Showing posts with label craft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label craft. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Taste of the Week. Roaring Ruby Red Ale


Taste of the Week
Roaring Ruby Red Ale

I was eating out recently in Timoleague's Monk’s Lane where Gavin and Michelle have, since they started out a few years back, been strong supporters of local craft brewers. They have a very long list of beers, both in draught and in bottle.

I spotted the Roaring Ruby Red Ale by the West Cork Brewery from Baltimore in draught and noted the “dangerously drinkable” in the blurb.

I can vouch for that having sipped my way through a smooth pint of its delicious caramel and toffee flavours, a superb red ale almost crossing into stout territory. And our Taste of the Week is great with food.

The West Cork Brewery is based at Casey’s of Baltimore, Ireland’s first Brew-Hotel, and was launched in December 2014 by Dominic Casey, Henry Thornhill and brewer Kevin Waugh. They also produce the Sherkin Lass Ale and Stout x Southwest. Wouldn’t mind being down there now in that sun trap beer garden, sipping a pint of Roaring Ruby and the boats coming and going on the blue waters.

Check out three other top Irish beers all on the darker side here

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stonewell Seasonal Ciders. Taste of the Week. Taste of the Summer!


Stonewell Seasonal Ciders
Taste of the Week. 
Taste of the Summer!

Stonewell Apple & Cucumber Limited Edition Craft Cider 2017, 5.5%, 330ml bottle.



In 2016, Stonewell won the Supreme Champion Award at the Blas na hEireann Awards in Dingle with their Rós, an apple and rhubarb cider, and their current seasonal is this medium dry Apple and Cucumber.

First thing you notice is the huge difference in colours, the cucumber one looking more like a white wine (with hints of green), though with lots of bubbles. The cucumber comes through, gently, on the nose and on the palate. 

Flavours are probably lighter than the Rós but, if anything, are even more refreshing. A light and moreish flavour, as they say themselves, from this combination of Royal Gala apples and a subtle twist of cucumber.


Rós Apple and Rhubarb Limited Edition Craft Cider 2017, 5.5%, 330ml bottle

The Supreme Champion is an all local amalgam. The rhubarb juice is extracted from the produce of Robbie Fitzsimmon’s East Ferry Farm in Cork and blended with the “soft caressing” flavours of the apple juice.

This new batch has a gorgeous mid-gold (no pink!), with fountains of bubbles. Rhubarb comes through on the palate but its tartness is more than balanced by those soft caressing flavours of the apples. An engaging mix indeed from the small but highly innovative team at Nohoval and you can taste why it won a surprise overall gold at Blas.

Both ciders are vegan and coeliac friendly and each should go well with food. Thinking of a salad in the garden with a bottle of the Apple and Cucumber while the Rós should be ideal with the strawberries. Must set that one up while the sun is out!

Stockists
Stockists for both ciders: Bradley’s Cork; 1601 Kinsale; Blackrock Cellar, Co. Dublin; Gibney’s of Malahide, Co. Dublin; No 21 Lismore, Co.Waterford; Paddy Blues, Gorey, Co. Wexford; Redmond’s of Ranelagh, Dublin; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3; Supervalu Kinsale and Clonakilty; Riney’s Bar, Sneem, Co.Kerry. Matson’s Wine Store, Grange and Bandon, Cork.

You may get the Apple and Cucumber at the following O’Brien’s Wines locations:
Ardkeen, Co. Waterford; Beacon, Dublin; City West, Dublin; Blanchardstown, Dublin; Douglas Court, Cork; Dun Laoghaire, Dublin; Glasnevin, Dublin; Malahide, Dublin; Naas, Kildare; Rathgar, Dublin; Rathmines, Dublin; Templeogue Village, Dublin.

Nohoval
Belgooly
Kinsale
Co. Cork.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Low ABV Can Session


A Low ABV Can Session 
Cloudwater Small Citra Ekuanot Pale Ale, 2.9%, 
440 ml can, Bradley’s of Cork


This cloudy yellow Pale Ale may be low in alcohol but it is certainly well up to speed on the hop side with the Pilgrim Alpha doing the bittering business. No shortage of flavour either. It is packed with eight malts and the two hops in the name also figure. You’ll also note a touch of clove on the nose.

