Beer made from bread? Sure why not, brewing and baking have gone hand-in-hand for thousands of years and the process is quite similar as well as the ingredients.
Toast ale is a gypsy beer brand which uses surplus bread as part of the brewing process. Why you might ask? Well it's to highlight the volume of wasted food in the world. Approximately one third of all food produced in the world goes to waste.
In terms of bread, in the UK, up to 44% is never eaten. If you ware wondering why, apart from over production and simply buying too much and not using it, few people ever use the heels in a slice pan. they get thrown out or at best, fed to birds. Commercial sandwich makers often cut the crusts off the bread too.
Now, you might think it's a great business model to take free ingredients like leftover bread and make beer. You will literally rake in the dough if you'll excuse the pun..... Not in this case as they donate all their profits to charity and are a certified B corporation. Of course, I don't think there are any profits as of yet so they still donate 1% of their revenue. Their website says that in 2018, they donated over £15,000 to charity.
Right then, the story is good but what about the beer? Well, I can only attest to the Irish version of the beer which is brewed at Rascals in Dublin and available exclusively from Dunnes Stores around Ireland. I was at the official launch last week and had it on draught but at the weekend, I popped in to Dunnes and bought a 4-pack box of each, as much as to support the endeavour but also, Pauline was away and missed the launch so I wanted her to not only taste the beer, I also wanted her to see the packaging. As a retail/marketing expert, I knew it would fascinate her. They are good value at €9 per box which is €2.25 per can.
In terms of the beer itself, I haven't opened the cans yet but on draught, here's what i thought.
The 5% pale ale was quite sweet with a hint of brown sugar. There was also a lot of dark fruits like raisins. A sharp carbonation kept it from being too cloying and a long bitter finish with just a hint of that sweetness left me wanting more. You know when you suck on a piece of bread for a few minutes? The sweetness was reminiscent of that.
The 6% IPA is a little different. It's drier with a much bigger citrus hop hit, almost oily. The same sharp carbonation keeps the beer lively. I was sitting with two other beer experts, Judith Boyle and Dr. Gearóid Cahill. Like myself, Judith preferred the pale ale while Gearóid preferred the IPA.
Overall, I liked the two beers but I like what they represent even more. They are simply highlighting that we waste far too much food in developed countries. Clearly the solution is to drink more beer?
Microwave - Micro IPA
While at the Rascals taproom, I also had their new micro IPA called Microwave. This is only 3.2% but it packs in seriously fresh hops packed with citrus and tropical notes. My normal go-to beer is Happy Days but this is a real contender and at nearly 1% lower ABV, it makes it a proper session beer. I'm hoping to convince Rascals to can it and make it a permanent beer but for now, it's a draught only special. It may even be a taproom special so you might need to head to Inchicore to try it.
Competition time. If you fancy winning a pair of tickets to Alltech Brews and Food Fair on Friday the 15th of March, just enter below or click this link and follow the prompts. The tickets were kindly provided by Alltech.
Simply sign in with the social media account of your choice or just your name and email address. A valid email address of course is necessary to contact the winner. Only the winning email address and name will be visible to me, no information on entrants will be kept because I'm cheap and use the free version of Gleam to run the competition! The Gleam system will automatically pick the winner and I will have no personal influence over the outcome. The competition is only open to those over 18 due to the event serving alcohol. Competition closes on Saturday 9th in the afternoon. The winner will be announced afterwards. Good luck everyone!
I was sent a few samples of an updated range of Grafters by Rye River Brewing. The range of pale ale, IPA and Kolsch have received fresh new branding but more importantly, two of them have received new recipes.
Labour of Love Extra Pale is a lovely 4.5% pale ale. Harking back to the god ole days of pale ales, they use cascade hops which are bursting with grapefruit citrus notes. I also got some pineapple and lychee notes. It's very easy drinking.
Working Day IPA is a big chewy 6.5% affair which boasts mosaic and equanot hops.
I found this had a long, lingering bitter finish with a real fresh hop thing going on. It almost tastes like it came through a hop randall. I personally thought it was superb.
The kolsch recipe wasn't changed so it;s just a label change here. It's still a lovely beer.
