Showing posts with label Craft Beer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Craft Beer. Show all posts

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Six of the Best from Lough Gill Brewery

Lough Gill Beers
Six of the Best
During a recent visit to Lough Gill Brewery in County Sligo, we got to taste a good few of the beers and left with a bagful to try out at home. Got a chance to do just that at our leisure recently. We started with three of their core beers, the first three below, and then moved on to some of their limited editions, the final three. Great variety coming from the banks of the Garravogue, one of Ireland's shortest rivers. Keep them coming lads and great to see them available in Bradley's on Cork's North Main Street.

Lough Gill Thieving Bastards Pale Ale, 5%, 440ml can
Just a small family owned brewery in Sligo taking on the big beers from God knows where. And making a right fine fist of it. And some mighty fine beers too.

Amber is the colour of this not so pale ale, indeed it's not too far off the red ale colour. Rich and malty on the palate and a lip-smacking dry finish. Recommended.

Lough Gill Mac Nutty Macadamia Nut Brown Ale, 5.5%, 440ml can
The guys at Lough Gill admit to having hand-toasted “trays upon trays of macadamia nuts” for this brown ale. No doubt about the colour here, a rich dark brown. Rather handsome overall from the introduction that deposits bags of flavours. It has an excellent body and a nice balance of hops and malt. Not unlike the Newcastle Brown Ale that you find in a pint bottle.

Macadamia nuts, by the way, are native to Australia and are full of healthy fats. Highly Recommended.

Lough Gill Round the Clock Breakfast Stout, 5.2%, 440ml can
I’m a sucker for oatmeal stout and this, with oats from Flahavan’s no less, is a temptation. Add in a dark coffee and it becomes irresistible. 

The brew is black of colour, intensely flavoured and, if Neven can serve Irish Whiskey in his porridge, then surely I can have this rich smooth (as any former taoiseach’s silky shirts), for breakfast.

Never too early, never too late for this Very Highly Recommended Round the Clock stout.

Lough Gill Wild Rosé Wheat Ale, 5%, 440ml can
This is from their Wild Atlantic Series, promising Big, Bold, Extreme Flavor (Note US spelling!). Expect wild sour and funky beers reflecting their location in these limited releases.

Not too sour at all is the initial impression from this “Golden Blush” coloured ale but it does grow on you. There is an undeniable tartness, quite a refreshing one, and also an excellent balance between the bitterness and sweetness. Doesn't say it in the ingredients but I thought I heard there was the odd hedgerow rose in the mix. Recommended.


Lough Gill Hoppy Scotch Ale, 9%, 440ml can
And, from the Irish Punch-up Series, comes this Scotch Ale, also known in Scotland as “Wee Heavy”. Lough Gill will fill this series with “even bolder flavours and higher ABVs (starting at 8%)”. Again it is a limited release.

It’s a dark ruby colour, aromas of malt and fruit, rich malt and caramel flavours, sweet and smooth, quite intense, yet little outward sign of the high alcohol which is well camouflaged. No big sign of the hops either. Did they mean Happy Scotch Ale? In any case, I'm quite happy with it. Highly Recommended.

Lough Gill Imperial Oatmeal Coffee Cream Stout, 11%, 440ml can

Another limited release, this from the Rebel Stout Series, the ones your mother didn't tell you about. As you probably expected, it is black (good guess!), coffee aromas with a ultra smooth palate featuring malts and coffee. Again, very well balanced. Hard hitting at 11% but it is a smooth customer, delivering a velvet punch. Very Highly Recommended.

Read all about our brewery visit here.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Swagman Rocks in Sligo

The Swagman Rocks in Sligo

It’s a busy Friday evening at The Swagman in Wine Street, Sligo, and owner Dale Barber is on duty, as always. There are Australia flags (Irish too!) and memorabilia around the walls and ceiling but Dale is cheering Ireland this evening as they take on Moldova in the World Cup. The Australian has been in the news in the town over the past few days having cooly helped stop the robbers of a nearby phone shop.

Ireland score and there's a large cheer. Dale tells me that goal will be cheered in small towns across Australia. It is important to the diaspora, something that we don't always recognise in this country. Dale is sometimes puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm for the national team when things aren't going well and amazed by the contrast when we qualify for a finals tournament.