Important info on the attractive label includes the message that hops fade fast - fresher is better. Cloudwater are a Manchester based brewery who specialise in modern seasonal beer. Certainly worth exploring. Dry hop intensity is 12 g/l, a stat I haven’t seen featured elsewhere.

Ballast Point Mango Even Keel Session IPA, 3.8%, 355 ml can, Bradley’s of Cork

The Ballast Point Brewery is based in San Diego (USA) and was started in 1996 by friends who were home brewers.

This is a bright and light yellow in the glass with fruit and hop aromas. Fruit (the mango prominent) and hops too on the palate. Pleasant and easy-drinking, had me thinking (wishing) of summer-time in the back-garden. Food pairings suggestions include ceviche and Stilton Cheese - interesting. IBUs = 40.


Five Points Pale, 4.4%, 330 ml can, 
Bradley’s of Cork
London brewery Five Points have added American hops to their British Maris thus “combining our real ale tradition with New World sensibilities”. The combination is quite a success

I first came across this clear and bright  beer at a Five Point tasting in the Abbot Ale House, here in Cork. Francesca Slattery, the company’s Ireland Account Manager, told us that they spent six months developing this. “We had to get it right. It should be our backbone.” They got it right and it now accounts for 60% of their total sales.

It is fresh and modern and aromatic, easy drinking and perfect for any occasion. Perfect is a good word for the beer itself which features Amarillo and Citra hops.

Five Points XPA 4.00%, 330 ml can, Bradley’s of Cork

Pale of colour and a little shy in the aromas. But the palate is not at all timid, a terrific combination of malted barley, malted oats and the Citra (US) and Galaxy (Australia) hops.


No wonder it was retained by the brewery after the reason for its first production, the celebration of a local music festival, had long passed. It is bitter upfront but with a sweeter finish and the Golden Naked Oats help give it a nice mouthful. Easy to enjoy a few of these at a session. Or at a music festival!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Braupakt Hefeweissbier. A Flavoursome Duet with Weihenstephaner and Sierra Nevada.


Weihenstephaner Braupakt Hefeweissbier 6% abv, 35 IBU, 50cl bottle at Bradley’s of Cork*.

Those behind this collaboration between Weihenstephaner (the world’s oldest brewery, 1040) and Sierra Nevada (of much more recent vintage, 1979) have noted a trend away from ultra-bitter beers towards a more aromatic hoppy offering. Scott Jennings, head brewmaster at Sierra Nevada and Weihenstephan’s head brewmaster, Tobias Zollo, have produced this “perfect match” between the revered German hops and the newer American ones.

The name has nothing to do with the cool bear (I first thought it was a St Bernard!) on the front label. Braupakt (literally translated; Brewery Pact) merges “old world” purity standards and brewing methodologies with “new world” innovation and hop flavours. The collaborators say the name also plays on America’s “bro pact”.

This naturally cloudy amber Hefeweizen has a lasting foamy head. Peach, apricot and citrus on the nose, hints of clove too. The pleasant mix of aromas continue in the mouth, banana touches here too and a refreshing grapefruit from the American hops plus sweetish notes from the caramel malt. The beer is balanced and has a moderate tartness that melds into a harmonious mouthfeel on the finish. Very drinkable indeed.

They recommended pairing this wheat beer with exotic and spicy-hot fish, meat and seafood dishes.
The hops used are Hallertauer Tradition, Amarillo and Chinook. Hallertauer, often spelt without the final “r”, has a long history in German lagers. Malts: wheat malt, light and dark barley malt, caramel malt.

An interesting note on Sierra Nevada. When the brewery was founded in 1979 it was the 42nd in the USA. Today, there are close to five and a half thousand. Just shows how far craft beer has come in a relatively short time. Speaking of “short time” this is a limited edition! Well worth a try.

