In episode three of my vlog, I talk about Legacy Irish Craft Cider from Waterford. It was kindly sent to me by Liam Mc Donnell from Legacy. I was pleasantly surprised because I tend to only like bone dry ciders but this was just the right level of medium dry and slightly sweet for me to enjoy and more than that, wish I had some more.
My two cats appear in this video by the way. Mostly well behaved thankfully.
I hope you enjoy the video and please, don't forget to like the video and perhaps subscribe to the YouTube channel.
Don't forget, I am running a competition for the next few weeks to win a pair of tickets to the Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair. You can enter here.
Me presenting Joe from White Hag with an award at last year's Alltech Beer Fest
I have a pair of tickets to the The Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair this March. The prize will include 2 x tickets for opening night, Thursday 8th March. Each ticket includes 6 x food/drink tokens and an EcoCup.
To enter, all you have to do is click a bunch of stuff below or by using this link. The competition runs until Saturday the 3rd of March. The only rule is that you must be over 18 years of age to win for obvious reasons.
I've never used this Gleam service to run a competition before so fingers crossed it all works. Let me know if there are any issues entering. Thanks to Alltech for providing the tickets.
Waterford has its first, exclusively craft beer bar thanks to the local Metalman Brewery. It opened up in December in a surprisingly short time.In fact I think they only made the decision to take it on the month before and spent a few weeks getting it ready.
One of the most touching features inside is a collage of images showing some of the journey of Metalman over they years. I especially love the top-right image where Tim looks smug and Gráinne is facepalming. I wonder what happened there?
The bar is clean and tasteful with a number of Metalman taps on the left and a load of guest taps on the right as well as a fully stocked fridge and whiskey collection.
Exposed brick and Metalman swag make up a lot of the decor but it really is an fantastic little bar with good music at a low level so we can have conversations. It was a little on the quiet side in terms of punters when we were there but I expect things will pick up as word spread and the weather warms.
The good news is that when leaving the train station, it's the first bar worth going in to if walking along the quays which also makes it the last bar on the way back to the train station when heading home.
Near to Metalman is Tully's. A cosy little bar with a fantastic beer garden and a great range of Irish craft beer available. They seem to have split the bar with the first section of taps on the left being all craft and then when you walk through the partition into the back part of the bar, the taps change to regular macro beer for the most part. I say that because Sullivan's is also located in there but that's likely because C&C act as their distributor despite them being independent and having a bloody good red ale. That's almost a shame because it might associate them with being part of C&C but at the end of the day, it gets their brand out there so it's better for them in the long run.
And lastly, we visited the Metalman Brewery for a tour in the afternoon. Here's a photo of their canning line. It's small but functional and was Ireland's first canning line in an independent microbrewery.
My latest vlog looks at three non alcoholic options. Pure Brew from Guinness as well as the old reliable Beck's Blue and a dry hopped craft soda from an Irish brewery, YellowBelly. Hope you enjoy it. Either watch in the window below or click here to watch directly on YouTube. Don't forget to like and subscribe to my channel to keep updated on new videos.
I was sent a bottle of a Barleywine brewed at Sullivan's in collaboration with Hot Press Magazine before Christmas. Stuart Clark went to Kilkenny to help brew the beer. If you don't know Stuart from reading the magazine, you've probably heard him on the radio talking about music but Stuart is also a beer aficionado and often writes about Irish craft beer in Hot Press.
Stuart spent the day in Kilkenny with Sullivan’s Master Brewer Ian Hamilton back in October to brew the beer. I received it just before Christmas but didn't get to open it until January as I had a cold over Christmas like everyone else in the country it seems.
So on to the beer itself. It's very dark for a start, very stout like actually. I was pretty surprised by how bitter it was, barley wines are often pretty sweet. That bitterness was balanced by what basically tastes like fruitcake or Christmas pudding.
I found it very drinkable for a barley wine which makes sense because it's only 7% which presents one small problem for me. A barley wine typically begins at 8% and increases from there where they usually hover either side of 10%. A good example would be Sierra Nevada's Bigoot Barley wine which is 9.6% and always a great beer despite its strength.
The Sullivan's Barley wine is more English in character than American but it's still a little on the low ABV side for the style. That said, it was delicious and I very much enjoyed it.
To compare, I opened an old bottle of Black's The Irish Giant Barley wine. This beast is 11% and had a BBF date of October 17 so it was probably bottled in October 2016. That doesn't matter with a barley wine as they are designed to be aged for years. This one was oxidised as you might expect with lashings of prunes and some sherry. There was also the unmistakable hint of Brettanomyces giving a horse blanket aroma along with lemon sherbet. It was quite fizzy too, more so than I recall from the last time I had it. It reminded me of Orval in a lot of ways.
I'm not sure the Brett was supposed to be there but it worked beautifully and suited the beer perfectly.