The no frills pub is a bit like the straight talking Australian from Tangambalanga (Victoria) where his parents had a busy pub offering food and drink and accommodation. And indeed, many years and countries later,  advice from his visiting parents helped him decide on buying the Swagman. Wife Sinead, whom he had met on his travels, came up with the name and so, the Swagman was born at the start of the decade.
Soul in a Bowl. Tequila, Lime,  Garlic and Beef Stew 

The Swagman has over one hundred craft beers and we enjoyed an ale from local brewers, The White Hag, as the conversation turned to food and its provenance. Dale offers a simple but very good menu, well sourced and served on white plates!  It is all about fresh, local and fair here, the fair meaning that it is well priced. And, aside from the Kangaroo offering, a nod to his heritage, the source is local because that represents his values.

Dale is something of a gardener himself and indeed would love to do more on that front but that would take from his work at the pub. He speaks enthusiastically of picking your own in the tunnel and almost poetically when describing the fresh taste of home-grown tomatoes or indeed of any fruit or vegetable. And of course, much of the produce from home is used here in the Swagman where you can expect a daily special called “Soul in a Bowl”, a roast of the day, and pizza (making pizzas is another of his accomplishments!).

The two of us and Dale were keeping an eye on the match but as it approached half-time we had to leave. We had a dinner reservation nearby and would, as always, honour that. But it would have been good to stay and eat and watch the rest of the game in this pub with soul. Instead it was firm handshakes all round as we headed into the street.

While The Swagman has a rustic, maybe outback, feel, the newly opened Anderson’s on the banks of the dark Garavogue is a creature of the 21st century, inside at least. It is plush and colourful and lively with a cocktail menu on the counter. 

But some craft beer as well and that harks back to the origin of the building which once housed a brewery owned by the Anderson family and called Lough Gill. Their Anderson’s Red Ale was the biggest selling beer in Connaught in the 19th century and that original brewery closed early in the 20th.  The exterior has been retained.

Earlier, I had visited the new Lough Gill Brewery (just a few miles away) and was told the story. The new brewery (2016) started by making their take of the Anderson’s Red Ale and it is on sale around the town and also, right here in the revamped old building, there is a tap. I very much enjoyed that Ale here in Anderson’s, the purpose of my little pilgrimage.  


Before I headed off for another dinner, I also drank, for the first time, an offering from Dublin’s Five Lamps, a very enjoyable Liberties Pale Ale. Didn't see their Monto Red on the taps. Maybe, one bit of red is enough in Sligo town.


Other pubs with grub on the Sligo Food Trail include: Fiddlers Creek, Hargadon's, Harrison's, and the Strand Bar.
See also: Lough Gill Brewery
 Strandhill Food Festival
Sligo Cafés
Embassy Steakhouse
Rugantino

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke. Temple of Fire and Smoke

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke

Temple of Fire and Smoke
Wings

If you visit Holy Smoke, and you should, you’ll be visiting a kingdom of fire and smoke. And your royal guides will be John Relihan and Deccie Walsh.

John welcomed us to their tasty palace on the Mardyke last Tuesday night for a rather special evening: six courses of pit smoked BBQ paired with either Irish Craft Beer or Irish Whiskey. Caroline Hennessy, of Eight Degrees and author of Slainte, introduced the beers while Killian O’Mahony, a recently qualified cooper at Midleton Distillery, told us about the whiskey.

Did you know that Holy Smoke is housed in the original Woodford Bourne cellars (1875), that stored at one time over 50,000 gallons of choice whiskies, Cognac, rum and casks of wine, sherries and ports?

Gubbeen sausages
John told us they cook  here “with fire”, using a Japanese Robata grill and a large smoker. They use sustainable charcoal (supplied by an Oxford firm). Ribs take four hours while brisket and pork can take 14 to 16 hours. He stressed the importance of using the right charcoal and the right wood.

He has trained with some of the best, including Jamie Oliver, and in many cuisines including BBQ, Italian, Spanish, Japanese. “It’s been quite a journey,” said the man from Duagh in Co, Kerry. They have just introduced steak to the menu - “you can expect lots of different cuts and do check out our Jazz event on October 25th.” Link is here.

Six courses seems like a lot. But the Holy Smoke team judged this to perfection. It was quality all the way but the quantity was spot-on too, not too much and certainly not too little. 
Baby Ribs

After a welcome drink of Prosecco and a bowl of pickles and pork scratchings, Caroline introduced the first of the beers. “The Franciscan Well were among the first of our craft brewers and their traditional red ale, the Rebel Red, is great with pork.” And our first dish was Gubbeen Hot Links Sausages. These spicy sausages, commonly used in southern US barbecues, got the taste buds up and running.

