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

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Taste of the Week. Amazing no-hops beer from the Burren

Taste of the Week
Euphoria. No-Hops Beer by Burren Brewery

All you beer-heads out there, get on down to Lisdoonvarna this weekend and try out this amazing hop-less beer by Peter Curtin of the Burren Brewery. Read all about it on the poster.

I got a wee taste earlier in the week when Birgitta Curtin squeezed a few centilitres from the bottom of the barrel. This tastes close to a sour. I felt good. Reckon another few centilitres and I'd be euphoric.

That barrel may well be refilled by Friday, though it may be delayed until Saturday. Check before you go to the Roadside Tavern. And do let me know how you enjoyed our amazing Taste of the Week.

Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Franciscan Well Easter Fest. Was 2019 the Best Yet?


Franciscan Well Easter Fest
Was 2019 the Best Yet?


Franciscan Well is located held its 20th annual Easter Festival at its North Mall location at the weekend. And, by all accounts, from the organisers, the visiting brewers and the customers, it was the best yet.

I met Franciscan Well Market Manager Kate Clancy when I called early on Sunday afternoon. She reported that the previous day was amazing. “Once we opened the doors at 1.00pm, the crowds just kept coming.”

"What a weekend we had! Beer, Easter eggs, beer out of Easter eggs, pizzas, live music and this crowd! Thanks to everyone for coming along and a huge thanks as always to our amazing staff & their hard work! 

And the brewers confirmed that. Many had run out of their headline beers which meant I didn’t get to taste Peaches and Cream by the Cotton Ball or the Witness Protection Belgian Wit by Wexford’s Yellow Belly. 
I got in before the crowd on Sunday.

It was much the same story at UCC. UCC? You might well ask. Well, yes, they have a research brewery and you’ll see them at various festivals. Like the other breweries, they ran out of certain lines and, just like the others, had to be nimble to keep the show on the road. And one I enjoyed there was Manneken Pis, named after the Belgian beer. Apparently, the Manneken Pis statue has on occasion been filled with beer and you were welcome to hold your cup up and get a fill.
No such shenanigans at Franciscan Well!

Yellow Belly's Seamus was one of the happy brewers here who also seen his stocks diminish more rapidly than expected. But I did get to sample a couple. Their Jack Bauer Power Shower, a 3.8% sour, was deliciously refreshing in the heat and CL quickly became a fan. The Wolf of Malt Street, a 6.2 per cent Black Forrest Stout, a collaboration between Yellow Belly and neighbours Wicklow Wolf, also went down well at our barrel - could have done with a seat in the heat!

I also enjoyed the Elevation Pale Ale from Wicklow Wolf, an American style Pale Ale brewed and dry hopped with Mosaic Hops. Not everyone likes the dry hop beers but it suits me fine! Great too to meet up with James Ward of Lough Gill Brewery whose Mac Nutty is one of my favourite brown beers. This time we tasted their Roller Coaster, a 4.6% Berliner Weisse, with Guava, Mango and Passionfruit. Delicious and, like the Jack Bauer, refreshing. Also met up, after a few years, from Richard from Roscommon’s Black Donkey but we were making out exit at that stage.

The Rising Sun’s Common Eileen, a California Common, was malty with a decent bitterness, with traditional old-style American Hops. Had been hoping to taste the Cotton Ball’s Peaches and Cream but Eoin reported it all sold out. Still, there was the considerable consolation of a glass of their excellent Another Bloody IPA. I hadn't tasted that with a long while and enjoyed renewing the acquaintance. Indeed, called to the Cotton itself for a small selection of bottles when we got home - the sun was still shining in the garden.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Liberty Grill. Best of Food. Warmest of Welcomes.


Liberty Grill. Best of Food. Warmest of Welcomes.

Liberty Chicken

Céad Míle Failte. A worthless cliché? Certainly not at Liberty Grill, busy from early ’til late in Cork’s Washington Street. We called in for our 5.15 booking on a recent Friday and got the warmest of welcomes. And that chatty approach, studded with vital info about the day’s specials, continued from start to finish. We met three helpful and knowledgeable front-of-house people during our meal before we were waved off with cracking smiles. And, I’d better mention the food was superb as well.

The place was packed at 5.15pm. “You should have seen earlier in the afternoon,” our server said. “When I came on it was like Christmas. Great!” So if you’re thinking of going, then be sure and book ahead.

