft Beer in Ireland, and the 1st major event in Ireland was the Alltech Brews and Food Festival at the magnificent Convention Centre Dublin. It is also confirmed that this even will return in 2015 bigger and better.

This was my first time, I missed the 2013 event, meaning I had no point of reference, but this wasn’t going to stop the enjoyment of it. Part festival, part conference there was a great blend with the conference sessions, The Pub Series which I attended and the Sensory Courses. 



This was truly an international event, I bumped into pub owners from around the world, and perhaps more surprisingly there were a lot of Irish Publicans here. Maybe the penny is dropping. There were some great speakers, Dr Pearse Lyons, President of Alltech gave a rousing and very inspiring talk before my friend Reuben Gray gave a talk to 300 eager to learn pub owners and managers. As you know Reuben is an avid blogger also, but he is currently the Chair of Beoir. 

The themes of the talks were of a broad but practical nature, simple things like if you have bottles and they can’t be easily seen, have a menu. I expect a lot of people took something from each of the speakers. One of the more interesting topics was when Dean McGuinness from Newstalk & Premier Beers gave his definition of Craft Beer. But for me one of the best was the panel that features some standout publicans from the Irish Craft Beer scene, Seaneen from L Mulligan Grocer, Jason from Galway Bay Brewery and Geoff from 57 The Headline. An open forum Q&A session where they told a very attentive audiences about their businesses and what works for them. 



Once the talks finished I went down to the main expo area which was really well laid out, and this time afforded me to the opportunity to speak to some great brewers from all corners. I particularly am thankful to Paddy from Windsor & Eton who talked alot about their beers, of which 2 feature in the 1001 Beers to Try Before you Die. I sampled the Republika Pilsener, and Conqueror 1075 Black IPA, both extraordinary beers, but I also enjoyed their Kohinoor, an east Indian Pale Ale with Cardamom, Coriander and Jasmine. I really hope someone picked them up for distribution to the ROI. 

In an Irish context there were some Irish Debutants here, we’d Rascals, N17, Independent Brewing, Stone Barrel. N17’s Oatmeal stout was sensational, as well as the Gold Winning Rascals Chocolate Ginger Porter. Both medallists in the Dublin Cup. The full list of winners is here, but the Irish Winners are here; A special well done to all the medal winners, but Ireland is once again punching above its weight in the international scene. Long may it continue.


The overall winner from Denmark, was the Coisbo No 4: A Small Batch Russian Imperial Stout, thankfully i’d sampled before the announcement and the resultant scrum. Not only that they’d a very interesting Pale Ale with Elderflower too. Really hope they’ll be in Ireland soon. Also I was very very impressed with Spain’s, Molta Birra Revolution IPA from Catalonia. 

But perhaps for me the story of the festival was the launch of N17, which has been launched by Sarah Roarty whose whole philosophy of total production means that even bye products such as the spent grain is repurposed into Granola, and Dog Biscuits. There are some oriental mushrooms to follow too. But not only did Sarah come to the show with a lovely Rye Ale, but also a fantastic Oatmeal stout, thankfully this was noticed by the judges and Sarah was awarded Bronze. For a Debut Beer, this was sensational! I also have the infamy of being the person who told her she’d won, while she was pulling a drink, it was a fantastic moment, and extremely well done. It must also be noted that Independent from Carroroe also won a medal on their festival debut.



We’re blessed with some fantastic food producers here in Ireland and they were well represented here, Ballymaloe, Ed Hick, Sheridans Cheeses, Carrigaline, Bretzel Bakery and many more. It was maybe a slight pity that there was only little morsels of these fabulous products available to us rather than say a Ed Hick Sausages on freshly baked Bretzel Bread? 

The atmosphere at the three evening sessions was fantastic, and kudos to the organisers for putting on a fantastic event. Can’t wait for next year already. Maeve, Tara, Ashling, Holly and Tracey were all fantastic and a credit to Alltech, the hospitality was fantasic. Thank you so much. 

Next Up for me, next weekend is The Winter Ale & Cask Festival @Franciscan Well Cork, then next month we have the Irish Craft Beer Fest in the CHQ Building in the IFSC.