More pork now but of a very different kind: Wet Rubbed Baby Back Ribs (marinaded overnight and smoked for four hours over oak). Caroline praised the quality of Irish Malt and said Eight Degrees were proud to use it. And certainly the Howling Gale Pale Ale had a good solid base of malt, a lovely aroma and not too hoppy and proved a good match for the ribs and the cornbread.
Pork sliders

And next came one of the highlights of the night: Pulled Pork Slider (shoulder smoked low and slow for 14 hours). Amazingly succulent and delicious and the Stonewell cider, that Caroline had been keeping in reserve, proved an ideal match. 

Head Chef Deccie Walsh managed to take a few minutes away from the kitchen and told us of his love for slow cooking and nose to tail cooking. He really enjoys this type of event. After last night, we all do! 
Local ale

Another highlight next: Pit Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings (marinaded, smoked for 4 hours and char-grilled). Accompanied by pickled celery and a blue cheese dip, this was a superb mid-menu course, fingers in action again. And the beer? Another from Eight Degrees: the Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner, a nice light beer in the traditional Czech style and excellent with the wings.

Brisket Burnt End Sliders were now arriving on the table, another highlight for me, all the more appreciated when we heard that their journey to our plates had started during the storm of the day before.
Brisket

We had a two drinks to go with this one. The first was a can of the Franciscan Well Irish Pale Ale, a favourite of mine. “Don't drink from the can,” Caroline advised. “Pour it into the glass, the better to appreciate its lovely amber colour, the citrus aromas. As you drink, you’ll note the citrus bite.”
A winner

Killian told us about the importance of the casks as he introduced the Green Spot whiskey made at Midleton from pot still whiskey aged between seven and nine years, with 25% coming from sherry casks.

Time then for dessert: Chocolate, banana and caramel brownie, with a whiskey sauce. Obviously, if you had whiskey remaining (I didn’t), you could have tried a drop with this. 

The final beer was the award-winning Amber Ella from Eight Degrees. As Caroline said, it has a lovely malty flavour to go with the brownie and the sauce. First brewed in 2014, this American style amber surprised the home brewers by taking a bronze in the World Beer Cup in the US. “It was  a big surprise,” recalled Caroline. “ It was a boost for Eight Degrees but also a boost for Irish craft.”

Killian had ended his whiskey intro with a toast to friendship and the lovely evening finished in that kind of spirit, old friends met and new friends made. Thanks for the invite and Slainte to all at Holy Smoke.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lough Gill Brewery (and Meadery!). Focus on quality and consistency.

Lough Gill Brewery (and Meadery!)
Focus on quality and consistency.


It’s a Friday evening and I am sitting in a classy new bar, Anderson’s, on the banks of the Garavogue in Sligo, on an ale "pilgrimage".

Back in the 1800s, Anderson’s Ale was the most popular beer in Connacht and the family owned three breweries in the province, one of them housed in this very building. The story makes my pint of Anderson’s Ale all the tastier!

The new Anderson’s Ale is produced by a new family micro brewery, the Lough Gill. And, that morning, James Ward told me that they  (he and wife Valerie) went back to the region’s roots to brew a traditional Irish ale that is their interpretation of what was originally produced. “It opened the door for us.”
Anderson's, once a brewery, now a smart pub

While Lough Gill’s initial beer looked to the past, their production now looks to the future and James sees that future in cans and in America. Their beers are geared towards the US market and their eye-catching can labels are designed by a US artist. Indeed, their brewer Tony Wickham is a Lakota Sioux from Montana.

You get the drift once you sample their Mac Nutty, a nut brown ale (with toasted macadamia nuts), similar to Newcastle Brown Ale that you may have seen in a one pint bottle. Mac Nutty is one of their regular beers and exported to the US where Lough Gill is established in New York State and Massachusetts.

The water, and the name, come from nearby Lough Gill and that was also the name of the old brewery. It is not the first brewery for James and wife Valerie. Their initial venture, the White Hag, was the first brewery in Sligo for the best part of a century. After a couple of years, he sold it to its investor group and launched Lough Gill, with Anderson’s Ale, just last November.



Now they make quite an array of beers, lots of bold flavours and tastes here, including their Round the Clock stout; recommended for breakfast as it has Flahavan’s Oatmeal included!

They mill everything on site here. “We crack it open, it’s fresh. Our focus is on quality and consistency.” Irish malts are used for all their basic beers while specially malts are sourced in Belgium.