Just earlier we had been in the English Market, buying our Saturday dinner meat from O’Mahony Butchers. Eoin served us his special (pork steak stuffed with Italian sausage and wrapped in Parma ham) and when we mentioned Liberty Grill tipped us off that his 35-day aged rib-eye was on special and was worth looking out for.

So we did, and I ordered it. The Rib-Eye special was one of six listed and the full description was: Char-grilled 10 ounce rib-eye on the bone with Café de Paris butter or Béarnaise sauce, served with sautéd mushrooms and onions, oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and French Fries. I choose the Café de Paris and medium. 
Mexico

I knew immediately I saw it that I was on a winner. Then touched it with the knife and the gentlest of pressure produced the tastiest biteful ever. Amazing steak, one of the very best I’ve had. Everything on the plate was perfect, the button mushrooms, the sweet onions. And terrific value at €22.90!

I wasn’t the only happy camper at this stage as CL was thrilled with her chicken. This was also a special: Amalfi Chicken (16.90), chargrilled supreme of free range East Ferry Chicken served with a warm salad of baby potatoes, spinach, sun blushed tomatoes, roast peppers, and tapenade. This had all the flavour and colour of a Mediterranean dish in the grey dusk of this northern city, a beautiful combination of tastes and textures, so well assembled, so well cooked, the chicken itself juicy, a plateful that illustrates fully that buying the best of local and treating it properly from delivery to the fairly-priced plate will keep the customer happy.

Liberty has always been well-known for its burgers and, while there is mega competition in the field, they are still very popular here. The choice is wide. Aside from six or seven on the regular menu, there were two on the specials: a spiced honey Halloumi (honey from their own hive in Fountainstown) and also a Sienna Beefburger featuring chuck steak and Toons Bridge Smoked Scarmoza.

We didn’t get to the desserts but did enjoy a couple of lovely starters, each from the regular menu.   I fancied the Mexican Mille Feuille description: Crispy tor­tilla lay­ers of tem­peh, gua­camole and salsa (6.50). A little bit of spice, a little bit of sweet, lost of textures and colours, an excellent starter. CL also enjoyed her Small Plate of Crushed tomato and avocado toast (5.00).

BRUNCH · LUNCH · DINNER
32 WASHINGTON STREET, CORK
TEL: +353 21 427 1049


After Liberty, we walked to the “back” of the block to Impala, the new craft beer pub in Liberty Street. Buzzing, just managed to get two seats at the counter. Was looking for the February Flagship special, a pint of Sierra Nevada for a fiver. But it was no longer available so I enjoyed another ale, the Gamma Ray by Beavertown. A huge range of craft (and some mainstream too) available, no shortage of local gins either. And do bring your credit card. Well, they do take cash no problem but tap and pay is the customer’s preferred method of payment here!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mauritius to Mitchelstown. How a long trip pays off for Eight Degrees. Brains, brawn. Long hours and hard work too!


Mauritius to Mitchelstown.
How a long trip pays off for Eight Degrees.
Brains, brawn. Long hours and hard work too!
Scott (left) and Cam

It’s not eight degrees when we visit the brewery. It’s just hovering between two and three and the Galtee Mountains are looking well under a lace-cap of new snow. Reminds me of the Swiss town of Engleberg even if the Galtees are nowhere near as high as the Alps.

No danger of getting cold though for the founders and workers at Eight Degrees as they are mightily engaged in moving operations from the old brewery to their German giant from Mauritius. The giant has been asleep in Mitchelstown -he did after all have a long journey - but now there are signs of life as Cam, Caroline and Scott are bringing it all together in a large unit in an industrial park on the northern edge of the North Cork town.

The three principals, especially Scott and Cam (seeking to make good beer like they had enjoyed down under), had started off with a home brew kit (still in use!). They had some success with that and indeed won a prize at a “home-brew” competition. The cottage in Kildorrery was getting crowded so, having started on the serious side in 2010, they began brewing in 2011.
Caroline (left) with the two of us.

Their first real brewery, including a legendary forklift that could only reverse (work that one out), came from the Carlow Brewing Company and that too is still installed in a nearby unit on the estate and has much more work ahead of it.

The home-brewing was all very well and valuable experience was gained. But it was still a nervous group that prepared for their first public outing, a beer festival at the Franciscan Well. And a shock was in store for the rookies when that batch of ale turned out to be bad! They can laugh at it now. Then though the pressure was on, big time! And the relief was palpable when the second batch was spot on and ready for the festival.

