Sunday, July 31, 2022

Beer of the Year Contenders and July's Favourites

Favourite Beers of July

(The long list, from a longer list!)

Best of July (long list)

Session: Kinnegar Brewers at Play #24 Summer Ale. Whiplash Ephemeral Table Beer 2.6%. Dot Brew Loose Session IPA 3.5%; 

IPA: Wicklow Wolf West Side Story West Coast Kveik IPA; Dot Go Go IPA

Witbier: Whiplash Alma Witbier 

Saison: Wicklow Wolf Locavore Summer 2022 Foraged Elderflower Saison Red Ale: Clonakilty Foxy Red Ale. 

Gose: Lough Gill Wild Irish Gose. 

Beer of the Year Contenders  to date:

June: Wicklow Wolf Mescan Wit or Without You Belgian Wit

May: Wicklow Wolf Locavore Spring 2022 Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale

April: Whiplash True Love Waits Dry Hopped Pils

March: Lineman Schadenfreude Schwarzbier

February: Wicklow Wolf  “Apex Cherry” Black Cherry Oatmeal Stout.

January: Whiplash Dry the Rain Double Decoction Dunkel

December: Lough Gill Mac Nutty Macadamia Nut

Pints enjoyed in bars:

The Maritime, Bantry: 9 White Deer Kölsch

The Lake Hotel, Killarney: Ale and Lager by Killarney Brewing Co.

Merry’s, Dungarvan: Wicklow Wolf Ale

The Shelbourne, Cork: Beamish

The Cotton Ball, Cork: Lynch’s Stout, Indian Summer

Mellet’s Emporium, Swinford: Reel Deel Jack the Lad, Mescan Seven Virtues Lager.

Keenan’s, Tarmonbarry, Co. Roscommon: White Hag Little Fawn; Kinnegar’s Scraggy Bay.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Two Stacks Whiskey in a Can and, Wicklow on the Double, a new Stout Infused Fercullen

Two Stacks Irish Whiskey Dram in a Can 86 proof or 43% ABV, 100ml can, €7.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence

Just last year, Two Stacks Whiskey and myself got off on the right foot. Their neighbouring brewery used a Two Stacks Whiskey cask to brew Brehon Brewhouse Oak & Mirrors Two Stacks Whiskey Cask Aged Imperial Porter (7.5%) and that very beer was my Beer of the Year for 2021. So, I had more than a little confidence when I paid seven euro for this “Dram in a Can” at my local O’’Donovan’s Off Licence.

But whiskey in a can? I’m still a bit doubtful as I pull the tab. And then there’s that inviting gold colour in the glass and as the liquid seeps across the palate the doubt folds and the robust yet, as the fantastic stone fruit flavours take hold in this sweet and spicy whiskey, rounded pleasure unfolds. The aromatics had been somewhat on the modest side giving just only a slender indication of the toasted wood, vanilla and fruit flavours (nectarine, apricot) to follow. A complex whiskey indeed but a very smooth and approachable  drink.

Two Stacks tell us that over 500,000 cans have been sold globally since the Dram in a Can was launched in March 2021. It is “serving the same great flavour profile and focus on quality spirit as the rest of our blended range. Perfect for on the move, out with friends or even just a solo dram in the great outdoors.” On the move includes inflight.

I bought mine as a single can but a four-pack of Dram in a Can is also available and is meant to be enjoyed at a dinner party, on a camping trip, after a hike, golfing or skiing. The whiskey in the can is also available as a 700ml bottle, called Two Stacks Blended Whiskey.

Geek Bits:

40% dark grain - aged in Virgin oak casks.

40%  light grain - aged in bourbon casks

8% pot still - aged in Oloroso sherry casks

10% double malt - aged in Bourbon casks

2% peated malt - aged in Bourbon casks.


Wicklow on the double!

In this press release, Powerscourt Distillery announce a special Distillery Select Release with casks from fellow county craft brewers The Wicklow Brewery.