He took us through the process. By the way, this is a steam operated brewery, a better boil, better beer. After the usual mash tun, kettle, the more unusual whirlpool, the cooling, it goes into the tank and fresh yeast is added. “We use live yeast, makes for a better product. When we make our Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout, the yeast goes crazy. At 11%, this stout is the strongest in Ireland.”
In Lough Gill with James (left) and brewer Tony (right)

Their four core beers are: the Mac Nutty nut brown ale, the Round the Clock stout, the Heinoweiser IPA, and the Thieving Bastards Pale ale; some of the names are a finger up to the bigger brands. The stout and the brown ale are both exported. In addition, there is the Rebel Stout Series, the Irish Punch Up Series (which has started with a  barley wine), and the Irish Wild Atlantic series (sours).

“Sour is huge in the US. We have a sour wheat beer, a Wild Rosé Ale, an Imperial Peach Sour and a Cherry sour is coming soon.” And coming soon too will be their Mead.

Didn't know they had a Meadery here when I arrived but enjoyed a taste from the tank and can confirm that Tony’s Mead is a very different take indeed. James told me that it is the oldest drink in the world, “made by women and the drink of legends”. Tony has made mead in the states where it is quite popular. And James reckons that the far east, especially Japan and China, will prove likely markets.

Amazing energy and innovation here. Must be in that Lough Gill water. Maybe in some other local liquid. Best of luck to the team here as they take Sligo brewing on to the world stage.

* That same evening, Lough Gill was awarded Best New Sligo Business 2017. James: “We have yet to reach our 1st anniversary brew day and we are extremely delighted to receive this award at such an early stage in our business.” Great to get honoured in your home town.

See also: Strandhill Food Festival
Sligo Cafés
Clo's Chocolates
Rugatino of Sligo
Embassy Steakhouse
The Swagman Rocks

Mescan’s Belgian Beers from Croagh Patrick. Strong. Caveat Emptor!

Mescan’s Belgian Beers from Croagh Patrick.
Strong. Caveat Emptor!


I’ve been enjoying the beers from Mayo’s Mescan Brewery for a while now and their Saison has emerged as my favourite. Met up with Cillian O’Moran, one half of the team, last week and he told me that it is also a favourite in the brewery.

A saison-al tip:  I just came across this quote from Garrett Oliver, author and brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery:....the Belgian farmhouse saison style tends to add sharper bitterness, often alongside peppery notes. These beers make great matches for tangy fresh goats cheeses, and can be a great way to start off a cheese and beer tasting.

It wasn't the best of times to visit the very small Mescan operation as Cillian and his Flemish partner Bart were busy preparing for their annual Octobertfest at Westport House and that was where we chatted in the Autumn sunshine. Bart is the guy with the engineering skills, a very handy asset in a small-scale operation. They have been buddies for 20 years, both vets.

They admit on their Facebook that it all began as a rebellion “against our day jobs as veterinarians..we were feeling depressed about all the on-call in our job and the lack of time to pursue our other interests. We talked about what else we would like to do with our lives and pretty soon the conversation got around to beer. We love beer, especially Belgian beer”. 


As you may have guessed, Mescan make Belgian style beers. “We only make beer that interests us,“ said Cillian, “Beers that we like and find interesting. So no IPA, no Irish Red Ale. It is against our philosophy to follow a popular trend.”

That doesn't mean they don’t make popular beers! Their Blond was the first they brought out and has become a firm favourite with the public.

They also make some strong beers. I had tasted two recently, the Extra and The Tripel. We had a little chat about the two and I said the Tripel was my favourite of the two. “Interesting,” said Cillian. 

I think he would have been more pleased had I picked the Extra. This was an effort to make a high alcohol beer without too much fruit and there were some differences in the production. They started it cool, kept it chilled and then allowed a slow rise in temperature before a rapid rise towards the end of the process. Worth getting a bottle of each to compare. Might do the same myself, again!

“Seasonal is not a huge thing for us but we did a Kreik last year and there are still a few bottles around.” No sour cherries this year but they have now found a new source and you could well see another Kreik next year.

But a new beer is on the cards for Christmas. “We have tested a small trial brew and both of us were extremely taken with it. If the 2,000 litre batch is as good, then it may well become a regular.”

“We’re almost like the Galagapos Island of craft brewing, operating in an enclave of our own. No time for net-working!” But that may change as Cillian is winding down his regular job as a vet to go full-time in the brewery.

“I intend to work full-time but we’ll have to increase sales to make that doable. The small scale suits us. We are not building empires. I don't want to spend days in the office, not cut out for it. Small and natural is our way and that's the way we like it.” And it looks as if their punters like it that way too.

Mescan Beers:
Westport Blond (5.5%);
Westport White (5.0%);
Westporter Stout (5.0%);
Westport Saison (6.2%);
Westport Red Tripel (8.5%);
Westport Extra (9.3%).