I headed along to the new Porterhouse Brewery in Glasnevin on Saturday. The brewery used to be in Ballycoolin but was completely at capacity so they have moved in to a larger facility which is conveniently a few minutes walk from the Broombridge train and tram stop.
For me, it was a leisurely 35 minute stroll down the Royal Canal from where I live, and that was with stopping to grab a coffee at Rathbourne by the Ashtown train station.
As you can see, there's a lot of empty space inside so there's room to grow significantly. They have a bar set up in a shipping container and we would of course be visiting that but first, we had the grand tour.
The visit was for Beoir members and organised by none other than TheBeerNut who has taken over from me as Chair. Some of us had a good nose around the brew kit. For instance, the Mash Tun pictured above is capable of being used as a Lauter Tun and could theoretically be used for distilling and shows the Porterhouse has future-proofed their new kit.
On the far side of the mash tun, I spotted a familiar sight. A plastic bucket fermenter. It's being used as their pilot as they don't have a smaller pilot system as of yet. Now that they have more space, they can look to get one.
The brew kit itself is quite efficient looking. There were one or two false starts when they moved in as they had to re-adjust all recipes and processes to suit the new system but I'll try to explain how it all works. If you look at the outside photo, you will see 3 grain silos. These are for their 2 biggest malt requirements, lager malt and pale ale malt. These get transferred in via an auger pipe to the mill which is just out of sight on the left and then transferred to the mash tun which is the wood panelled vessel on the left. The middle vessel is the brew kettle and the final vessel is a hop back which will be used for fresh hopped beers. They are not really using it at the moment but they have recently got in to fresher hop style beers such as their Yippy IPA which is excellent.
With the tour over, we headed over to the bar. Most of the taps were empty but there plenty of options available to us on tap as well as pretty much everything in bottle.
I started off with their Winter Stout which was lovely and just the thing to start off the day. It's a 6.5% export stout.
Next, I moved on to a bottle of their new coffee stout called Up and At 'Em. I won't write about that now as I got a bottle or two to bring home where I can properly taste it. At the brewery, everything was ice cold so I would want to warm it up significantly.
One of the absolute pleasures of the brewery visit was the fact that they had a keg of barrel aged Celebration Stout on for us. This was the one they aged in their own Dingle Whiskey barrels. They broke out the small glasses for this 12% beauty of a beer. We could have had pints of course but we are far too sensible a bunch for that.
Last call, I got a group photo, minus myself as I was taking it of course. Cheers to Porterhouse for having us and we look forward to many more years of amazing stouts and future fresh hopped pale ales.
Oh and while I chose not to open a bottle of Louder at the brewery, I was inspired to crack open a bottle when I got home for dinner. I had been ageing this since it first came out in bottle. Usually, their pull ring style caps are not great for ageing versus a traditional crown cap but at 11% I figured it would be fine. It was the right side of oxidised though. All dark fruits and basically Christmas Pudding in a glass. This was my nightcap before I switched to water for the rest of the evening.
There's simply nothing like drinking winter specials when it's Christmas. Especially when the weather outside is horrible but it's nice and warm inside with sparkly Christmas lights everywhere.
The lovely people at Eight Degrees sent me samples of their seasonals to try out so gladly tucked in the other night.
Trespass was first up. It's a 7.5% dark famhouse ale that has loads of blackberries in it and has been aged in Burgundy pinot noir and chardonnay wine barrels for over a year. There are a few different yeasts involved in this one, brett being the most obvious one because the brett funk is unmistakable when you crack it open. There's a slight chalkiness to it along with a real sherbet citrus fizz. It's very tasty and certainly doesn't feel the ABV. I didn't get any obvious benefit from the blackberries other than a mild tartness but that's perhaps a good thing for me since I'm not a fan of most fruit beers. Very tasty beer this.
I'm not sure you can strictly call this a winter warmer since it was released in July but Hopsfume is an 8.3% Brett IPA that's absolutely lovely. I honestly can't get over the ABV as there is really no sign of it. The brett has dried this beer out nicely and made it for more palatable than what would ordinarily be considered a double IPA. It's full on fruity citrus with a load of that sherbety brett funk.
The star of the show for me was the unfortunately named Blowhard, an imperial stout aged in Jameson casks for a month. The name is in reference to Captain Ahab's white whale for some reason, a reason you can read about on the back of the bottle.