More Weihenstephaner stockists here




Monday, March 26, 2018

Eight Degrees Can Three Of Their Range


Eight Degrees Can Three Of Their Range


Eight Degrees are the latest brewery to can their beers. The Mitchelstown based firm launched three cans this March, two with established favourites and one with a newcomer. Very colourful cans they are too, joining a myriad of other colourful cans on the shelves. Canfusion for me but luckily Michael Creedon in Bradley’s always knows where the one you want is situated.

Brewery co-owner Scott Baigent said: “We've definitely seen an increased demand for cans in recent times and, despite our ongoing love for the 330ml bottle, are releasing three of our beers in 440ml cans.”

Neon Velvet Kiwifruit and Lime infused FPA, 5.0% abv, 39 IBUs

This is the newcomer, a limited edition beer, and only available in cans or on draught. This cloudy beer  is a golden colour. Aromas are bright hoppy. Very pleasant smooth intro. Infused with kiwi and lime and more flavour from the Citrus and Amarillo hops, all before a dry hopping with New Zealand hops Pacific Jade and Motueka. A lovely fruity ale, “hazy, silky and fruity” as they say themselves and with a dry finish.

Lots of food pairing suggestions on the Eight Degrees site but the one I fancy is: “a chunk of good Irish farmhouse cheddar will play off the fruit flavours in both elements of the pairing”.

Citra Single Hop IPA, 5.7% abv, 62 IBUs
Tropical fruit aromas and flavours on display from the get-go here with this pale orange coloured beer. Hoppy notes too in the aromas. The Citra hop holds up well on this solo run, its tropical flavours scoring all the way through, the malt also playing its part in quite a flavoursome drop indeed, fruity and juicy and a good finish as well.

Think I'd like to try that with the suggested “grilled spicy fresh Gubbeen chorizo sausages”.

Full Irish Single Malt IPA 6.0%, 65 IBUs
This excellent beer is well known at this stage, having gathered award after award following its 2014 launch. They describe this as “a hop bomb” and so it is but the bitterness in this pale gold drink is rounded. No shortage of hops in the aromas with citrus and floral notes in there too. Local barley is the malt hero here but the hops (Ahtanum, Centennial, Citra, Amarillo) share the limelight as this clean tasting well-balanced IPA makes its journey across the palate before you enjoy that rounded bitterness at the finalé. Quite a few food suggestions again; I’m inclined to go for the smoked duck, especially if it's Ummera.

So there you go. An excellent way to pass an evening watching Champions League on the telly. Just as well, Barca stopped at three against Chelsea!

Stockists: Eight Degrees beers are widely available in Ireland. Also in Italy, France and the Benelux countries. See stockists hereI got my three (for a tenner) at Bradley's Cork. 


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Friday Fuar Fliuch! Here’s the Fix! Bubbles. Burgers. Beers.

Friday Fuar Fliuch! Here’s the Fix! 
Bubbles. Burgers. Beers.

For burger lovers, Coqbull Cork seemed to be the place on Friday evening last. It was jammers, a great buzz, a lively racket really, music in there somewhere (I heard the odd thud, thud). 

They come in the front door. They come in the back door. And somehow they all get seated. 

No doubt, Friday is a busy evening here anyhow but the attendance and the atmosphere was enhanced by the Burger Festival (Jan 22nd to 28th). There was even a guy trying to demolish the six-burger record set earlier that day by Bandon man Colin Minihane who “who demolished 6 burgers, fries & a Coqshake in 10.32 mins yes that’s 10.32”.

One would be enough for me thanks! Coqbull provide the full experience here. You can have starters, desserts, craft beers (including their own lager), cocktails (or coqtails) and choose from a list of top gins.

Our starters were their tasty cool Nachos (with shredded beef added) and the Coqbull Wings with their Blas gold award winning Sticky Asian sauce, a delicious combination. We avoided the Hot Coq sauce though, too hot for chickens they said.

Sipping away at a glass of their lager (CL) and a can of the Metalman Wheat beer, we moved on to the main event. My choice was the most popular burger of the week, and likely to make it on to main menu sometime soon, the Bacon Bomb: double cheese, double beef bacon infused burger, caramelised onion & pickles wrapped in a potato bread bun...served with our FAT BASTARD WEDGES smothered in our new Coqbull secret seasoning. A mega feed for sure, great flavour, especially of the bacon, and that potato bread bun wasn't half-bad either.

