Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Have you a recipe that will take you to Paris?

Cono Sur Bloggers Competition 2015
Have you a recipe that will take you to Paris? Maybe to Chile!

We won the Irish section of this competition last season and had a ball at the final in Paris, just pipped for the Grand Prize which was a trip to Chile. Cono Sur are doing it all again this year and it looks bigger and better than ever. Entries will open on June 4th, so stay tuned. But you don't have to wait until next week to start thinking up your recipe to match one of their brilliant Single Vineyard wines. In the meantime, take a look at our night on the Seine.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Strawberry Tree. Prize and Surprise.

Strawberry Tree. Prize and Surprise.

Your salad in a tin. Your berry soda hidden among daisies. Your cheese just 90 minutes old.

Last Thursday, I enjoyed the superb Organic and Wild Food Tasting Menu at Strawberry Tree restaurant in Macreddin Village, County Wicklow. For close on three hours, we enjoyed the culinary adventure, ten courses in all, a staggering array of delightful dishes.

Though we had read the menu in advance, each course had an element of surprise. And the dinner itself (plus a bottle of their Irish Crystal Gin) was a prize that I won in an online competition by Kilkenny’s Highbank Orchard, Ireland’s only organic orchard. So I was on a winner for the night!

Wild duck crackers (left) and 90 day cheese
As we made the short way from our room in the Brooklodge Hotel, also part of the Macreddin village, we met the hens on the lawn, a reminder that this is Ireland's only certified organic restaurant. It is also rather plush with gold framed mirrors a dominant feature.

Eight courses were detailed on the menu (and so too were all their suppliers). Our first plate was a “surprise from the local fields”, a wild duck cracker with a mushroom foam and mushroom dust. Delicate and delectable, a tasty surprise indeed.
Smoked salmon

Then we were on to a smooth and tangy Field and Farm, their own fresh 90 minute old cheese (made 90 minutes before service), Baby greens and rapeseed oil. Sea and Shore was next, their own Smokehouse wild salmon, wild seagreens, laverbread and cod’s roe spread. This was a quite a plate, a superb one too.

Wood and Field followed, this a Wild Leaf Salad, fermented garlic, pickled ramson seeds and more. The surprise here was that your salad came in a tin that you shook yourself to mix the elements and then spread onto to your plate that had been prepared with the garlic and seeds. We happily crunched our way through this completely delicious mix and then took a break for five minutes, the first of a few.

Salad in a tin!
Apples featured strongly in Hedgerow and Orchard which was Wild Crab Apple and Dabinett, Three Ways: Spiced, Chilled and Mulled. Instructions were to start with the spiced and that was followed quickly with the chilled to modify the hot spice. And then we finished with the calming mulled Highbank Orchard cider. A super trio.

And there followed yet another surprise insertion and a really gorgeous one, a wild venison consommé topped with a beetroot foam. Quite a flavour sensation to sip the hot venison soup through the beetroot as both flavours came together so well. Simple idea but a superb duo.

Wild venison consommé
Time then for the main events. First up was the inventive Sea and Wood: Pan Fried John Dory, Hogweed, Ground Elder, and their own Pancetta. Once again all the elements gelled together so well and the greens proved a marvellous match with the fish. By the way, everything cooked here on the night was done to perfection and the presentations were excellent.

The Farmer and the Butcher were not to be left out, of course, and they gave us 35 Day Aged Seared Beef Sirloin, slow cooked shin, horseradish cream, Butternut squash and jus. I think that jus contained some bone marrow. In any event, the dish was perfect, a beautiful mix of meat and veg, every element playing a part, nothing superfluous.

Apple three ways
John Dory and, below, filet

We had been taking the odd break and now called another one, the better to enjoy the wine. Hard enough to pick one to match everything here but we were very happy with the performance of the Sepp Moser Gruner Veltliner 2011 (biodynamic).

And now we were on to a sweeter drink, another surprise. This was called Just the Hedgerow, a real wild berry soda. The surprise was that it came, both bottles and their glass straws, in a wine box full of grass and daisies. But we found the bottles (not too difficult!) - the soda included some sloe gin - and enjoyed them, a bit of delicious fun, another treat from the vast repertoire here.