Mescan beers, delicious and distinctive, are all bottle conditioned, so not available on draught. Keep up to date with their Facebook page here.

And where did that Mescan name come from? It’s named after St Patrick’s right hand man and personal brewer. They say that Mescan’s brews facilitated audiences with the chieftains when Patrick went out on his conversion missions!

And one more thing about these beers, these mostly strong beers. The bottles carry a warning for lovers: “Our beer adds to the desire but may take away from the performance”. Caveat emptor. 



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Taste of the Week. Mescan Westport Saison

Taste of the Week
Mescan Westport Saison

This is a Belgian style beer, brewed near Westport, and is our Taste of the Week. It is the kind of beer that, once it hits the palate, makes you take notice. You may also want to note that it has an ABV of 6.2%.

I came across it in Westport a few months back and so I didn't hesitate to buy it and three companions, including a lovely white, when I saw them in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork, the other day. They are not the cheapest, this 330ml bottle for instance, is priced at €3.95. 

The Westport Saison is a great one to cut the thirst, is more fizzy, with clove and citrus notes. Very well balanced too and you don't really notice the high alcohol. But do sip rather than gulp!

Saison beer is a Belgian style brewed, in the good old days, for seasonal workers. Reckon I'd appreciate one (or two) after a hard day’s labour or even after an idle day.

Mescan, by the way, was St Patrick’s brewer and no doubt the odd conversion was facilitated by a jug of his brew. The bottle conditioned beer is still cloudy! 


Their Westport white is superb. And I also have their Red Tripel and Westport Extra to try.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Four brewers: "What we're doing now!" Superb Food at Malt & Music Festival.

Four brewers: "What we're doing now!"
Superb Food at Malt & Music Festival.
Colm, Eoin, Claire, Phil, and Michael

The Malt and Music Festival at Ballymaloe had its inaugural outing at the weekend. A few great nights were enjoyed. I’m told. Not a night owl these times so I turned up on Sunday afternoon to enjoy some beer, some food and eine kleine Tagmusik!*

Amazing how that Big Shed has been transformed, again. The things they use! Hanging (and flashing) high up in front of the stage was, believe it or not, a Honda 50. If you had one of those in its heyday, you'd get a lady, an ex-worker and now guide at the Arigna Mines once told me!

It was about lunch time when we arrived and we were spoiled for choice. One stall, Buena Vida Taco, made out of surfboards, caught my eye. They were also trumpeting their Crazy Bastard sauce. The Baja Fish Taco was our pick here: crispy battered haddock, pickled red onion, Mexican slaw, fresh coriander and chipotle aioli. Plus the saucy sauce, of course!

Quite a bite. Yet there was better to come, from Gubbeen. Their Reuben contained Pastrami, Emmental cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, and mustard. No rush job either. A superb sandwich, sandwich of the year maybe! No shortage of beers around the place but we didn't travel very far for ours, enjoying a glass of the Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer and one of the Cascade.

Eoin Lynch of the Cotton Ball Brewing Company was one of the four speakers in the Drinks Theatre in mid afternoon; the others were Claire Dalton of Dungarvan, Phil Cullen of Mountain Man and Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow). Colm McCan asked the questions and kept the flow going.

Claire told us about the family effort that led to Dungarvan getting off the ground. So what are they doing now? Well, their latest is “a sunny day beer” called Turning Tide. Light of body, Turning Tide, a lemon wheat beer, is the perfect accompaniment to a summery day, whether beach or BBQ! Moules Frites anyone?

Taco!
Eoin Lynch gave up his job and had some sleepless night after setting up the Cotton Ball Brewing in the family pub in 2013. But it developed quickly, started with 800 litres, now at 2,500 litres. Less sleepless nights now. He had the Indian Summer on show, a seasonal that was so good they couldn't let it go. It is a light hybrid beer (elements of both ale and lager), notes of citrus and pineapple and it was well received in Ballymaloe.

Michael Cowan of Mont said they are a dedicated lager brewery. “With the very soft Wicklow water we have, our super-premium lager is better than the main stream piss and we are trying to improve lager’s image with a big concentration on packaging.”

He surprised us with a very dark lager called Black is the New Orange. It includes chocolate malt and orange and is clean and dry; good finish too. And he introduced Bigger than Ben Hur, a 9.2% Imperial IPA, with “a hopping regime of biblical proportions”! Pretty well balanced though, despite that big ABV. Shows that Mont do make more than lager.