CL’s choice was another festival favourite here, the Supreme Bull with blue cheese, bone marrow butter, portobello mushroom, truffle mayonnaise and rocket.

Another interesting one, especially on the Thursday when they had the Cork Whiskey Society in for a Scotch tasting, was The Sloppy Scot, made using the best of Haggis from Mc Carthy's of Kanturk, Beef, Ballymaloe Country Relish, rocket and a whiskey pepper sauce served with neeps and tatties. 

So that was the burger done. Earlier, we had the bubbles, as an aperitivo. Every Friday, L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay have a Friday Fizz between 4.00pm and 7.00pm, featuring a different fizz each time. Last Friday’s was La Jara Rosato Frizzante - a semi-sparkling wine made from red Raboso with a delicate pink colour and wonderfully fresh aromas of red apple and raspberry and juicy peach and pear flavours. It was every bit as delicious as they promised on Facebook, really good and good value too at €5.50 a glass. Watch out for future Fizz Fridays.

Indeed, if you like your bubbles, why not check out the Imperial Hotel too. In their Seventy Six Bar, they are offering a champagne flight, three Taittinger champagnes including a rosé, at a special price of fifteen euro.

After stuffing ourselves at Coqbull, we walked out into heavy rain, heavy enough to halt our planned walk to the beer festival at Franciscan Well. Instead we headed closer to home and, with the brolly up, made it to the new Bridge Bar in Bridge Street where the counter was full and there was live music from the O.C.D. trio. Food (charcuterie and cheese) also available here.

Great to see a long line-up of craft beers here, available on draft. We ended up comparing two ales, one from Yellow Belly, the other from Beavertown. Two excellent ales. The Wexford drink had attractive aromas and flavours and the expected hoppy finish. Beavertown is a London Brewery and their ale was possibly more focussed, a brewer’s beer maybe. Not much between them in any case. May have to go back for a replay.
Lager (left), Red Ale (right). But what's in the middle? The Bridge Bar.

May have to go back for a gin and tonic adventure too. That could take a while though. This is their long long list.

BLACKS OF KINSALE 7.25
BERTHAS REVENGE 6.50
MARTIN MILLERS 6.50
KINSALE GIN 6.70
BLACK WATER 6.10
MONKEY 47 10.10
QUINCE GIN 6.50
SHORTCROSS 6.80
BROCKMANS 6.80
GUNPOWDER 6.10
BEEFEATER 5.10
HENDRICKS 6.10
SIPSMITH 6.80
CORK DRY 4.80 
CAORUNN 7.00
BOMBAY 5.50
DINGLE 6.50
UNGAVA 6.50
JAWBOX 6.50
BLOOM 6.20
OPIHR 6.00

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Taste of the Week. Kinnegar’s Crossroads American Style IPA

Taste of the Week
Kinnegar’s Crossroads American Style IPA

Had a bit of an American IPA duel recently with Kinnegar's Crossroad and California’s Lagunitas (lag-goo-KNEE-tus) the protagonists, both bought from Bradley’s of Cork. 

Thanks to the US guys for the pronunciation guide. Their Indian Pale Ale was superb as was indeed their 12th of Never Pale Ale.

There were two rounds, both level going into the second. I had brought in one of Donegal diaspora for this one but my islander couldn't split them. 

That left it up to me and I gave the nod to the aromatic citrusy crisp Crossroads, our Taste of the Week, and its nicely bittered finish. Close-run thing tough. Might have to call for a replay! 

K2, Ballyraine Industrial Estate,

 Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Davidson's Craft Butchers. Standard Bearers in Montenotte

Davidson's Craft Butchers

Standard Bearers in Montenotte
Chris (left) and Luke

I asked our local butcher Chris Davidson about his plans for the run-in to Christmas. “We’ve already started”, he said. “It's the earliest we’ve ever started but people started asking so we started taking the orders. It is our fourth Christmas here and we have great confidence in our products at this stage.”