The guys at Ireland Craft Beers sent me a sample of their new collaboration beer called Downstream. I decided that since I would use it as my first foray into the world of vlogging. While I've had a Youtube channel for quite some time, I've only ever uploaded a few videos, mostly from events I've attended. I've been meaning to hone my amateur video making skills so this was the perfect time to try.
I recorded it the other day and spent a few days editing it. To be honest, I could have uploaded it the same night but I wanted to make it look like I had put a little effort in to it. I'm quite happy with my first vlog episode and hope to do more. Due to the time involved, chances are it will be something I can only manage every few weeks, perhaps once a month but we'll see.
You can watch the video right here on the blog or else watch it on Youtube directly with the link. I'd say the full Youtube link is a better experience with more options. Please like the video and subscribe to my Youtube channel if you wish.
This month's The Session is hosted by Brian Yeager from Portland, Oregon. This is somewhere I've never had the pleasure of visiting but is probably the number one destination for beer pilgrims. For a city with a similar population to Dublin, they have many times our number of independent breweries.
Brian asks us to design our ideal beer festival. He wants us to consider Size, Styles, Brewery Locations, Festival Location and then whatever else comes to mind.
It's the first of December so therefor, it's officially Christmas. In fact, I even got my first Christmas present and card today from the fine folks at 8 Degrees. They sent me out their festival special twin pack consisting of Oak King and Holly King. Both are barrel aged, one being a Belgian Blonde, the other an Imperial Stout. I look forward to trying them. You can read more about these beers here.
So moving on to the task at hand, my ideal beer festival? That's a tough one really. I've only been to beer festivals in three countries. Many in Ireland, of a multitude of sizes and styles and then one in the US which was very different. First, I want to dismiss the one I went to in Breckenridge back in 2012. This was the typical US style of pay a high entry fee but not pay for beer after. It was $30 in and I had 4 hours to get my money's worth, though it was open for 5 hours to be fair. It was pretty had to get my money's worth since every beer you wanted, you had to queue for and you only got a sample of each beer. It was a festival of queuing and there was little time to chat to the brewers about the beer because there was always 20 or 30 people behind me waiting for me to move. No, I don't enjoy this type of festival at all.
I was also at a beer festival in Poland which was pretty good. In fact, I gave a talk on stage about the Irish craft beer scene. Perhaps about 15 people took notice of the talk though I'm not sure how much they understood. I did the talk with The Beer Nut and you can read a little about the festival in his article.
The largest beer festivals I have been to are both based in Dublin. The RDS in September and Alltech, usually in February. They wouldn't be large by international standards with less than 50 drinks stands and about 15,000 people over the weekend. I do love these festivals but even these are a little too big for my ideal festival.
What I love is the small, local festival with no more than 7-10 breweries and cider producers present. The kind of beer festival where you could easily sample everything on offer in one day. Sampling in between full measures of your favourites of course. One day, public transport there and back.
My second preference is where there's 20 to 25 breweries or cider producers and you can make a weekend of it. The Killarney Beer festival is an example of that. It's usually enough time to try everything you want. Once you go bigger, you need to be far more discerning about what to pick.
I've never done GBBF or anything near that size and to be honest, I'm not sure I would want to.
For me, the ideal beer festival is probably one that takes place walking distance from where I live, has no more than 25 breweries and cider producers and runs for a full weekend, including Sunday. I love Sundays at beer festivals as they are more relaxed. Sure, brewers don't make as much money on the Sunday and most of the popular beer is gone but I kind of love that. It's like a long, slow, winding down of the festival with plenty of time to chat to brewers and share a pint if they don't have to drive. Sunday beer festivals should be over early, perhaps 7pm to allow breweries to get their equipment back home in a reasonable time.
One bugbear of mine is loud music at a beer festival. Music has its place but not by the beer serving area as it makes conversation impossible.
There also needs to be enough seating for those who wish to sit down and probably the most important is good and numerous toilet facilities.
Oh and real glass ideally but if not, the hard, clear plastic glasses you get at some festivals will also work. Plastic beakers you can't see out of are terrible. That's my only real gripe with the Alltech beer festival actually.
So really, my ideal beer festival is pretty similar to the ones I regularly go to in Ireland. Just make sure the toilets are up to scratch and , the glasses are made of glass and there's plenty of drinking water stations around. Oh and this is important, don't get too big!
Here's a few beers that we don't get in Ireland unless someone brings them over from the US.
I haven't had a Dogfish Head in quite a while and I had never heard of this one. The Beer Nut brought it to a tasting where I supplied a load of New Zealand beer and he brought this bottle of Kvasir. That tasting will air on the Irish Craft Beer Show's YouTube channel. I believe it will be Episode 30 when published. Kvasir is apparently brewed with lingonberries, cranberries, myrica gale, yarrow, honey and birch syrup. I found it very tart but it had this sort of cola thing going on too which I thought was interesting. It's also rather salty.