Find your berry soda!
 The main dessert was called simply The Wood: a wild sorrel lemon curd, meringue crust, shortbread biscuit. You wouldn't normally expect to find wood sorrel in a dessert but by that stage we were prepared to trust the Strawberry Tree (and they trust Anna’s Desserts). And that trust was repaid with the sweetest spoonfuls! Terrific finish to a memorable meal. Great service too, informative, chatty and time for a joke or two as well.
The Strawberry Tree Tasting Menu €75.00
Sepp Moser Gruner Veltliner €37.00

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Amuse Bouche

‘Ag, sit, Benedict. I’m going to have some tea. Would you like a glass of milk?’
‘Yes, please.’ He loved the fresh, creamy milk from the farm. In the house up the hill, they had semi-skimmed milk from the supermarket on account of Baba watching his cholesterol and Mama watching her hips, and it just wasn’t as nice.

from When Hoopoes go to Heaven by Gaile Parkin

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gin. The Garden Spirit. With Desmond Payne

Gin. The Garden Spirit
With Desmond Payne
The Beefeater London Garden gin

As they left, she bribed the barman to part with a full bottle of Booth’s gin.

On the road back.., he asked, “What’s so special? One gin is much the same as another.”
“No, it’s not. You just take a sniff.”
She uncorked the bottle and wafted it under his nose as he drove.
“See? It’s sort of flowery and oily at the same time. Reminds me of home. God knows why. It’s as though they’d mingled summer and autumn - summer scents and autumn drizzle. A bit of England in a bottle.”

This extract from A Lily of the Field by John Lawton came to mind both before and during Desmond Payne’s illuminating chat on Gin, The Garden Spirit, one of the excellent events held in the Drinks Theatre during the Ballymaloe LitFest at the weekend. The link with the title is obvious and, during his talk cum tasting, he introduced us to his own garden gin.

Before all that though, Desmond himself, Master Gin Distiller at Beefeaters, was introduced to the audience by Rory Allen, Des’s first cousin and boyhood companion. 
Rory took advantage of his time in the spotlight to tell us about the shed which is, each May, converted into the Drinks Theatre. It started life in the 1950s as a pig shed, with openings out on to the yard. Grain was stored on the top floor and the whole structure turned out to be a play-room for the kids and it seems the pigs had a good time too. Later, the building saw life as a grading store for potatoes. “So, this theatre is its third life!”, he said.

Desmond’s life is gin and he took us through five variations of it, the gin that is, all from Beefeaters. He said gin was of much more complex make-up than the other spirits, whiskey from grain, cognac from grape, rum from sugarcane. The neutral alcohol that gin is made from can come from various products (grain, grape, apple etc) but to make the gin you need to add flavour.

“Juniper has to be in gin, it is the only essential.” But juniper plus what? Lots of new gins are using botanicals never before used “but you must have a balance of flavours”. More botanicals may be added for complexity, variety and style.

It is a very versatile drink, a good mixer; no one drinks gin on its own. Gin and tonic is a marriage that works but there are many more ways to mix. At present, there is a revival in cocktails, some fantastic ones nowadays. Gin is right back in fashion. Some gin bars in Spain have up to 300 brands (and 50 tonics) on offer and new distilleries are popping up everywhere. He added a note of caution. There are new gins coming out sometimes that try too hard. “You can't change everything at once!”

Having a laugh, cousins Rory Allen (left) and Desmond Payne
London Dry Gin is not necessarily from London, it is a method and it can be made anywhere in the world. “You can't add anything (except water) after the distillation, nothing to change the flavour.”

The Dutch were the first to add flavour and that was juniper. Irishman Aeneas Coffey’s continuous still (from 1820) meant a clean alcohol and from then the distillers could get to work “on enhancement rather than disguise”!
Desmond has been making gin, first at Plymouth and then at Beefeater, for 47 years but it was just seven years ago that he was given the nod and asked to make a gin. His new input was tea which, aided by its molecular structure, “works really well”. And he had a tip. “Steep everything for 24 hours.” We would soon get to his tea gin.