But how would the public take to it? Cam and Scott waited nervously with their one beer, their one tap. An older guy (don’t think it was me!) came over and tried it, hummed and hawed for a moment or two and then gave the thumbs up. It proved quite a hit at the Well and there was no turning back for Howling Gale. It is still their top seller - just goes to show the importance of getting it right at the beginning. By the way, Bohemian Pilsner, another of their originals, is their number two.
Top seller.
Right from the start!

And where can you find the Eight Degrees beers? All over, basically. They’ve been exporting to Italy (their #1 export market) since 2012. France also takes the beers, indeed you can find them in most of Europe. The UK too of course (with that pesky Brexit question mark).  

Beirut in the Lebanon is a relatively new market for them and they had a very enjoyable promotion there last St Patrick’s Day. The beers also travel to Australia, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong and they have just gone into Japan.

They find it hard to keep up with the amount of outlets themselves but you can get pretty up-to-date info here.

Showcases the best home grown barley
Caroline is our guide as we go through B2, their high quality, if secondhand (“there is a Done Deal for breweries” she tells us) brewery from Mauritius. By 2014, “things were looking good” for Eight Degrees, so good in fact that expansion was on the horizon though no-one thought the gate to it was lying unused on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

There was quite a buzz as “the lads headed off to Mauritius” and did the deal in September 2014. Apparently, there were two competing breweries on the island, one closed and that opened the door for the successful Eight Degrees bid. There was no delay in the delivery and it arrived in Mitchelstown in January 2015.
A work in progress.

But scarce resources meant they weren’t able to proceed with the project and B2 stayed in storage for two years or so. Progress was slow but their new base began to be adapted in August 2016 and it is still a hive of activity with brewing going on in what is something of an indoor construction site. 
A tank from their first brewery.
They thought it was big!

By the way, one of the important factors for the area is that there are ten full time employees in Eight Degrees and the commissioning of B2 has given employment to various contractors. Some going!

They have a bottling plant too of course as they like to keep full control of their beers from start to finish. They moved into canning about six months back. The canning is done on site by a visiting contractor and that means they can keep an eye on it. Only certain beers are canned while some are sold in a variety of formats. And Caroline told me the canning has worked out very well for them.

It’s been quite a year for the trio behind the firm. Last May, they sold Eight Degrees Brewing to Irish Distillers, Ireland’s leading supplier of spirits and wines and producer of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys.

At the time, Caroline told me: When we set up the brewery in 2010, it was with the idea of brewing naturally adventurous, great tasting beers that were more exciting and innovative than anything else in the market. Becoming part of the Irish Distillers family means that we have the long-term capabilities to continue on this mission as well as being part of the very exciting Jameson Caskmates story.
A new limited edition Red IPA

The recent Blowhard Imperial Stout is the first result of the union; there'll be more so watch this space.

Caroline, who has a distinguished background in food writing, didn’t expect to be a factotum in a brewery. She is as enthusiastic as any of the lads. She loves the give and take between the various micro-brewers; they help one another and she is more than thankful for the help Eight Degrees got in the early days.

The enthusiasm comes through when she talks about the malted barley. “I love how it comes up the road to us from Togher, much of it grown in the fields around here. It is a high quality barley and we showcased it in the Full Irish which has those great rounded flavours.”

Looks as if we can expect a flavourful future from the hard-working team at Eight Degrees!



Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oslo Bar Galway. Great Spot For Lunch and Craft Beer. And a distillery up the stairs!


Oslo Bar Galway. Great Spot For Lunch and Craft Beer
And a distillery up the stairs!
Cod Sandwich

Galway Bay has just moved its brewery from “mothership” Oslo Bar in Salthill to Ballybrit. But fear not: the bar is still serving up the iconic Galway Bay brews such as Full Sail, Bay Ale, Stormy Port, Buried at Sea, Of Foam and Fury, and Althea as we found out this week when we visited for lunch and a tour of the Micil Distillery that has replaced the brewery at the rear of the premises.

The Galway Bay website: “The Oslo was the start of Galway Bay Brewery and remains our flagship pub based in Salthill; our owners Jason O’Connell and Niall Walsh added a brewery on site in 2009, making The Oslo one of the country’s first brew pubs. Since then Galway Bay Brewery has expanded operations to 11 bars based in Galway and Dublin and have grown and re-positioned the Brewery just outside of Galway in Ballybrit.