This is a beast of a beer and is one of the best imperial IPAs I've had if I'm honest. The first thing I need to do here is deal with the elephant in the room. This beer was aged in Jameson barrels and Jameson is a brand from Irish Distillers who bought Eight Degrees earlier in the year.
Why did they do that? It was so they would have a ready supply of Jameson barrels which have held stout (or perhaps other beer styles) in them for their caskmates whiskey.
So the quid-pro-quo is perfect. Eight Degrees get a ready supply of barrels to throw stout in to and Jameson then take the barrels back and put whiskey in them to soak up that stout goodness. Other than that, the brewery can do what they like and Irish Distillers leave them to it.
It's the best all around takeover deal any brewery could hope for.
So to me, the reason Blowhard exists is to honour that deal with Irish Distillers and long may this beer continue, even if it's under a different name....
OK so to the beer itself. Why do I like it so much? It's not the 12% ABV though that is a very warming reason to like this as a winter warmer. It's also not just the rich milky chocolate or the lashings of vanilla. It's the mouthfeel that does it for me. It has the creamiest, smoothest mouthfeel of any beer that I can recall. It's pure pleasure from the first sip until long after you have swallowed a mouthful of it. It lingers and coats leaving a memory of pure indulgence and that's the word I choose to describe this beer: indulgence. Jaysus, they should actually rename the beer to that word or even Pure Indulgence.
Well done to Eight Degrees on this one. I love the fact that they only aged the beer for a month in barrels. Any more and it might have been overpowered by wood and whiskey as well as just being a waste of barrel time. I'll be purchasing some bottles of this for Christmas.
In the run-up to Christmas, I thought it appropriate to try some of the winter specials that are available at the moment. It was good timing then that Boyne Brewhouse recently sent me some samples to try. Their regular, award winning Imperial Stout is joined by two new beers.
A Belgian Dubbel and a Winter Ale, both are 8% ABV.
The Belgian Dubbel is very actually rather like a German Dunkelweiss on the nose with a whack of bubblegum and some banana esters but there's a load of caramel. It's a big beer and a tasty winter warmer but despite all this, it's surprisingly easy drinking. A lasting bitterness helps balance the beer nicely.
The Winter Ale keeps things traditional and for me, this was the better of the two and more to my taste. It keeps very much to the traditional old English ale style. Lashings of prunes and other dark fruits, there's even figs in there. The body is very chewy and there's a real warming alcohol hit. There's some chocolate and coffee in there under all the fruit. The end result is a beer that tastes like Christmas pudding. In fact it would make a good ingredient when making it but it's certainly going to go down nicely at Christmas, or any time over the winter really. A bit like the Dubbel, this one also finishes rather bitter. That's good as they can sometimes be cloying.
And of course there's the 10.8% Imperial Stout, a real staple from Boyne and one I've had many times before. This one was aged in Oloroso sherry casks which had previously contained The Whistler single malt whiskey for over 2 years. The result is a whack of vanilla and slight woodiness. The whiskey notes are obvious but perhaps there's little reminder of sherry at this stage, beyond the dark fruits. I don't think I've ever actually had The Whistler, it's from their own distillery: Boann Distillery. Cheers to Boyne Brewhouse for the beers.
Customer ServiceIt's not something one might really think of most of the time. We all remember bad customer service and will be quick to point it out on the interweb these days. I'm sure most people who go in to a pub experience what should really be termed "good customer service" on a regular basis and never really think about it. Good customer service is normal.
What about when a pub goes above and beyond? This happened to me on Sunday night. My wife and I popped in to Porterhouse Central for some food before we headed home. We ordered a couple of pints of IPA and then ordered 2 chowders and 2 portions of spicy wings. It was after 9pm so it was late enough for a lot of places to serve food but Porterhouse serve until 10pm so we were good for time.
The chowder that arrived wasn't good. It was gloopy and flavourless, even after having salt added. My wife decided it wasn't good enough and when the barman came over to check on the food she told him as much. Not in a nasty way mind, just a matter of fact but friendly manner.
I hadn't eaten since breakfast so I would have just pushed ahead but she was right, it didn't have any flavour and had the consistency of lumpy porridge. We switched our order to the soup of the day at the barman's recommendation, a cream of vegetable soup. This arrived a few minutes later and it was absolutely perfect. It didn't even need any salt. We suspect the chowder had been stewing all day as I don't recall it being like that from previous times I've eaten it in a Porterhouse.