But first up was the Beefeater Original Gin, “a classic London Gin” with a citrus nose, an initial orange flavour on the palate followed by a little kick of juniper and on the finish a hint of liquorice. He revealed the classic recipe: juniper, coriander, orange & lemon peel, angelica, liquorice, almond and orris. Beefeaters go to a lot of trouble to get their juniper, going through some 200 samples from the shrub each year. They work on a two year stock.
The line-up, the original at left
Tonic, or the lack of it in Japan, was the inspiration for his Herbal Tea Gin, the Beefeater 24. Quinine, because it had medicinal properties, is not allowed in tonic in Japan. But Des saw tea all around him there and thought he might add it to the list of botanicals for his new gin variation.
“Not much tea but it changes the way the flavours work. No big citrus on the nose in this one but a little bit of tea fragrance. It has a soft beginning on the palate, then that juniper kick, followed by the softer tannins of the tea.” Personally, I thought is was a little smoother.

“I was on a roll now. Let us do a summer gin.” And he did, some dried red flowers picked up on a trip through the far east the inspiration. This was Hibiscus and he also used Elderflower and Blackcurrant leaf (a sense of smell from his childhood, probably running around the bushes in Ballymaloe under the watchful eye of Aunt Myrtle, who was in the audience).

“The aromas are toned down. Soft notes on the palate but definitely floral. Summer drinking as a party punch and it works fine with tonic.”

With summer gone, the Beefeater Winter Gin was just behind. More spice notes for sure, including Cinnamon, Nutmeg even Pine shoots. “Drink it with hot apple juice,” Desmond advised. “There is a great bunch of flavours on the palate and it is a gin that works well with Thai food.”

One man, five gins.
We finished, as we began, in the garden. An ancient herbal garden in a London park was the inspiration for the Beefeater London Garden Gin. “Thyme is a strong flavour, more on the palate than on the nose though. It is soft but that thyme is certainly there.”
So there you have it, a snapshot of just one brand! Then we were on to questions, mainly about tonic, the worst and the best. Desmond agreed with a US visitors that “the tonic out of the gun in the US was pretty vile”. He didn't exactly name his favourite gin but revealed that a recent UK tasting of some seven gins saw Schweppes come out on top. “Tonic is important,” he emphasised. “It is worth persevering to get the best.”

What is your favourite cocktail was the final question. Not too much hesitation here. “Negroni,” he answered. “One third gin, one third Campari, one third Vermouth rosso, garnished with orange peel.” Cheers Desmond!

Taste of the Week. Le Lolo's Steak Sandwich

Taste of the Week
Le Lolo's Steak Sandwich
Le Lolo at The Big Shed last Friday night.

Lots of great tastes at the Ballymaloe LitFest. But one of the first stands out. And that was the the Steak Sandwich from Le Lolo Kitchen in the Big Shed at the Friday night opening party. No time to take a photo, no inclination either, just had to pop it in the mouth! Anyhow, photo in the open cardboard tray might not have looked very well. But it tasted brilliantly. Lauren and his team were rushed off their feet but this was cooked to perfection (medium), the bun was also tender and the mushrooms and salad were also spot on. A great feed. Catch Le Lolo Kitchen at festivals and markets. Maybe take a trip to see him at Mahon Point Farmers Market today and try our Taste of the Week.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Catch the Cornstore Early Bird

Catch the Cornstore Early Bird
Found myself in town about six o’clock one evening last week and started thinking Early Bird. And then started thinking Cornstore - it was just around the corner and they do a great value early bird there, three course for twenty five euro. This menu is available Sunday to Thursday all night and up to 6.30pm Friday and Saturday.

Had sampled it on launch and enjoyed it. It was just as good this time and we had just the meal we wanted. Seems popular too. We were there early but the Cornstore was rapidly filling up by the time we were on dessert.