May not look much. But this Reuben is the greatest!
Like the Cotton Ball, Phil and his wife started Mountain Man in 2013. He also told us that one of their core beers, that Hairy Goat, could well have reached the shelves as the Itchy Cow!

We got to taste his latest, the Vincent Van Coff (the name the result of a competition). What was the secret ingredient? Not too many detected the aroma but quite a few got the flavour of… coconut! It is a red ale with vanilla, chocolate and coffee. The point Phil was making was that the ability to recognise aromas and flavours can vary from person to person. “I didn't get the coconut…people starting telling me about it.. So, if you don't get it, you’re not on your own!”

As you gather, this was a rather informal session. And all the better and more enjoyable for it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Taste of the Week. Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing

Taste of the Week
Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing
Cascade-ing at Cork Summer Show
A lovely pint from Brian.



Cascade is a relatively new addition to the Cotton Ball Brewing Company’s  portfolio and I made its acquaintance at the Cork Summer Show at the weekend. It’s a beauty and our Taste of the Week.

It is a well balanced celebration of the hops of the same name, a single hop beer with terrific flavour, slightly spicy too but with flavour galore and the ABV is just 3.8%. Well done guys, a superb Pale Ale for the summer sessions and indeed any session.


There is a picture of Humphrey Lynch, the original owner of the Cotton Ball and grandfather of current owner Jack, on the brewery's bottles. His is a fascinating story and includes fighting in the American Civil War and dealing in cotton (hence the name for the pub he bought on his return to Ireland). More here.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

5 Gluten Free Beers from 9 White Deer

5 Gluten Free Beers from 9 White Deer

Good news this week as Ballyvourney craft-brewers 9 White Deer launch Europe’s first full range of Gluten Free-Beer. The Stag Saor range features a Red Ale, a Pale Ale, an IPA, a Kölsch and a Stout.

So what’s a Kölsch? This is the beer of Cologne in Germany; Kölsch means “local to Cologne” (according to Beer FAQ) and the name is protected and that is why the Ballyvourney beer is labelled Kölsch style. Like its German inspiration, this Stag Saor light beer is cold lagered. With its gentle hops and malt character, it is easy-drinking, full flavoured with fruity hints and a crisp and lager style character.

I loved the Red Ale for its depth of flavour and texture and, with its likeness (in flavour) to stout. Good too with food. 

Like the others, their Pale Ale is vegan free and brewed with “love”. Easy to love too with its light body, aromas and moderate hop flavours. Lots of new age hops in the IPA. Hop usage is late in the boil so giving big flavours and aromas without major bitterness. Well balanced and quaffable.

The Saor Stout though is perhaps my favourite of the five. This is described as a double chocolate and Madagascan vanilla stout, rich and luxurious. You must try this chocolate “block” from the West Cork Gaeltacht; it is distinctive and delicious.

Don O'Leary
For a chance to meet the founders and sample the new Stag Saor gluten-free range, drop in to O’Brien’s Off Licence, Beacon South Quarter, Dublin on Thursday 2nd March between 12 noon and 8pm or Matson’s, Cooney's Lane, Grange, Douglas Co. Cork on Friday 3rd March between 12 noon and 8pm.

9 White Deer was founded in 2014 by former marine engineer, Gordon Lucey, and respected publican Don O’Leary (who runs the famous Mills Inn pub). The brewery initially offered a core range of four beers. Within the company’s first year, Don was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, which essentially determined the direction for the business.


Don O’Leary recalls: “At first the timing seemed terrible, we had just opened a craft brewery and I identified as gluten intolerant! However, the development of Stag Saor has changed everything for the business.  It prompted us to research the market and see how limited the beer offering is for those with gluten intolerance. There have been a very small number of gluten-free lagers and pale ales developed in Ireland over the last two years but, with options still very limited, we identified an opportunity to create a full range of gluten-free beers, which also taste really good,”.
  
Co-founder Gordon Lucey began brewing at home in 1999 and has since become a qualified brewer.  He said, “We are determined to lead the way in breaking new ground for brewing in Ireland. It was critical to us that our gluten-free range, not only met the gluten-free requirements but also tasted great. Each batch of the Stag Saor range is independently tested and certified to maintain its excellence and to ensure that it complies with EU regulations of less than 20ppm of gluten. We regularly get the certificates back with less than 5ppm.”
 
Brewer Gordon
9 White Deer launched its first gluten-free product, Saor, in 2015. It received a bronze medal in the 2016 Blas na hEireann awards following a blind taste testing where the judges did not know it was a gluten-free product.

Stag Saor is available nationwide from Classic Drinks and also in Dublin from CBG Wholesale. For a full list of stockists visit www.9whitedeer.ie.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Franciscan Well's Shane Long: Now, we can!