Now, so far the customer service has been really good. There was no fuss and they were apologetic then rectified the situation promptly. The story you might think would end there as would this blog post. The story doesn't end here though.
Our wings arrived and it was time for another couple of pints so we ordered them. This time I went for the rock-solid Oyster Stout which was their beer-of-the-day priced at €4.50, which is a steal in Dublin city centre. So far, all is normal but when the drinks arrived we were told that this round was on the house as an apology for the chowder. Good customer service just became great as they went well above and beyond what was expected. We thanked them and enjoyed our spicy wings and beer.
End of story? Not quite....
When the bill arrived they had gone above and beyond again. They didn't charge us for the 2 soups in the end and of course the free round wasn't on the bill. All that was on the bill were the 2 wings and the first 2 pints but get this, the price of the pints were a flat €5 each with (MD) on the receipt. I assume this means Manager's Discretion because the price of those pints of IPA should have been €5.90 each from memory.
This was completely above and beyond any level of customer service we could have expected, especially in a Dublin city centre bar. We would have been happy with just getting the chowder changed to the soup, there was no need to go above and beyond like this.
You might ask if they recognised me? I doubt that very much as I rarely venture in to Porterhouse Central so there's no way they would recognise me as a regular. I tend to go to Porterhouse Temple Bar and even there I wouldn't be in often enough to be recognised.
This was just epic customer service provided to a couple on a random Sunday night. It's probably not surprising given that a large portion of business that The Porterhouse bars receive is from tourists who have a much higher expectation of customer service than we are used to.
GDPR laws likely prevent me from naming the excellent young man who served us but his name is on the receipt so I know what it was. Cheers to The Porterhouse Central for being truly excellent hosts.
I feel I've been drinking too much wine of late and I felt it was time to get back to my first love. Beer!
I had a few samples in the fridge I received recently so I decided to crack some open while they are still current releases.
Rye River's Just the Tipple is a 6.5% spruce tip saison. It's all grapefruit and pine, reminding me of a white IPA. A sharp, citrus finish with a bitter, lemon pithiness. There's little trace of sweetness here, it's practically bone dry. That's the way I like my saisons.
Also from Rye River, from their McGargles brand is Dec's Brown Ale. I've rather partial to a brown ale and we just don't have a lot of them in Ireland. This beer has lashings of chocolate and coffee. It's bitter but with a good malt derived sweetness for balance. It's the sort of beer I would enjoy on cask, especially as winter approaches.
I also had a bottle of Underworld from Black Donkey in the fridge. Underworld is a saison, similar to their regular Sheep Stealer which is fermented using yeast collected from Oweynagat Cave. Apparently it was once inhabited by The Morrigan so they called the yeast Morrigan Strain 1. You can read a little more about the beer's history here.
The beer itself is similar enough to Sheep Stealer for fans of that beer to appreciate. It's basically your typical Saison but just a bit drier than normal. The ABV at 6.5% is the same as Sheep Stealer but it just seems a little funkier as well as more effervescent. It's a pity I didn't have a bottle of Sheep Stealer handy to compare with actually. While it's a limited release, it's still available for sale so I'll probably pick up another bottle along with some Sheep Stealer out of curiosity to see just how the wild yeast strain has affected the beer.
A few weeks ago, I was in a pub with some friends and we were having some drinks. After a while I noticed that conversation had died down and I realised that the 5 of them were all on their phones while I had a pint in my hand. I rolled my eyes and picked up my own phone after a few moments of hesitation. I felt like tweeting them all to put their bloody phones down.
From Guinness Press Release
Que last night, Guinness launched an initiative to encourage people to put their phones down or as they put it, switch to pub mode.
I thought it was ironic being at a media event where most of us are on social media but where using social media at the event would technically be against the ethos of the night. So, we put our phones on the provided phone bean bags and phone towers. Janice from the Irish Beer Snob blog & podcast took this photo of my phone (brown one) and Pauline's phone (black one) quickly and sent it on to me.