The well positioned bar serves food, lunch and evening meals, every day of the week, mainly in the front half. The rear is more like a beer hall with a huge screen, apparently the biggest in Galway, where all kinds of sporting events are shown. Upstairs and to the rear is where you will find the Micil Distillery, producing Poitín and Gin and about to lay down their first whiskey.

After a two and half hour trip from Cork we were ready for grub when we arrived in Salthill. Parked up near the aquarium and headed around the corner to Oslo. A big warm welcome and soon we had the lunch menu in our hands.

As you might expect, there are a few burgers on the menu, also fish and chips. There is also a Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad, Beer Braised Beef Cheeks, and a kale Superfood Salad.

With a big dinner booked for the evening, we didn’t want anything major so settled for the sandwich menu. There was a Goats Cheese and Chorizo offer with all the trimmings (including chips) for €8.50. But I picked the Grilled Cod Sandwich (with creamy slaw and tartar sauce on a multiseed ciabatta). Excellent. Fish tasted as fresh as could be and good value for €9.50.

CL’s Black Wrap came in at a euro less and was also well worth it. This Spinach infused tortilla with black beans, avocado, sweetcorn, black olives, leaves, salsa, and coriander with chipotle and lime yoghurt was packed with great flavour and texture. Other sandwiches on offer included Cajun Chicken and Chorizo, Baked Ham and Smoked Gubbeen, Fried Chicken Wrap.

After that and a chat or two with the friendly and helpful staff we were good and ready for our tour of the Micil Distillery. Staying overnight? Why not try the Nox Hotel who have a great offer for January?

* We’ll have to ORSO by night sometime and get stuck into that amazing beer list

Monday, November 26, 2018

Wild Christmas with Brett, Black & Brut. Eight Degrees Trespass Dark Farmhouse Ale


Dreaming of a Wild Christmas with Brett, Black and Brut. 
Eight Degrees Trespass Dark Farmhouse Ale with Blackberries 7.5% ABV 75cl bottle.

Raised with Brett and infused with Blackberry, I was thinking funky and farmyard as I pondered this Christmas special from Mitchelstown. And then when the person alongside, who had started ahead of me, said it smelt like cider I was thinking of some early natural wines that had ill-advisedly been put on the market, quite possibly putting some people off natural for a long time.

A friend of mine who had then recently opened a market stall, always maintained you just had to get a drop or a morsel into the potential customer’s mouth to make the sale. So I remembered him as I raised the glass and soon the preconceptions vanished like the courage of a Ballyhoura poacher disturbed in the act.

This dark farmhouse ale is not a rough and ready country bumpkin (by the way, what do you call a city bumpkin?) at all. Au contraire, Rodney. And its natural sophistication is not overly surprising when you consider the distinguished “assistant” the Eight Degrees brewers had. None other than Jamil  Zainasheff, owner of California’s Heretic Brewing and author of Yeast and Brewing Classic Styles.

I enjoyed my first glass with a slow-cooked dinner of Woodside Farm Pork (shoulder) and a bunch of winter root vegetables. The experience was excellent. But how would my Trespass drink on its own?

Excellent is the answer, again. The adventurous “melange” is more about the Brett than the hops. Not a bubble in sight in the dark brown liquid but a refreshing tang and a cutting acidity, the kind you’d come across in a good Brut champagne. A classy drink which, by the way, has spent no less than 15 months in Burgundy (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) barrels. And, after finishing school, Eight Degrees added even more of those Ballyhoura blackberries.

Perhaps not my favourite aromas but now this rich and dark saison-like beer with its lip-smacking finish is a firm favourite. Brett, Black and Brut is the new order! Now, I’d better order that goose for Christmas, as that’s the recommended match from Eight Degrees.

Trespass is the latest in their Ballyhoura Wild Series which already includes Hopsfume 100% Brett IPA, The Oak King Belgian Pale Ale, and the Holly King Imperial Stout.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Kinsale’s CRU is Grand! Bubbling with personality


Kinsale’s CRU is Grand!
Bubbling with personality


CRU, at 5 Main Street, Kinsale

Cru is a relatively new winebar and bistro in Kinsale’s centre and was busy and buzzing when we called recently for dinner. Good simple food is promised here with good wine and music as well. And they deliver on all counts.