Franciscan Well's Shane Long: Now, we can!


Shane Long at the launch

No shortage of craic in the Franciscan Well pub on the North Mall last week when the local brewer officially launched their new can range in Cork. Three of their favourites, all tried and tested, are available in the new format: Friar Weisse, Chieftain Pale Ale and Ireland’s number one* craft beer Franciscan Well Rebel Red

The announcement marks the first time Franciscan Well, which is brewed in Cork, has canned any of its beers and also the first time that Friar Weisse or Chieftain IPA will be available for purchase in off-licenses.

Founder of Franciscan Well, Shane Long (right): "The decision to move to a canned format reflects the growing trend internationally, whereby more and more craft beers are sold in 330ml can format. This is something that has been prevalent in the U.S. and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case as we roll out craft in a can for beer-lovers here in Ireland, making our award-winning range of beers even more accessible and readily available.” The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable.

All brewing and canning will take place at Franciscan Well’s new brewery in Cork City. The brewery opened last year, allowing for operational growth and further expansion for Ireland’s leading craft beer brand, while staying true to Franciscan Well’s proud history and identity as one of Ireland and Cork’s favourite craft beers. The nearby North Mall brew-pub and home of Franciscan Well will be used an innovation centre, while remaining a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

There was a pre-Christmas feel to the bar as we walked in to be welcomed with a choice of cans, of course. Must admit we both picked the Chieftain, a favourite here since it was launched. And later, I switched to draught and again couldn't resist that Chieftain! Next time, though I renewed acquaintance with the wheat beer, Friar Weisse, with is distinctive colour, aroma and flavour. The Friar (left) was one of my early Well favourites and, after the other night, it is going back on my short list.

It wasn't just beer on the night. The place was packed and there was music galore and no shortage of pizza either. Pompeii Pizza have a permanent place here and I saw why when I ordered one of their offerings, with  Chorizo and Mushroom toppings (€11.00). Enjoyed every little bit.

Check out the pizza, the music (including trad sessions), the tours and tastings on the website here. The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable. And keep up to date on their Facebook place.




*AC Nielsen ROI On-Trade MAT to end August 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Franciscan Well 16th Annual October Beer Festival. Some of the very best!

Franciscan Well October Beer Festival 
Some of the very best!


Is was all that jazz and all that beer too in Cork last weekend. My first outing of the weekend was to the Franciscan Well on North Mall where they had installed a great line-up of top class world beers, quite a few of them “rated amongst the top beers in the world”.

But where to start at this 16th annual October Beer Festival? Hard decision to make when you see some twenty or more taps in front of you. And that was just outside. Many more inside, including their own excellent beers. And they also introduced their own Craftail Bar. This is upstairs and is called the Stave and Chime and the cocktails are based mainly on Jameson whiskey and Franciscan beers.

But back to the outdoor heated beer tent where a decision had been made for our opening duo: Moinette Bio and Nicotto. The Nicotto (6%) is a Japanese style beer made by the Barcelona Beer Company, made with Sorachi (a hop of Japanese origin) and also includes green tea, jasmine and tangerine peel. A really superb beer, clean and fresh.

The Moinette Bio (7.5%) is, as you’ve probably guessed, an organic beer, really well balanced between mellowness, fruitiness and bitterness. This well struck combination is a real thirst quencher, more mellow than the Nicotto, another clean beer that finishes with a hint of clove.

Two good ones to start and the next pair, Rodenbach Caractere Rouge and Biere de Miel, continued the very high standard. The Rodenbach (7%) was possibly the stand out beer. It is billed as a red/brown sour and it is sour but also packs amazing fruitiness. The beer is macerated with fresh cherries, raspberries ad cranberries and, after that, is matured in oak barrels. Rodenbach have had a great deal of practice as the brewery was established in 1836.

The Biere de Miel (8%) is a honey saison. Don't let the honey put you iff. You’ll catch a pleasant whiff of it in the aromas and a delicate presence on the palate but this is a well balanced refreshing dry beer, again some clove on the finish. All good so far!

There were beers there from the UK, Germany, Spain (our 1st one), and the US, but we were mainly on the Belgians and that was the case with the next two. One was the St Bernardus ABT 12 and the other the Houblon Chouffe.

The Barnardus (10%) is a quadrupel, full of complex flavours, great fruit and with a superb finish. It is regarded as one of the best beers in the world and would put many a wine to shame. In this context, quadrupel means it is stronger than a tripel which is stronger than a duppel!