Whether you drink Guinness or any Diageo product is beside the point here. The idea here is that phones are interfering with our pub culture and after doing some research they found the following:
A study was conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes, led by Richard Layte, Head of Sociology at Trinity College. Some of the significant findings included:
94% of people enjoyed a night out as much or more without their phone in stark contrast to just 6% of people enjoying a night more with their phone in use.
People who put their phone down also felt more included in their group.
People felt closer to their friends as a result of putting their phones down.
Last night, Pauline and I along with Wayne and Janice (The Beer Snobs) sat around a table while our phones were resting in the provided phone tower or bean bags. We chatted all night and apart from Wayne quickly checking the score of the Ireland game (and regretting it) and Janice taking the above photo, we didn't touch our phones all evening.
Do you know what? We were by far the better for it. We all learned things about each other that we didn't know and we had a great time as well as some deep conversations. It was like a night out before the age of mobile phones. Good beer, cheesy toasties, cheesier jokes and great conversation.
For instance, Wayne confirmed something I had only heard about anecdotally. In the UK, history classes in school don't have anything more than a footnote about Irish independence than it actually occurred. Wayne is Irish but went to school in the UK so he did his GCSE before returning home and did Leaving cert history. He was astounded by the amount if history that wasn't taught in the UK. Well, England anyway. I'm not sure if Scotland or Wales have a different curriculum or not. That's the kind of interesting conversation we might not have had if we were on our phones.
I had the idea last night of phone Jenga. Stack the phones like the first image above and then stick a pint on top. If you want to use your phone, you need to remove it without touching the pint or spilling it. That might be a terrible idea after a few pints though.... I just Googled it and phone Jenga is already a thing by the way but perhaps not with a pint on the top. Proceed with caution!
So what are your opinions of phones in pubs? Beyond a quick Tweet or Instagram of your pint of course, we're not savages! The world needs to know what beer we are drinking.....
There is no Safe Level of Alcohol Consumption? That's the kind of thing that certain "studies" would have us believe. A recent study that was published in The Lancet and was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation suggests that in 2016 there were 2.8 million deaths in the world that were attributed to alcohol use. That's out of a population of alcohol drinkers globally of 2.8 billion which I reckon is probably a lot less than the reality. My maths might be off here but that equates to just 0.1% of the population.
Alcohol has numerous health benefits that surpass the benefits of abstaining but the authors of this study said that they found no evidence of this.
Of course not, they weren't looking for it. They were looking for negatives, not positives.
Anyone can take any substance on the planet and make it sound scary and likely to kill you.Take water for instance. If I call it by a chemical name I make it sound scary as hell. An April fool's joke it may be but it makes my point. Dihydrogen Monoxide:-also known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of acid rain. contributes to the "greenhouse effect". -may cause severe burns. -contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape. -accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals. -may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes. -has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.
Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
-as an industrial solvent and coolant. -in nuclear power plants. -in the production of styrofoam. -as a fire retardant. -in many forms of cruel animal research. -in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical. -as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.
If you wonder where the name Dihydrogen Monoxide comes from, it means two hydrogen, one oxygen which is technically the same as saying H2O but few scientists would use that term. Probably because it sounds scarier and too much like Carbon Monoxide.
Remember folks, water kills! There is no safe level of water consumption. Drinking too much water leads to water toxicity and death. It actually requires drinking less water to kill you than pints of beer.
As an example, people have died from drinking just 6 litres of water over a 3 hour period. That's about 12 pints of beer which is a heavy night out for some people.
Beer is safer because it's isotonic. It replaces all the salts, sugars and minerals that it flushes out, unlike water which dilutes them until you die from water toxicity. It's also diuretic so you expel a lot of excess water.
So yes, there is a safe level of alcohol consumption. The dangerous level of alcohol consumption is less than the dangerous level of drinking water which is the 2nd most vital substance our body needs to simply live. That's after oxygen of course.
These so called "studies" are pointless drivel to simply drive certain people's agenda and give researchers something to do so they don't feel they have wasted their life and career choice. OK perhaps that's harsh on researchers, plenty of research is essential so I'm only singling out the researchers that conduct these pointless studies in to how dangerous alcohol is.
We know alcohol is dangerous if over consumed. Every substance on earth is dangerous if you consume too much. We need oxygen to live but breathing in too much of the stuff will also kill you!