Fercullen Single Grain finished in an Imperial Stout infused cask from The Wicklow Brewery

This special bottling of Fercullen Irish whiskey is the first of a ‘Distillery Select’ series hand- chosen by the team at the distillery and is exclusively available online from their website and in store at the Distillery shop.

• A 10-year-old single grain Irish whiskey which has finished for one and a half years in 2 barrels which previously held 12.12.20 Imperial Stout from The Wicklow Brewery in Redcross, Co. Wicklow.

• 49% ABV

• This Distillery exclusive release is limited to just 552 bottles and is priced at €95.00.

• Strictly 1 bottle per person

Nose :

Freshly whipped cream, latte coffee, sticky toffee pudding with a hint of Orange bitters.


Mouth-coating oils and cream with forest fruits and a malty biscuit note as the stout influence becomes more apparent.


Mouth-coating and sweet with warming fruity spice.

More info here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Looking for superb Chardonnay? We’ve got you covered!

 Looking for superb Chardonnay? We’ve got you covered!

Domaine Corsin Mâcon-Villages (AOP) 202, 13% 

RRP €26.99 Mannings Emporium. The Cinnamon Cottage Cork

This unoaked Mâcon is bright gold with refreshing citrus fruit on the palate and a long finish.

The nose is inviting and expressive, something magical about the lovely citrus notes. The aromas go on to the end, joined on the palate by more delightful fruit (peach and apricot). And our light gold wine - you also spot green tints - continues on its merry way, balanced by a refreshing acidity, to a very satisfactory finalé indeed.

Serve as an apéritif and with starters along with pork meats and goat cheese. The producers recommend a serving temperature of between 11°and 13°C. One of the best Chardonnays I’ve come a cross in a long while. Very Highly Recommended.

This was a good vintage in the Mâconnais and the harvest took place under perfect conditions; both yields and quality were excellent. The fruit for this wine come from vineyards around the villages of Davayé and Solutré, with a north-easterly exposure and an altitude between 200 and 280 metres. The Chardonnay vines are rooted in clay-limestone soils. The Mâcon-Villages plot “Les Prés Cousins”, is one of the oldest vineyards in Davayé, with an average vine age of 30 years.

Domaine Corsin, now in its fifth generation, has established an excellent reputation for making wines in Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé since 1864. They were among the first to label wines as Pouilly-Fuissé and Mâcon Blanc.

Innocent Bystander Chardonnay Yarra Valley 2021, 13% 

RRP €28.99 Mitchell & Son. O'Donovans Off Licence. Drink Store. The Wicklow Wine Co. World Wide Wines

This year marks the golden anniversary of Australian Chardonnay. With varietal labelled Chardonnay first produced back in 1972, I thought It would be a good time to try at least one example of modern Australian Chardonnay.

Colour of this Yarra Valley wine is a light straw. Aromas, not overly powerful, are a pleasant melange of pear, apple and citrus along with floral elements.  And the crisp and dry palate follows the same criterion, nothing like the big buttery Chardonnay that the Aussies sprang on the world three or so decades ago, rather it is a supple presence on the palate, beautifully citrus and stone fruit flavours with a youthful acidity delivering balance and a dry and satisfying finish. Very Highly Recommended.

This sophisticated and complex wine, bursting with vibrant stone fruit character and a hit of zingy citrus, is one to seek out and enjoy. Pairings? Simple. “Great paired with people” says the label. More serious recommendations are Paella del Mar, BBQ chicken with fresh coriander salsa verde, smoked salmon and brie frittata. Then there’s fiction, fantasy and a little romance.

Innocent Bystander add: Yarra Valley Chardonnay is a queen amongst wines; sophisticated, serene and perfectly poised. A variety whose remarkable winemaking heritage combines with regional youth and vitality to deliver a rewarding, multi-faceted wine able to satisfy a thirst or take to the table.