As it happens our Houblon (9%) is a tripel IPA and another very good one. I must say, the beer descriptions on the Franciscan Well leaflet were pretty much spot-on and I agreed one hundred per cent with their take on this well balanced tripel: big malty body, distinct dryness, and expressive estery fruitiness.


And to finish? I had been thinking about two from the dark side until tempted by a cocktail from upstairs: the well named O’Sullivan’s Sour. O’Sullivan was the chieftain that gave the land to the Franciscan monks back in the day and, of course, the Chieftain Pale Ale is in the lovely mix. It is made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, grenadine syrup, and topped off with the IPA. Colourful and delightful, a lovely end to a very interesting and rewarding session indeed.



Friday, October 7, 2016

If Any Beer Can, Franciscan Well Can!



If Any Beer Can, Franciscan Well Can!
Ireland’s favourite craft beer now available in can

During last weekend’s Dingle Food Festival, I called into the craft beer tent, at the back of Geaney's Bar in Main Street, last Saturday afternoon and was immediately at home as the first stall was that of the Franciscan Well. They were showing their new cans, three of my favourite beers all wrapped up and looking good and shiny.


But I delayed testing the cans as they also had the beers on tap and we enjoyed a Rebel Red (by now a veteran, a veteran that has stood the test of time!) and Chieftain IPA. By the way, I noted the Rebel Red was very popular in Dick Mack's pub during the previous evening. The Rebel and the Chieftain are now available in cans along with the Friar Weisse. The cans will be sold in retailers and off-licences across Ireland, with selected bars also stocking the products.

The announcement marks the first time Franciscan Well, which is brewed in Cork, has canned any of its beers and also the first time that Friar Weisse or Chieftain IPA will be available for purchase in off-licenses.

Acknowledging the rising consumer demand for delicious, flavoursome craft beer in a canned format, founder of Franciscan Well, Shane Long, has spear-headed the move which demonstrates the progressive and innovative thinking which has underlined the success of the Cork-based brewery over the past 18 years.

Commenting on the launch, Shanesaid: “This is a very exciting development for Franciscan Well. Taste and quality are among our core beliefs and we always prioritise ways to ensure that these core traits are present in the beer we create. The decision to move to a canned format reflects the growing trend internationally, whereby more and more craft beers are sold in 330ml can format. This is something that has been prevalent in the U.S. and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case as we roll out craft in a can for beer-lovers here in Ireland, making our award-winning range of beers even more accessible and readily available.”

All brewing and canning will take place at Franciscan Well’s new brewery in Cork City. The brewery opened last year, allowing for operational growth and further expansion for Ireland’s leading craft beer brand, while staying true to Franciscan Well’s proud history and identity as one of Ireland and Cork’s favourite craft beers. The nearby North Mall brew-pub and home of Franciscan Well will be used an innovation centre, while remaining a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

This decision from the award-winning Cork Brewery is in keeping with internationally recognized best practice for freshness and taste, with cans providing superior product packaging quality and recyclability.
Yes. We can.

The introduction of the Franciscan Well can range also highlights Franciscan Well’s commitment to offering fans a more accessible and convenient means to enjoy the award-winning range in the comfort of their own homes. They protect and preserve the taste of the beer, which is considered a telling feature by the Franciscan Well brewers. They are also lightweight and portable, meaning they are easier for consumers to enjoy in more places and for bars and off licences to display. The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable.

“We are very excited about this latest innovation for Franciscan Well, coming as it does less than a year after the opening of our new brewery in Cork,” said Shane Long. “Since its introduction, craft beer in a can has proven extremely popular with consumers. It is a very handy, portable way of consuming the beer and one that preserves the taste better than any other. We are delighted to be able to offer consumers the chance to enjoy our award winning beers in an increasingly popular format in the comfort of their own home.”

In addition to the launch of its all new canned beer offering, Franciscan Well has also introduced a newly redesigned brand logo.

Shane continued: “The new logo more clearly reflects the provenance of the brand and its roots in Cork. The new identity and logo retains the strength of the previous logo, while emphasizing that this is very firmly an Irish beer which was established in Cork and which is still brewed there. We believe that the heritage of Franciscan Well is extremely important and it is something we are very proud of.

“The new brand logo positions Franciscan Well as an authentic Craft brewery from Cork, Ireland. The archway is a new devise that has been created to highlight a strong sense of place, that is welcoming and which captures the unrivalled heritage associated with the brewery founding site along with the welcoming aspect of our range of beers.”



*AC Nielsen ROI On-Trade MAT to end August 2016

Post based on press release