And there’s a very warm welcome led by owner Colm Ryan and backed up by the friendly staff. The wine list is pretty extensive ranging from cheap and cheerful to the very serious stuff and all the notes are by the owner who will also be very glad to help you make your choice. Indeed, there is almost a “standing order" here to have fun. Enjoyment is positively encouraged.

Colm has also compiled the music list which blends perfectly into the buzz as the long and narrow room, divided into three sections, fills. There is also a smaller room upstairs, ideal for groups of up to twenty two or so.
Fish special - Lemon Sole

No delay here - you soon have the menu and water at your table and either the owner or one of the staff on hand to answer any queries and also to fill you in on the day’s specials. And these specials are seriously worth reading and noting.

Fish is prominent here, on both the regular menu and on the specials. It is a very good place to try oysters if you haven't done so before as they sell them singly here. They come from nearby Haven Shellfish as do the mussels.

Indeed CL started with the Moules Mariniere with the traditional white wine, cream and garlic sauce. They don’t promise cutting edge here, just “simple but high quality food”. And that can be applied to the mussels. And also to my Pan seared scallops with Clonakilty black pudding, pea and mint puree, crispy pancetta. And the Clon mention reminds me to say that there is a definite support here for local producers.

On then to the mains, both fish. My pick, and it was faultless, was the Pan roasted John Dory with salsa verde, basil mash and a side of market vegetables. CL went for the special of Lemon Sole, a couple of delicious fresh fillets with prawns and mussels, samphire, black pepper and lemon butter, crushed baby potato and market veg. Well cooked, well presented and another dish well polished off. Indeed, all of six plates went back empty.
Sundae

There is also a desserts specials board, quite a few choices. CL is a crumble specialist so she picked the Apple and Blackberry Crumble with crême Anglaise and ice-cream. The fruit was superb here. I meanwhile was tucking into the eye-catching strawberry and lemon curd ice-cream sundae.

Oh, I’d better mention the wines!😀 We enjoyed an Albarino; the Val de Sosego 2017, from Rias Baixas DO, had a great balance of fruit and acidity and went well with the fish. And our second was the Frescobaldi Castello di Pomino 2016, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, with a lovely rich palate and persistent finish. I think I got more out of this excellent wine while sipping between courses.

Prefer a beer? You’re covered here with craft beers by Eight Degrees, 9 White Deer, Black’s of Kinsale, Clonakilty Brewing Company, all available and also the local Stonewell cider.

So that was it. After another wee chat with Colm, another two happy CRU customers headed out into the calm summer’s evening.




Wednesday, July 4, 2018

More from the dark side.


More from the dark side

It may be summertime, with a vengeance, but here are a few beers that you can enjoy anytime, even if they are on the dark side.

White Gypsy Dark Lady, 5.2%, 500ml bottle


“Follow the Hops” say Kinnegar on their bottle (below) while Tipperary’s White Gypsy says “Follow your Fortune”. You won't go far wrong if you follow White Gypsy and this particular lady, a brew that contains Bohemian and Munich malts, roasted barley, Saaz hops, and Czech yeast.

A dark brown colour conceals this European lady who turns out to be a lager; as the bottle says “don't be afraid of the dark”. The Dark Lady also turns out to be well-made, well mannered. Nothing sinister here, just an interesting beer from Templemore, not for the first time. The notes from the roasted barley are a prominent feature though, in fairness, it has an excellent rounded flavour all the way through to a very satisfying finish.




Kinnegar Black Bucket “Black Rye IPA”, 6.5%, 440ml can

Don’t think I've ever met anyone from Kinnegar Brewing but I do get on very well with their products, right since I first tasted them in The Cove Restaurant in Port na Blagh in June 2013. Enjoyed three that evening: the Limeburner Pale Ale, the Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale and the Devil’s Backbone Amber Ale.

And now this one is added to my favourites. They call it “the bigger darker brother” to their popular Rustbucket Rye. It balances rye and roasted malts with fresh hop aromas and flavours and is unfiltered. 

This special beer comes in a long black robe but no disguising this is an IPA and one out to make a name for itself. Hop aromas and flavours, along with coffee notes, combine to make this an outstanding drop.



West Kerry brewery “Carraig Dubh” Porter, 6%, 500ml bottle
This is the real black, that of traditional porter, and the ingredients are malted barley, hops, yeast, and water from their own well. It has a lacy head that doesn’t linger, persistent aromas of toffee and caramel. Flavours follow through in this smooth porter and then there’s a lip smacking finish.