Dessert, by the way, was the one course that we ordered the same, with some encouragement from the friendly staff! This was the Chocolate and Caramel Eclairs with Vanilla Ice-cream and it lived up to the sweet promise. Other desserts on the night were Rhubarb & LIme Posset, Fruit Salad (with Raspberry Sorbet) and Bakewell Tart with Creme Anglaise.
Clockwise from top left: Calamari, Hake, Flat-iron steak and Quinoa salad.

CL had started with the Quinoa Salad with roast red pepper and cherry tomatoes, baby gem, sugarsnap and tender-stem broccoli, mixed seeds and apple cider dressing. She enjoyed it all: the colours, the flavours, the textures. My Peppered Calamari with tomato and cucumber salsa didn't look quite as dramatic but I certainly enjoyed it, its lively flavours and differing textures.

Others Starters available were Soup of the Day, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Duck Parfait.

I hit the jackpot with my mains: Braised Flat-iron steak with Mushroom Ravioli, braised carrot and pan jus. This comes from the Chuck section of the animal and is not your usual steak. It is served as a “cube” of tender pieces and easily and pleasurably dispatched. CL too made a great choice, a really tasty dish this Roast Hake on Wild Garlic Risotto with tomato vinaigrette.

Just to give you an idea of choice, the Others mains available were Roast Chicken supreme, Cornstore Aged Beef Burger, Thai Green Vegetable Curry, and Aged Beef Fillet Medallions (€3 extra). I had the medallions on a previous visit and they are well worth the supplement.

Jancis Robinson and New World’s New Wave

Jancis Robinson and New World’s New Wave
Wine on the Move, Fresher and Lighter

The Drinks Theatre at Ballymaloe’s annual LitFest was packed for Saturday’s talk and tasting by Jancis Robinson. The Master of Wine’s talk was entitled Wine’s New Wave - Lighter and Fresher. Jancis, quite deliberately, had chosen mainly New World wines and those from areas that were previously best known for “monster wines”, those big in fruit and alcohol! It was acknowledged that parts of the Old World had been producing this lighter style for quite a while.

Ballymaloe’s Colm McCan welcomed Jancis and she replied saying she was very comfortable, really at home, in the converted tractor shed as she was brought up in a small village herself.

Over recent years, while doing research for her various books, she received reports from all over the world, “from people with their fingers on the pulse”, of a trend towards lighter fresher wines.

The move is to make wines “that express the vineyard”, in a trend towards “single vineyard, even small plot, wines”. The first wine was a Californian Chardonnay 2012, from Sandhi in the new appellation of Santa Rita Hills. This comes from a high-ish site, 200-500 feet. ‘It is almost Chablis like in its acidity,” she said. “But the aim here is for balance.” It was a good start.

Next stop was Stellenbosch, South Africa and a Mourvedre Rosé, Cape Coral 2014. “Not for keeping,” she warned! This lovely pale salmon pink is soft and gentle, bone dry and low in acidity. “Good for food, especially aioli.”

The winemaker here, she told us, has had Southern Rhone experience and uses biodynamic viticulture. "Sounds potty but it seems to produce the goods. The vines look healthier and the soil is also healthy. People all over the world are much more interested in local vines, recuperating older ones”. In response to a question by beer ace Garrett Oliver, Jancis said that all the interesting wine in the world is craft wine.

On then to a couple of Pinot Noirs, the first a Chilean 2012, the Clos Fous by Pucalan, weighing in at 14.5%. Not quite light maybe but beautifully balanced, lovely texture and “satin smoothness, right amount of acidity. A complete steal at ten pounds!”. The vineyard is north of Santiago and “very influenced by the cool ocean”.

The Sonoma County Littorai 2012 will cost you about seven times as much. “This is biodynamic and has the hallmarks of freshness and acidity and this was a very good vintage after the disaster of 2011. More complex, more Burgundian and its lovely texture caresses the palate - think I'll swallow that!” I think we all followed suit.

Now let us hop over to Australia and the BK Wines Syrah 2014 from the Adelaide Hills, “a wine of recreation, rather than contemplation” and chosen more “as an interesting example rather than a fine wine. This is the type served up by the bucket in wine bars.”