And top of the Christmas wish list are their free-range East Ferry Turkeys. Easy Ferry also supply them with eggs and chickens. “The most popular order is the boneless Turkey Crown, now selling all year round. Spiced beef too is incredibly popular. We use the eye of the round, a very lean cut, very good.”

“We have plenty of alternatives, including duck, beef fillet, crusted lamb, and pork steak Wellington. And we also have a special: Cranberry and sausage meat stuffing balls.”

Chris, from Cobh, is a 4th generation butcher. His great grand-father was a butcher in the harbour town, followed by Chris’s grand-uncle and then by an uncle. Chris himself started learning the steps, the ones well down the ladder, as a 14 year old at the well respected Jim Crowley butcher shop in Midleton.
Crusted lamb

He worked there during the holidays, even when he started going to UCC. “I was never bored, it was always interesting.” And the thing was that Chris himself was always interested and eventually decided that it was for him.

He started work in the Montenotte premises with the previous owner in 2009 and, just about three years ago, took it over. He found it hard to get used to the paperwork but “so far, so good” is his verdict now.”Every year has been better than the previous one. The three years have flown. Now we are more comfortable, more confident, particularly over the past six months.” 

The “we” is Chris and Luke, the two full-time employees. He also had two part-time workers.
You’ll see newly installed flower boxes on the building and also notice Craft Butcher displayed over the Davidson doors. I asked Chris about that. A lot of hard study over three years by the looks of it. 
Ready to cook

“To be qualified as craft, you have to do the 8-module course. It is very comprehensive. It covers every single aspect of modern butchery. When you finish, there is nothing left to learn. You've been trained also to present your produce, to engage with and sell to the customer. All about hygiene and food safety. The qualification is all about reliability. I see it as being a standard bearer.”

Chris has put the training to good use, especially in their speciality range. They are very strong here and have won many awards at craft competitions. Davidson’s have been national runners-up with their Pork Steak Wellington and with their Home-made Meat Loaf, national champion with their absolutely delicious (personal experience) Crusted Rack of Lamb. And they have gold for quite a few specials including Steak Stir Fry, Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Chicken Pizzaiola, and Chicken Supreme stuffed with broccoli and gruyere cheese.
Stir-fry

And, looking to the future, the plan is to keep up that standard, to keep innovating. “We’re always tipping away here, trying to improve the range. We plan to increase our presence on Social Media as well. And an upgrade of machinery is also on the cards.”

And you can, of course, get more than meat here. “Arbutus Bread is a fantastic product and we also have their pastries on Saturday mornings. We stock some kitchen essentials such as bread and milk. And newspapers of course. We have Green Saffron spices and the Gran Grans Chutneys are also available here.” Well worth a visit!


Davidson's Craft Butchers
7 St Christopher's Dr, Montenotte, Cork, T23 KV96
Hours: Open Monday-Friday· 8a.m.–6:30p.m.
Saturday: 8a.m. - 6.00p.m.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Blasket Lamb Buzz at Market Lane. Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane

Blasket Lamb Buzz at Market Lane. 
Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane



There’s always a buzz when Market Lane announces that its annual allocation of tasty Blasket Lamb has arrived! Well in case you haven’t heard, now is the time for 2017. Just a short window during which you may get it at Market Lane and its associated restaurants: ORSO, Castle Café and Elbow Lane.


Grabbed an opportunity to taste it last week, had it in both starter and mains, and enjoyed every little bit. The Oliver Plunkett Street venue was indeed buzzing as we arrived to a warm welcome and lots of info on the lamb. We had no other interest on the night, well dessert maybe, so that made it easy for our enthusiastic and well-informed server.
Starter

Time perhaps for a bit of background.
This story begins with small holder, Donnacha O Ceileachair, who raises a small flock of sheep on the Great Blasket Island. When the April-born lambs are ready, he brings them by ferry from the Island onto the mainland. Award-winning Dingle Butcher, Jerry Kennedy, selects out the premium meat for the Market Lane Group.