So black is back but was it ever away? Not for those of us who saved the hay or gathered to help at a threshing, a heavy glass bottle of porter in your hand at the end of a hard day.

It also reminds me of going into Kelly’s in Belderrig (on the north coast of Mayo) and the lady behind the counter grabbing a chipped enamel jug and ducking down and coming up with it full before pouring my black pint. No head, of course.

Fancy another from the dark side? Check out West Cork Brewery's Roaring Ruby Red Ale, yesterday's Taste of the Week.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Larkin's Brewery of Wicklow. A Family That Brews Together.


Larkin's Brewery of Wicklow.
A Family That Brews Together.
Unusually, for a craft brewery, the main focus in Larkin’s County Wicklow Brewery is on lager. Maybe it is a Wicklow thing as Mont, known for their lager, are also based here.

Just a few years ago, the Larkin family beer enterprise was confined to the domestic kitchen. Decision to “go” in 2015 was backed by the whole family and a year later equipment was ordered. Great feedback at the 2017 Irish Craft Beer Festival saw the Larkins schedule a full launch early this year and now, with a trio of lagers front and centre, they have arrived.


Larkin’s Pale Ale 4.5%, 440ml can €3.75 Bradley’s Cork

Essentially this is a pretty serious Pale Ale, refreshing, with low to moderate bitterness. Colour is a mid-gold (hazy), white head is long-lasting. Might be of moderate bitterness but the twice used Lemondrop and Cascade hops make their presence felt as this well-made beer heads to a dry finish.

Larkin’s Märzen Lager 5.7%, 500ml bottle €3.50 Bradley’s

The Märzen style originated in Bavaria. It was brewed in March (hence the name) and served during the Octoberfest. “Dark brown, full bodied and bitter” is the description of the original.

Larkin’s is pretty close to that: malty, good flavour and a clean finish. Colour may not be quite a dark brown, closer to amber. The off-white head, thin to begin with, lasts longer than expected but that’s a minor detail. This is a highly enjoyable lager and well worth a try.

Larkin’s Doppelbock Lager 7.6%, 500ml bottle €3.95 Bradley’s

“There’s eating and drinking it” is a Cork saying and it could well be applied to this strong lager. Traditional bock is a sweet, relatively strong beer and the name doppelbock indicates even more strength. It was originally brewed by monks for nourishment during Lenten fasting. Cute boys, those German monks.

The Larkin’s Doppelbock has a dark brown colour with a coffee-cream head that vanishes fairly quickly. It is aromatic, with concentrated sweetish flavours including caramel that disguise the high alcohol. Strong yes but fairly well balanced and with a satisfactory finalé. The Märzen is the easier drink though but if you are fasting, then that Doppelbock’s your only man.

Larkin’s Baltic Porter 7.0%, 500ml bottle €3.95 Bradley’s


Baltic Porter comes originally from the Baltic states, usually stronger and sweeter. By the way, a lager yeast is normally used and indeed, you read “lager” on the Larkin’s label.

It has, as you'd expect, a black body; also a coffee coloured head that doesn't last long. Toasted coffee and caramel type flavours, a touch of that sweetness too; flavours are concentrated and the finish is soft and pleasant. A rather nice porter but not that easy drinking. Might use it as a warm-up for a stout session!

* They also produce a Helles lager but I didn't get my hands on one - yet!

Larkin's Brewing Company
Unit 2, Renmore Business Park, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow.
info@larkinsbrewing.com
+353 (1) 281 1640


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Leisurely Tour and Tasting at Cotton Ball Micro-Brewery


Leisurely Tour and Tasting at Cotton Ball Micro-Brewery
Eoin (right) starts the tour.

The sun shone as members (and guests) of the Munster Wine & Dine gathered at the Cotton Ball for a leisurely tour of and tasting at the pub’s own micro-brewery. The brewery was founded by the Lynch family less than five years ago yet they’ve outgrown the original brewery and have moved into a new one in their Mayfield (Cork) premises.

The old brewery is being wound down, our guide Eoin Lynch told us, but is still being used for some brews, including their Lynch’s Stout. He is delighted with the “huge difference in space” afforded them by the new facility.

They also have their own mill, the grain coming from Togher. Speciality malts are imported, mainly from Europe, and we had some fun smelling the many aromas.
Speciality malt, from Belgium

Someone asked what’s the most popular beer. Eoin: “Most of the beer in the world is lager. Craft or not, you can’t ignore that. It is a very competitive market with more and more craft breweries opening. We use tip top ingredients here but labour is the big cost!”