Okay then. There would be a good Australian to finish on but first the one nod to the old world: a 2013 Garnacha from a high altitude (550-650 metres)  in Mentrida. “This is a new style in Spain, made from up to fifty year old vines. You can smell the sweetness of the Garnacha plus you have masses of natural acidity and a fresh stoniness”.

Many of us here in Ireland appreciate the excellent wines made by Cullen in Margaret River in Western Australia and Jancis produced a winner to finish on: the Diana Madeline 2009, a Bordeaux blend (including 88% Cabernet Sauvignon). “The Cullens were early adopters of bio-dynamic in Australia and this is an Australian classic, the best balanced Bordeaux out of Australia. It is very fragrant, you have that savoury note at the end, a wine of real quality.”

So now you know. If that new wave washes you up on the beautiful beaches of the Margaret River, just head to over to the Cullens. Then again, it might be easier just to check where Liberty Wines distribute them here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

World Rediscovers Irish Whiskey. Dave Broom’s Breakfast-style Whiskey.

World Rediscovers Irish Whiskey
Dave Broom’s Breakfast-style Whiskey.
Whiskey ageing silently in Midleton.

It was a tax dodge that led to one of the great whiskeys!

Leading whiskey (sometimes whisky) authority Dave Broom was talking about Green Spot, the first drop up for tasting during the Roaring Silence - Silent Stills Awaken, the title of a session on the irish whiskey renaissance at Ballymaloe’s LitFest at the weekend.

Because of  a punitive tax on malted barley, the Irish distillers decided to use a portion of unmalted barley in their mix and that style became known as Single Pot Still and is now part of the astonishing revival of the Irish spirit. Dave did take the opportunity to point out that John Jameson was a Scot.

Tomas Clancy (left), Dave Broom and Brian Nation (right)

Quite a bit to go yet though according to Tomas Clancy, another of the speakers on the panel. he would like to see the industry here mirror that of Scotland with a mix of both small and large operators. He pointed out that the Scottish industry is worth three billion while, at present, the Irish weighs in at three hundred million. “Investment here, he said, “is heavy.”

Dave may not always be sure of which time zone he is in but he knows his whiskey and obviously likes the Green Spot: “..stimulating nose (a signature of Irish whiskey and it dangerous drinkability!)...oily, coating the tongue..sweet...fresh acidity….
Brian Nation the enthusiastic Master Distiller at Jameson Ireland explained how the malted/unmalted mix and the triple distilling “imparts a creamy mouthfeel. The style has orchard fruits and sweet spices (from the distillate) and is toasty from the wood.”

He pointed out that maturing in wood casks had been started a long time ago by Mitchell & Sons Wine Merchants in Dublin, still associated with Green Spot. And he also paid tribute to his predecessor in Midleton, Barry Crockett, whose foresight “in laying down stocks” was crucial to the current revival.

Late in the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th, Irish whiskey was the world leader but over the decades lost out in the UK and US markets because of various factors, including prohibition, World War 1, War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War. And the decline continued right through the Second World War with all the American soldiers in Britain being wowed by Scotch.

Boosted by a Royal Commission 1909 finding in its favour, the Scots were benefitting hugely from improved versions of Aeneas Coffey’s 1830 Column Still invention. French born Coffey was an Irish tax inspector but the industry here dismissed his breakthrough invention, to their cost. “We were the masters of the Pot Still,” said Tomas Clancy. “But Irish Whiskey was too good, too early.”

Feeling's Single Malt
Broome, who described Coffey’s invention as “a good piece of kit”, now introduced Teeling Whiskey Single Grain, made from maize. It is matured initially in American oak and is “a great whiskey, creamier and sweet, with banana notes, and a short finish. It is gentle and light, a breakfast style whiskey. Good for cocktails too, very versatile.” 

This weighs in at 46% abv and Dave suggested adding some water. I did and got a good result!
Brian told us that this Single Grain, made with maize and malt, is produced in the column still. “It is a fruity, floral style. Jameson, by the way, is a blend of single grain and Single Pot Still.”