“The impeccable provenance of this product is reflected in its quality and flavour; we are proud to be the only restaurants in Ireland to serve it to our customers. This truly is a farm to fork experience with everybody in the supply chain really respectful and excited about the product.” – Pamela Kelly, Head Chef, Market Lane. And we met Pam on the night and delighted to be able to congratulate her  and her team on a job well done!

The starter was Spiced Blasket Lamb croquette with Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt, crispy mint and pomegranate. All the ingredients, including the mild spice, the chickpeas in the croquette, the smooth cooling yogurt from Mayo, each played a role in a lovely plateful.

Server Yuliyan was coming up with some excellent drink matches but we were keen to renew  acquaintance with their own Elbow Lane beers and so he recommended the Wisdom Amber Ale with the starter. He was spot-on with that as he was when suggesting the sharper Elbow lager would do well with the mains.
Dessert!

And, if the starter was five star, then the mains was all of that but even more outstanding, hors catégorie as they say in the cycling world. I’ll give you the full description: Blasket Lamb Rack and pressed lamb belly with fondant root veggies, Elbow beer vinaigrette, and buttermilk mash. This was a duo of lamb to remember, tender and tasty, perfectly cooked and served.

Would we like dessert? Well, we’ll look. Yuliyan recommended the Marmalade and vanilla bread and butter pudding. “The massive one?”, I asked (having had previous). He confirmed with a smile. We decided to share and loved it.


It is just one of about a dozen desserts here. Lots of starters too and the same applies to the mains; here you’ll see the names of local suppliers such as Coolea, Goatsbridge, St Tola, Ballinwillin, Tom Durcan, and Toonsbridge. But, at present, the Blasket Lamb is the star of the show. You’ll need to get in soon as the limited supply won't last for very long!

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.

An Ale of Two Families.

Brewery Lost in a Bet. 
L-to-r: Bridget Smithwick, Alan Smithwick and Ian Hamilton (brewer).

Deauville, a long-time magnet for Europe’s rich and famous, was all abuzz for the races in August 1918, even though the Great War was still being waged. One Irishman had set his sights on an aristocratic French fillé. He had opposition from a Venetian count. Sullivan, a gambler rather than a brewer, bet the family brewery on a horse to impress the Frenchwoman. He lost and, not fancying a duel with the count, had to settle his debts.

In Kilkenny, as a result of the wager, the Sullivan brewery (established 1702), eight years before Smithwick’s, was taken over by their rivals (“in a kind of a white knight rescue”) and the Sullivan name vanished from the enterprise. Another hundred years on and, in 2014, Diageo moved the production of Smithwick's to Dublin.
Pierce Brosnan, another Irishman whose name pops up in Deauville

But the Sullivan story has been revived over the past year or two with the emergence of a new Sullivan brewery, backed by the two intertwined families, the Sullivan’s and, yes, the Smithwick’s (keen to keep Kilkenny’s brewing tradition going). 

And, already, their Maltings Red Ale has been declared the “best Draught Ale in the World” at the International Brewing Awards, also known as the Oscars of the beer world. They are the 1st Irish Brewery ever to win this competition that hosted over 1,200 beers from 50 countries. Isn't that a nice welcome back for Sullivan’s?

Sullivan’s were represented in Cork City Hall at the weekend for the Franciscan Well Great Irish Beer Festival. Bandon educated brewer Ian Hamilton said their ale can be found in Ireland, England and Scotland. C & C is their distributor but Sullivan’s “is totally independent”. 


I had missed out on a chance to sample the ale on a recent visit to Kilkenny so was delighted to try it in the City Hall. It is a delightful refreshing beer, with a ruby tinted colour, lots of flavour, yet very well balanced with an ABV of just four per cent. Three darker malts and three hops are merged here, so there’s a lot going on. Yet, it is so well made and balanced that it is easy drinking and easy to see why the judges went for it at the International Beer Awards in the UK.