The year 2021 was the tale of two seasons. Leading up to harvest it was very wet and cool. Then only weeks before picking the sun came out and led to fully ripe and flavoursome Chardonnay with excellent natural acidity.

This winery changed hands in May 2016, with a family company, Brown Brothers (should probably be called the Brown Sisters nowadays), taking over. Geoff Alexander joined the Brown Family Wine Group as Assistant Winemaker in 2005. In October 2007, Geoff was promoted to the position of Winemaker and is now responsible for a portfolio of red, white, sparkling and fortified wines at a range of price points including the Innocent Bystander brand. He is particularly interested in the development of new varieties and wine styles, something for which the Brown Family Wine Group is rightly famous. A company to look out for then!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. All, and more, at Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry.

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. All, and more, at Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. You’ll find all three, and much more besides, in Keenan’s Hotel in Tarmonbarry on the Roscommon Longford border.

Indeed, the location is another plus factor for this family run hotel, the premises founded in 1865 and now run by the sixth generation of the family. 

This part of the restaurant overlooks the Shannon.

The historic pub lies at the crossroads of the mighty River Shannon flowing north to south, and the N5 linking the east and west coasts; the N4 is also close by. 

Tarmonbarry Bridge, built in the mid-1840s and probably tolled in the early days, made the location a strategic one for the new pub and it soon became a regular watering hole for travellers as it is to this day. In the mid-1970s the bridge was adapted so it could open to accommodate larger watercraft.

This salmon was a favourite!

Enjoyed this..
Waterways are important in this area of the country. Keenan’s are on the bank of Shannon, alongside that bridge (to Longford) were boats pass through and a few hundred yards down is the Tarmonbarry Lock, a peaceful spot (the only noise is when the lock gates operate!) with fine views and mooring spaces for boats.

Travellers come from far and near, by road, river and canal, to Keenan’s, especially this time of the year, “the queen weeks” as Annette Keenan called them when we chatted. Last Wednesday evening was busy there, scores of diners in the bar. 

..and this!

But there were even more present on the Thursday, yet they handled it all very well, finding tables for everyone. And the food was of a very good standard indeed and of course I was happy to see two craft brews on tap!

The craft beers available were the Scraggy Bay from Donegal’s Kinnegar and the Little Fawn by Sligo’s White Hag. Over the two nights, I sampled both and delighted to do so.They may well have had other local beers in bottle. Also, on the shelves, you’ll spot the distinctive blue gin bottle of the nearby Lough Ree distillery. I was kicking myself as I hadn’t known about it when strolling through Lanesborough earlier in the day - I must have walked past it! How could that happen?

Anyway, back to the food. They have quite a menu here. We enjoyed their Chicken Wings (with sesame seeds, Hot Sauce, side blue cheese mayo & celery sticks), Shredded duck confit in crispy filo pastry, rocket salad, drizzled with hoisin, lime & chilli jam, but our favourite was perhaps the classic Atlantic Prawn Cocktail With Marie rose sauce (no shortage of prawns!).

Rhubarb & plum crumble. Yum!

Lots of choice too on the mains menu, everything from steak to vegetarian. Dishes that we enjoyed were their Steak Sandwich (6oz Sirloin Steak on a toasted ciabatta bread with garlic butter, topped with sauté onions, served with a side of hand-cut chips & pepper sauce), the Roasted confit of Duck, crushed baby potatoes with bacon & onion, grilled asparagus & broccoli, orange sauce, and also Roast Chicken Supreme (with gratin potatoes, grilled tender stem broccoli & asparagus, celeriac apple velouté sauce, balsamic glaze). 

Panoramic shot as pleasure boat approaches the lifted section of bridge with traffic stopped on both sides on the N5. The boat had just come through the Tarmonbarry Lock, a few hundred metres back. A few boats came through
from the left as well.

We had a favourite here with lots of flavour and textures and that was the Fresh Roast Salmon with sauté pak choi, mixed peppers, courgette & red onion, grilled asparagus & broccoli, with mango salsa & baby potatoes.