In the 1940’s, people, especially Americans, began to look for lighter whiskeys and Tullamore Distillery deliberately blended for the palate. Now there is, since 2013, a brand new distillery there. It has impressed Dave Broome. “It is an astonishing piece of work - go see it.”

The piece of work we had in front of us at that point was the Tullamore Dew Phoenix. Brian Nation said you have to be innovative to meet demand for styles and brands. “Don't sit on your laurels. Look to innovate and stay ahead of the game.”

On the whiskey itself, Dave remarked that the Single Pot Still comes through. “It has a rich dark character and you also note the effects of the sherry barrels. At 55%, it need water. It is lovely, well balanced, with good characters.”

Tomas Clancy said our ancestors didn't want to waste anything. So the empty barrells from Jerez and Porto and other places were put to use to mature whisky. “Colour was one of the main impacts as the barrels changed a dirty looking spirit into an inviting looking liquid.”

Lots of praise for the “innovative, cheeky Teelings” from Broom as we sampled  their Single Malt. “Keep an eye on them,” he continued. “They are raising the bar”. Clancy agreed:”They are fantaiusci, will get even more so. They are not in it by accident, they have seen where the opportunities are and should have a fascinating future.”

The introduction of our Glendalough 7 year old Single Malt provoked a discussion about the future. The past first though as Tomas said the current 9 to 10 per cent annual growth is down to Midleton. The stills at  Midleton are artisan, don't lose sight of it. Micros are okay but won't be the industry in 20 years time. He remarked too that distilleries need to be encouraged and instanced the fact that one of the bigger new ones had received a half million euro water bill even before they had started operating!

Whiskey making, old and new
Dave encouraged us consumers to celebrate the diversity and encouraged producers to differentiate.. “can't all be Jameson copies.There is craftsmanship at every step, at every level.” Big is not necessarily bad.

Brian Nation said at present Ireland has four per cent of the world market and the plan is to grow that to 12 per cent by 2030. “There is plenty of room for other distillers but we need to see the quality kept up. One bad apple….”

We had earlier met Dave Broom’s breakfast whiskey. Now he introduced us to his desert island tipple, the one he'd grab if the ship was going down, none other than the local Redbreast 12, “a style of whiskey the world has fallen in love with, really well priced.”

Brian explained that the key difference here is the cuts during the distillation. “It is full bodied, robust, lots of flavours. On the nose you have the fruitcake aromas, a contribution from the Oloroso casks. The feel is creamy and there are spices there too and also that dried fruit. For me, this is an exquisite whiskey.”

Dave, who had been totally encouraging all along about Irish Whiskey, rounded it all off by saying the category was “on fire”. “Everyone wants Irish Whiskey!” Sláinte to the panel and to Colm McCan and his volunteers at LifeFest who, year after year, come up with the goods.

Garrett Oliver Talks Beer. Also Tomatoes, Bread and Pre-Sadness.

Garrett Oliver Talks Beer.

Also Tomatoes, Bread and Pre-Sadness
Garrett Oliver
You need real tomatoes to make tomato sauce.

Garrett Oliver, dapper brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, started his Ballymaloe talk and tasting, with this line on tomatoes. Soon, he would delve into bread and cheese, fake bread and fake cheese, and later he would go all philosophical or maybe philological as he explained his theory of pre-sadness!

But there was no sadness in the Drinks Theatre during Garrett’s hour on Sunday afternoon. Just lots of laughs and no shortage of good beer either, beer that tastes like beer!  You hear people say, when they taste a craft beer: This is nice, doesn't taste like beer. He had an explanation: “The beer they grew up with didn't taste like real beer!”

Garrett, no mean chef himself, says that “brewing is more like cooking than wine-making”. He went on to give us a bit of background on New York’s diverse food and drink scene; in the late 1800s, you could eat your way around the world in one day there. He revealed that Guinness had a brewery on Long Island in the 1940s that lasted for ten years or so but closed because people preferred Guinness from Ireland.