Well worth seeking out. And if you are in Kilkenny why not visit their Taproom, an outlet for the Smithwick partnership with direct descendants of the Sullivan family. Together with Ian Hamilton, one of Ireland’s most eminent contemporary master-brewers, they are bringing artisan brewing back to Kilkenny. It’s not just beer at the Taproom. You can have a pizza from their wood-fired oven and other tasty dishes as well. Prefer to eat and drink outdoors? Well, they have a fully covered outdoor, heated seating area. Details here
Ready to roll at Cork City Hall
See full account of the Beer Fest here

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Great Irish Beer Fest. Beer, Cider, Food, Music

Great Irish Beer Hall

Beer, Cider, Food, Music
Michael Cowan of award winning Mont
Headed to the City Hall at the weekend for the Great Irish beer Festival. Some twenty brewers were listed so that meant a huge choice. While each exhibitor displayed their menu, there was no overall list, such as you’d find at a wine-tasting. 

More difficult then to find a particular pathway through that amount of beer. Who had the sours? Who had the stouts? Did they bring them? Were all the recent award winners here?

It would have been made a little easier also if there was a measure smaller than the half-pint (€2.75). On the other hand, if you knew exactly what you wanted, all you needed to do was fill your glass (€5.50) to the pint mark!
Beer Hall!

I had targeted Sullivan’s from Kilkenny for my first call. That worked out well and there’ll be a separate post tomorrow on their lovely award winning red ale.

Indeed, there were award winners all over the hall, including local brewery Rising Sons who are having a great month: “August 2017 has been an incredible month for us, winning 5 Gold Medals at The World Beer Awards 2017.”

Not too far away in this bright room, with the tables and seats, was the Mont stall and they too were celebrating a World Beer Award as their lager was named the Country Winner (Ireland) for “Czech Style Pilsner Lager”. 

Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow) is the public face of Mont, Ireland’s “super-premium Pilsner lager”. They use pure Wicklow Mountain spring water, the finest barley malts, Hallertau, Saaz and Cascade hops.

Michael 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.”

Their Bohemian style Pilsner has “an Irish accent” and an ABV of 5.1%. You can quickly taste why it is picking up awards. There is quite a backbone to it, full of flavour and hop character and a superb dry finish, great balance all through. “Moreish” as they say themselves.

Just to compare, I took a token over to Eight Degrees - they were in the darkened room - and got a glass of their Barefoot Bohemian,  “an unorthodox lager with complex biscuity malt, soft rounded bitterness and a twist of spice from the noble Saaz and Hallertau hops.”  
This crisp and lovely Pilsner doesn't quite have the heft of the Mont but, at 4% ABV, is perfect for a session. And it has retained its popularity since the summer of 2012 when the Mitchelstown brewery introduced it as a seasonal beer. 

The Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer is another beer that has surprised its creators. This hybrid, “capturing the best of ale and lager” was supposed to be a seasonal but goes on and on.

After that we welcomed the Shoot the Breeze, a 4.5% ABV California Common, just introduced by the Franciscan Well. “This light hazy amber beer has a distinct fruit background as a result of our own unique twist!” I'm a big fan of the Well's core beers and the Chieftain, Friar Weisse and Rebel Red completed their line-up on the night.

Time now for stout, after all we are in Cork. And the Cotton Ball make a terrific stout, Lynch’s, in the traditional creamy style. But there’s no shortage of substance, coffee and caramel and a dry finalé, behind the silky smoothness. A pleasure indeed to sink one of these.

Two heads are better than one, according to Jameson, talking about their Caskmates, which has emerged from a collaboration between themselves and the Franciscan Well Brewery. 

First, the Well used whiskey casks to brew two beers,  Jameson Aged Stout launched in 2013 and Jameson Pale Ale launched in 2014. The stout-seasoned casks were then returned to Midleton and this whiskey is the result. It has worked well and Jameson are now engaged in similar ventures with some US breweries.

No alteration to the usual Jameson smoothness in Caskmates. Maybe there is a hint of hops there but, back in the dark room, I wasn't paying full attention as I sipped and chatted as the music played. It is a modern easy drinking fruity whisky with a long sweet finish. Quite a lovely finalé to my excellent evening in the City Hall. For the music fans, the night was only beginning, 

* My favourite beers, from the fraction that I sampled, were: the Mont Pilsner, Lynch’s Stout, and Sullivan’s Red Ale.

See also: An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.