It was one of the more interesting beers of the day but not the most drinkable.
The Bruery is actually one I hadn't heard of. I don't pay much attention to the American homebrew scene but apparently a bunch of homebrewers got together in California and set up a brewery that specialises in barrel ageing. I've never come across their beers, even when I was in California or other parts of the US.
While I did get through all of the beers pictured above, I didn't bother taking notes and I recall very little about them to be honest. It was international stout day and I'd had more than enough imperial stouts to give up on note taking.
Black Tuesday is perhaps the most famous of their range. It's released on the final Tuesday of October every year. ABV tends to differ with each batch as you might expect from a seasonal barrel aged beer. This one was a little over 20% and was pretty incredible as you might expect. It might be the most luscious imperial stout I've ever head. The amount of complexity here was pretty astounding. This is an occasional beer, to be shared with friends. Heaps of woody vanilla, dark fruits and cherries. The bourbon isn't overpowering but is there. It would be a great beer to crack open on Christmas day.
Shameless plug here but I was asked to talk about IPA at an event this coming Thursday. It's to do with the recent launch of James Caskmates IPA edition. It's being run by Totally Dublin. There's more info here.
I will be talking a little about IPA history and modern styles of IPA as well as hosting a tasting of two Irish IPAs, first is Yankee White IPA from Rascals and the other a Double IPA - Surrender to the Void from Whiplash.
I'll be joined by Dave Quinn, head of Whiskey Science at Jameson and Shane Long, the founder of Franciscan Well, who will talk about Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition and provide a tasting of their Chieftain IPA.
It should be a good night and Totally Dublin are only charging €20 which is great value considering it includes beer, whiskey and food as well as a tour of the Jameson Experience. The tour alone costs €20 normally so if it's on your to do list while visiting Dublin, sign up quick while there's still a few tickets left.
I'm a devil for hoarding beer, sometimes past its best before date. In the case of big beers, that's fine but sometimes, you just need to clear out some space. Since I've moved from a house with lots of space to a smaller apartment with a lot less storage space, it's time to crack open a few.
I cracked these open two weeks ago on Friday the 6th. While the two Jopen beers in the middle were in date, the two British beers on the end were pretty old. There's no date on the Ola Dubh 30th anniversary but the eagle eyed among you will see that it's not the normal label, it's 11.3% unlike the commercial release of 8% so this really isn't a beer that was available to the general public as far as I know. In fact, this was a pre-release in 2013 given to those at the European Beer Bloggers Conference, hence not having a date. It's my last one so I figured 4 years was enough and it was time to drink it. We were very special and privileged to receive it. We got pretty much all that we could carry home!
The beer pores like black oil and it's flat. There's no head whatsoever. The aroma is all treacle and dark chocolate with a real burnt quality as well. There's some espresso but more of a burnt roast, creamy mocha sort of thing with a milky body. The carbonation is next to nonexistent but there's a tiny bit there if you start pushing it against your inside of your cheek. It has held up very well and I'm almost sorry I have no more for future tastings.
Moving on to Jopen's Johannieter. It's a weizen doppelbock at 9% ABV. There's some chocolate and dark fruits. I found it a little tart and quite carbonated. I just found it too thin and fizzy for what I expect a wheaty doppelbock to be like. It was only vaguely interesting for me.
Sticking with Jopen, this beer is HIJSM Spoor 2 3/4 and is a collaboration with De Prael. A big 10% Imperial Stout with an element of wizardry involved. On the nose are dark fruits, some alcohol, chocolate and prunes. Slightly fizzier than I might expect but being Dutch that make sense as they tend to over carbonate their beers.
Medium, almost full body. I thought it was slightly metallic but not unpleasant. Not much in the way of milk and not as silky smooth as I would have thought from the use of oatmeal. It's a solid if overly carbonated imperial stout though. I suspect this could have done with a few years to mellow out.
Bristol Beer Factory's Imperial Stout was a little more to my liking. Notes of chocolate and caramel on the nose. This had a BBF of November 2015 so I must have bought this in 2014 some time. I could taste a little alcohol and the barest hint of treacle and molasses. I thought the soft carbonation was perfect, though reading some old reviews, it seems it might have been over carbonated originally so time served it well here. I found it had quite a thin to medium body which was unexpected. A little vanilla in the finish and overall a very nice beer but I thought it could be better though. The question is, would it actually have been better before November 2015?
Here's something funny, they no longer make this beer. When I was taking my Google Keep notes, I was trying out the voice recognition on my new Samsung Galaxy S8. It works pretty well but it mixed imperial up with ultimate. Looking at the Bristol Beer Factory's website just now, it seems that they have replaced this with Ultimate Stout. I wonder did someone have a similar smartphone experience and decide it was a better name than Imperial?
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