Back then to the theme of real food and real beer. “It was a different world after prohibition. Better transport, the mass market and advertising led to less choice. The number of breweries in the US went from 4000 to 40, all making much the same beer.”

He highlighted bread as another example. You had fake bread, cheese with yellow colouring. A cheese sandwich consisted of two wraps of “plastic” and a filling of yellow plastic. “Same thing happened with beer.”
Brooklyn Beers
As he introduced the first beer, Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace, he revealed that his first pint of real British Ale “changed my life”. The Sorachi comes in what looks like a champagne bottle but Garrett wasn't having any of it saying Champagne comes in a beer bottle. No arguing with that, dude!

The Sorachi is based upon a Belgian Saison and that “dill like aroma is unusual”. “It is a super dry beer, slightly hazy and you may find yeast at the bottom. It is very nice with oysters, crabs and other shellfish.”

And then he brought up the pre-sadness. You might, for instance have pre-sadness as your enter the last few days of your holidays in an exotic place, still enjoying yourself but knowing the end is nigh. 

The Sorachi was one of their 2009 specials and, like holidays, specials are not meant to last beyond their designated span. So as the Sorachi’s allotted time came to end, the pre-sadness entered their minds even though they were happy drinking it at the same time. So they didn't allow it to end, found excuse after excuse to keep it going and now make it all the time.
Next up was the Hammarby Syndrome, introduced to celebrate their opening of a brewery in Stockholm. It’s brewed from 35% of spelt, an ancient wheat-like grain that was once a mainstay of Scandinavian beers and this gives it a nutty flavour. He recommended it as a food beer, especially with roasts and steaks.

Time for the third beer, the Ghost Bottle Galahad based on their Brooklyn Local No. 1 and made “within the Belgian tradition”. This has been enhanced via the lees from a natural cider fermentation.”It is aged for one year on the lees and has lots of flavour that were not in the original, is cloudy and very dry though it seems sweet.”

Brooklyn is well known for its collaborations. “We were the first brewery to do collaborations but now we were doing it only with friends. Great to bounce around ideas.” We were now sipping his Wild Horse, a stout with quite a kick at 9.4%. He then told us the yeast was the famous, infamous if you’re a winemaker, Brettanomyces, Brett for short.

“Brett was the flavour of stout, back in the day.” You might spot the hay, the farmyard, the horse-sweat. Can't say I did even though the dogs were barking outside in the Ballymaloe farmyard and there were hungry sounds from a bird-nest or two high in the rafters. After all, this Drinks Theatre is in a tractor shed! More on the Wild Horse here.

The journey continued with K Is For Kriek. “This is the least beer-like beer. Kriek is the Belgian tradition of adding fruit. This was food back in the day. This though is a weirdo variation, no Belgian would recognise it as Kriek. We put ten kilos of cherries into each barrel.”
“This was brewed in 2013, spent five months in barrel and overall took one and a half years to make. It is 10.3%. Pair it with duck, goose, foie gras. This is an American interpretation of wheat, illustrates that what we do is something like a chef does when he imports an idea from another country.”

And speaking of ideas, he said nobody ever came up with a great idea over a Diet Coke. “The best ideas need a real drink. They say you live longer if you don't drink. Not really. It just seems longer!” Check the brewery’s notes on the big K here.

ABV has been rising all the time and the final beer packs 13.5%. Hand and Seal is a Barley-wine style, “..nice with Stilton, very strong and sweet, well balanced and will age - for up to forty years!” Once the preserve of nobles, the Brooklyn brewmaster decided it should be for the masses. Read the full story here.

If that was the last of the beers, it was not the last of the session, not with Garrett on the mike. “What we do is creative. This is a renaissance, a recovery from a harmful food system that wiped everything out. Go out and try things. Some of these beers cost less than a coffee.” He must have stayed in the Westbury recently; an Americano cost me €5.40 there last week.

“It is great that you in Ireland now have a burgeoning craft beer movement and your first pint should be from a local brewer. But I would like to be second on the list! As far as I know, you go around once - I’m going to have a good time!”

Dowcha Garrett!