They have almost tripled batch size with the new facility. “But we still need to balance demand, not to get too far ahead. You don’t want product sitting around.” And he confirmed, in response to a question, that draught does indeed taste better. One of the reasons is that most bottles are filtered for “shelf life purposes”.

He showed us some of their kit, including the bottling line, capable of doing 1,000 bottles an hour. A new keg wash means they put through three kegs at a time instead of one previously.

Now it was time to sit down in the Brewery Room, pay tribute to the bar founder, one Humphrey Lynch, Eoin’s great-grandfather, who left Ballyvourney at 15 years of age and settled in an American town known as Byefield which he later used in naming his Cork estate house. 
Cheese please

After working for two years with Joseph Longfellow, cousin to the famous poet, he worked for a year in the ship yard at Newburyport until the American civil war broke out. 

He was one of the first to enlist in the 4th U.S regiment light artillery battery and served through 27 general engagements principally in the army of the southwest and along the Mississippi valley. Then he worked for 14 years as a foreman of the picker room in Newburyport cotton mill. 

This would later give him the name of a public house he purchased in Baile na mBocht  (now Mayfield) after returning to Ireland in 1870’s. Nowadays, each bottle from the new brewery pays tribute to the man who made it all possible, bearing an image of American Civil War veteran Humphrey on the label. 
Keg washing facility

We were on the draught though, five beers in all. And Isabelle Sheridan of On the Pig’s Back supplied the cheeses for the pairings. Generally, it seemed the stronger the beer, the stronger the cheese. 

For instance, the lager and the easy drinking Indian Summer paired well with the Ardsallagh Feta, the Ale with Hegarty’s Cheddar, the Indian Pale Ale (with the Magnum hops, a favourite bittering hops here) with both the Cheddar and the Bleu D’Auvergne. The stout too matched up well with both the cheddar and the bleu. And Hegarty’s new comté style cheese called Teampallgeal was very popular across the board!
le bleu
A pint of Lynch's

After that generous tasting, there was a pint “of your choice” for each guest and lots of chat as the evening wound down and I relaxed with a flavoursome pint of Lynch’s excellent stout.

Until the next time, which will be a mid-summer trip to the county on July 8th. Members are asked to keep an eye on their emails for details. Later in the year, we will be visiting The Mews in Baltimore and Longueville House in Mallow.

  • A more detailed account of the soldier and entrepreneur Humphrey Lynch may be found here  
  • The Cotton Ball website is here
  • For more info on Munster Wine & Dine, click here

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Few Beer Classics. Four of the Best


A Few Beer Classics

Four of the Best

St Bernardus Abt 12, 10% abv, 33 cl bottle €4.50 Bradley’s of Cork

This extra strong Belgian barley wine style beer has a large creamy head; colour is golden brown and there are fruity and hoppy elements in the aromas. It is complex and full-bodied, packed with flavour and then a long finish with a hoppy bite. Well balanced overall and no wonder they call it “the pride of our stable”.

Indeed, this quadrupel is regarded as one of the best beers in the world. In the Belgian scheme of beer, quadrupel indicates it is stronger than a tripel, which is stronger than a dubbel. One for sipping then, but each sip packs a beautiful punch. 

St Bernardus, by the way, run a B&B in the brewery. Now that, combined with a tour and tasting, would be some visit. In addition, “B&B Het Brouwershuis is a place to enjoy a gastronomic breakfast buffet, to take the time for a chat and to make use of the unlimited possibilities to explore the region”. Check it out here.  

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, 5.95%, 33 cl bottle, €3.50, Bradley’s of Cork

The complexity of this multi award winning American style IPA is down to no less than the six hops used: Chinook, Centennial, Ahtanum, Simcoe, Columbus and Cascade. Thornbridge, based in Derby, are regarded by many as Britain’s leading 21st century brewery.

It wears this complexity lightly though and you’ll have no problem sipping your way through this beauty from the UK brewery. It has a fairly cloudy pale yellow colour and hoppy aromas. Smooth on the palate, hoppy, citrus notes too, and a beautiful balance all the way to hoppy finish. Not too much more to say except that this is more or less the perfect IPA. Not surprised that the award tally worldwide has soared to over the one hundred mark.