Our dive into the desserts wasn’t quite that deep but we certainly enjoyed the two that we managed, the Mango & Passionfruit Pannacotta with Champagne sorbet and also the crunchy and very tasty Rhubarb and Plum Crumble.

A boat comes through the bridge and heads for the nearby
Tarmonbarry Lock.

In the morning, it was upstairs (for us) to the lovely breakfast room and another fine menu, full of choice. Again local producers were supported with eggs from Diffley’s farm, bacon and sausages from Dunnes farm and black and white pudding from Kellys of Newport. We enjoyed various combinations after starting with orange juice and cereals (including their own impressive granola). Hot porridge was also available. And a highlight was a really well made brown bread.

We were out and about most of the time so didn’t get to sample the lunch menu but it looks tempting and contains quite a few of the dishes available later on, along with a selection of sandwiches. You’ll be well fed here, no matter what time of day you call in!

More on Keenan's here

Part 2

Friendliness. Food. Flowers. You’ll find all three, and much more besides, in Keenan’s Hotel in Tarmonbarry on the Roscommon Longford border.

At your service! Father and son: Barry and David.

In Part 1, we spoke mainly about the food. Let us get back to the friendliness. Because of the seasonality of the business here, staff will change but the class of 2022 seems to me to be exceptional. Excellent teamwork all round, very friendly and also very efficient. And of course, family members such as Annette and Barry and son David pitch in and work as hard as anyone.

Keenan's looks well on its N4 side.

David, part of the sixth generation here, was appointed as general manager last year. The original pub, a more modest establishment, was opened by David’s great great great grandfather, Hugh Reynolds, on the same site in 1865. 

David’s parents, Barry and Annette Keenan, took over 25 years ago and were responsible for introducing the food service with which Keenans has become synonymous, as well as developing the 12-bedroom boutique hotel.

And on the river side where the rooms, with flowers on the balconies,
 overlook the mighty River Shannon.

The welcome here begins with the flowers, organised by Annette. The striking arrangement, both on the streetside and on the riverbank aspect, are bright and cheerful and beckon you to stop. After all, if people take such care of their public places, then I reckon the same care will be applied within the premises and so it proved over our two-day stay.

Indeed, the whole village looks neat and tidy. On our second day, the concrete faces of the bridge were getting a new coat of paint. Tarmonbarry Lock, a couple of hundred yards from the hotel, is also well kept, a good place to sit and relax and watch the boats come and go.

Teasels in Strokestown Walled Garden.

Picking Keenan’s as a location makes many interesting places very accessible indeed. Here are a few that we visited. Our first stop was Elphin, to see the famous windmill, the only one in Connacht. Well, we did get to see it but it wasn’t working as repairs were in progress.

Our next stop, a longer and a much more sobering one was at Strokestown House, to see the National Famine Museum. We then took a stroll through the Woodland Park and the huge walled gardens before a lovely light lunch in the café there. Unluckily for us, Strokestown House wasn’t yet open to the public so we missed out on further increasing the “experience" of the famine times. We’ll have to go again, for a third time, as we also missed out a few years when while staying in Roscommon Town.

Another stop was at Ballyleague (Roscommon) and across the bridge to Lanesborough (Longford). More scenic views and plenty of boats too.

At rest in the Hidden Ireland, on the Royal Canal in Cloondara

Then it was time to head to the hotel and soon we were strolling down to the lock. And yes there were a few boats coming in and heading for the bridge. From the lock, we could see a section of the bridge rising to allow the boats through and the following day, we got a close-up view of that operation, carried out by staff from the lock.

Walking the National Famine Way

On the second morning, we strolled over the bridge and walked a kilometre or so, maybe a little longer, to Cloondara in Longford. This little village is where we found the Royal Canal and quite a few boats. Here too the National Famine Way continues; it is a self-guided Trail detailing the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park to ships in Dublin in 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine.

This 165km digitally and physically waymarked historic trail following in the footsteps of the famine emigrants and particularly focusing on one of them, 12 year old Daniel Tighe. The National Famine Way™ runs from Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands, along country roads and the Royal Canal towpath. 

Bronze childrens shoes mark the National Famine Way.

An app is available free of charge from the App Store. The official pack and passport with OSI Map ensure an optimum experience for walkers and cyclists on the safe and relatively flat route. The trail is waymarked by 32 poignant sculptures of bronze 19th-century children’s shoes along the route.

This accredited Heritage and Arts Trail not only links two significant Irish museums but also makes the connection between Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East and echoes current day famine and migration. In addition to the health, historical, cultural and arts impact it offers an economic boost to local communities with cycling hire, cafés, bars, shops and accommodation all benefiting.

Much more info on the National Famine Way may be seen here. 

Our boat, the Blue Moon.

Having seen so many enjoy the lakes, rivers and canals, we headed for Carrick-on-Shannon and a cruise on the river in the Moon River, an all-weather “adventure” in a fully enclosed and heated cruiser, owned and run by Blue Moon. There is some limited outdoor seating at front and rear. The company highlights that the boat is a fun adventure and provides music and a bar. Later, we visited the quiet village of Leitrim.

Plans to visit the Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo didn’t quite work out so we’ll have to go again. And, with a base like Keenan’s, that won’t be any hardship at all!

Also on this trip:

Local Whiskey and Beers all the way from Mayo to Roscommon 

48 Hours in Roscommon and neighbouring counties

Forty-eight hours in Roscommon. Strokestown, Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballyleague/Lanesborough, Elphin, Cloondara, Leitrim Village and Tarmonbarry

 Forty-eight hours in Roscommon

Strokestown, Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballyleague/Lanesborough, Elphin, Cloondara, Leitrim Village and Tarmonbarry

A pleasure boat under the bridge at Tarmonbarry, heading for the nearby lock.

For a couple of days this July (2022) Tarmonbarry, a place I had never heard of, became the centre of my world or at least the centre of a few days break in County Roscommon and its neighbouring counties such as Longford and Leitrim. 

The village, located close to the junction of the N5 and N4 and standing on the bank of the Shannon, the longest river in these islands, is an ideal base to take in the sights on land and water. And we were lucky to stay in the lovely Keenan’s Hotel, part of a family business that started here in 1865.

A few years back, we stayed at Gleeson’s (another excellent family place) in Roscommon Town itself. We made a few trips from there but missed out on the nearby Strokestown Park and Gardens. That was our number one this time. Here we had the National Famine Museum and also the park gardens (including a huge walled garden). Unluckily, the house itself, billed as “an era frozen in time”, had yet to open for the season even though it was mid-July. We’ll have to call again.

The National Famine Museum is a sobering experience. You will experience many emotions on the self-guided tour (aided by many visual aids plus an audio guide). Tears will never be far away as you hear the stories of those who lost their lives and homes during the Great Famine as the story of Strokestown Park’s tragic past is brought to life.

French Toast for lunch in Strokestown House

The contrast between the lives of the poor and their rich landlords is well illustrated in the story of the Strokestown famine experience. It is a Roscommon experience that was repeated throughout the land and Roscommon people, including the Mahon landlord family, illustrate those tragic times. The landlord lifestyle is well displayed in the house itself but will have to wait for another day to see it.

Very old, very impressive glasshouses

In contrast to landlords who could choose from a variety of food for their meals, cottiers and tenants relied almost exclusively on the potato. There are receipts on display here showing how well the landlords lived, including one for six dozen pints of Claret and four dozen pints of Champagne. No shortage of Madeira or Sherry either.

Famine but, for some, the good times roll on

I read that the landlords competed with each other in terms of dinner parties and from the estate here came exotic fruits such as pineapples. And while walking around the gardens we came across those very glasshouses where such fruit came from.

There is a info board that reads: 

This range of glasshouses in front of you, consists of a peach house and vinery. The vine roots are planted outside, and the branches trained along supports just under the glass. Chrysanthemums and other ornamental flowers were grown in the middle section. The remains of a pineapple pit are located to the left. A melon house - against the fruit wall - was added sometime around 1830. Melons were grown supported in hessian bags hanging from the ceiling. Next to this is the tomato house, dated from c.1910, where old varieties are still grown. An unusual inclusion here is the fig tree, said to have been brought from the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. Sweet exotic fruits, such as pineapples, peaches and melons, were a luxury and a mark of high social status. Investment in the glasshouses - money, technology and labour - was huge. Guests at the dining table were sure to be impressed.

Must admit though that we dined well here ourselves, though the fruit was more like strawberries, blackcurrants, red and white currants, and blueberries, even gooseberries. There is a lovely bright cafe here with an excellent short menu, well-priced too. We enjoyed a French Toast (with berries and Maple syrup) and also a Bowl of Fresh Berries, all for just over €13.00. Very Highly Recommended.

Little shoes, a symbol on the National Famine Way

There is a woodland walk here also and we enjoyed the stroll around. This small woodland has fine specimens of mature beech and oak, planted over 300 years ago by Thomas Mahon.This 1 km loop walk is home to a variety of creatures and flora and has activities to explore and interact with nature.

Earlier we had visited the Elphin Windmill, just a few minutes from Strokestown. It is the only windmill in Connacht but again we were out of luck as they were repairing the “roof” and it wasn’t working.

Later in the afternoon, we headed down to Ballyleague (still on Roscommon) and its neighbour across the bridge Lanesborough (in Longford). Each is on the water and there is no shortage of boats and activity here. Didn’t know they had a distillery here, aptly named Lough Ree, and I missed out on it, another reason to return to these parts. 

Then it was time to check in at Keenan’s and take a look at the activity in the nearby lock. And soon we became aware of more activity just outside the hotel window. The bridge, built in the 1840s, was adapted in the mid-1970s so that a section of it could open to accommodate larger watercraft. It was fascinating to see it lift, with trucks and buses and cars on the N5 waiting above as the pleasure craft sailed through below!

The following day, we strolled down to nearby Cloondara (Longford) to see the Royal Canal and the boats moored in the little village. The National Famine Way, which begins in Strokestown, passes through here on its way to Dublin in commemoration of the the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park to ships in Dublin in 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine.

Woodland Walk

Around midday we pulled into Carrick on Shannon (Count Leitrim) where we had a river cruise booked with Blue Moon. The Moon River is a pleasure cruiser, almost totally enclosed, and the tour upriver takes about an hour. It is probably more suited to groups out for a bit of fun and the operators provide live music and a bar. 

Thatch for repairs of the windmill below.

Leitrim village is just a few minutes further on and a call had been recommended. It is on the Shannon-Erne Waterway but all was very quiet until a cheeky cygnet turned up and got our attention; I think he thought my phone was food!

See more on the trip, including our base at Keenan’s here

Strokestown is just 12 minutes (14 kms) from Keenan’s. More at 

Elphin is 23 minutes ( 25.4 kms) from Keenan’s.

Carrick-on-Shannon is 29 minutes (32 kms) from Keenan’s.

Other places within reach include Knock (65 mins), Mullingar (45 mins), Longford town (10 mins), Sligo (66 mins) and Athlone (48 mins). Any foodies heading up to Neven Maguire in Blacklion? Just about 70 minutes and you’ll be there!

Previous visits

Man of Arigna. Black Spit. White Spit.

Arigna Mines 

House of Light. Castlecoote in Roscommon

Clonmacnoise. Important Site for Centuries.

Also on this trip:

Local Whiskey and Beers all the way from Mayo to Roscommon 

Superb stay at the lovely Keenan's of Tarmonbarry Hotel