Saison Dupont (Belgium) 6.5%, €2.95 33cl bottle Bradley’s Cork

Beer has been brewed here for centuries but it is only in the last 20 years or so that the Dupont Brewery has become a global reference for saison. As Michael Creedon of Bradley’s told me “if you don’t like this, you don’t like saison”.

It is a cloudy mid-amber, fountains of micro-bubbles. Aromas of citrus. Light and fruity, zesty and refreshing, yet no shortage of hearty flavour. Reckon any labourer, even a keyboard one, would be happy with this impeccable beer. Superb finish also with the bitterness now to the forefront.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 5.6abv, 355ml can at Bradley’s of Cork


This 100% whole-cone Cascade hops beer, with its piney and grapefruit aromas, is a classic, all natural, bottle conditioned and refreshingly bold. And still going strong after 35 years.

Bitterness comes in at 38 and suggested food pairings are grilled steak, citrus salad, Thai curry and roasted veg.

So what does this “turning point for American beer” taste like? Well, it looks like hazy amber in the glass and smells like its well hopped, pine notes coming through. By the time I had written that, the frail white head had more or less vanished. Time for the first sip which was superb, hops and fruit, a terrific mouthful. No wonder it has become a classic, setting the standard for start-up breweries across the world. Viva Nevada!

Just noticed that this Pale Ale has been voted No. 1 in Food & Wine's 25 Most Important American Craft Beers Ever. See the full list here.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hackney's Five Points Brewing Comes To Cork. From one marsh to another.

Hackney's Five Points Brewing Comes To Cork.
From one marsh to another.
From one marsh to another, Five Points beers should be a good fit in Cork. The independent brewery is based in the heart of Hackney (East London), situated in a Victorian Railway arch and takes its name from an adjacent five-way junction. The beers, as we found out at a very enjoyable tasting in the Abbot’s Ale House, a craft mecca, last week, are full of flavour and aroma; all are unfiltered and unpasteurised for a better taste.

Five Points, founded five years back, launched in Ireland on the first of the month and Accredited Beer Sommelier Francesca Slattery, Ireland Account Manager, was in Abbot’s to guide us through a very interesting tasting indeed.

We started with the Pale. “We spent six months developing this, we had to get it right. It should be our backbone.” It is right and, with 60% of the sales (total of 2.1 million pints!), it is indeed the backbone of Five Points. It is a fresh, modern and aromatic Pale Ale (4.4%); easy drinking and perfect for any occasion. Hops are Amarillo and Citra and it comes in cask, keg, bottle and can.

The next beer, XPA, was actually brewed for an occasion, a local music festival. Citra and the Australian Galaxy are the hops. Francesca (Chess for short!) said it was bitter upfront but with a sweeter finish, the Golden Naked Oats help give it a nice mouthfeel. At 4% ABV, it is extra drinkable too and proved so popular at the festival that it was kept on the list. Can and keg.


On then to a bottle - Five Points package in cask, keg, can and bottle - of Hook Island Red (6%). Anton of Abbot’s: “If red good, then rest of beers should be alright.” And it is good, surprising one or two with its quality. I reckon it would be even better with food. Chess: “Though red is not a big thing in the UK, I love this beer, the way the hops cut through the sweetness and the rye makes it spicy.”

Customers may like the rye but brewers don’t as it can clog up the system! Still Five Points loaded this with 20% rye. Six malts and three hops all added to the final result. Cask, keg and bottle.
Francesca finds a winner!

A well balanced, full bodied beer brewed with all-British barley and Golden Naked Oats, coupled with Willamette hops from the USA, is how they describe Brick Field Brown. With earthy aromas and flavours of Demerara and hazelnuts, “it’s a hug in a glass”. Hops is Willamette, it is 5.4% and sold in cask and keg.

“India Pale Ale,” said Chess, “is an English thing.” But it took the US to revive it and that spurred the UK to renew their interest. White Shield and Bengal Lancer were mentioned as being iconic IPAs but we were happy to settle for the delicious Five Points version at Abbot’s. It is quite perfect so much so that you hardly notice its 7.1 ABV. Available in keg, bottle and can.

Then we had a final treat, the very last of the Derailed Porter at 5.6%. Chocolate and caramel with sufficient bitterness, this old style porter is delicious but Chess teased by telling us that it was even better in cask!

And so the tutored tasting came to a close but the evening was only starting as we moved downstairs for some serious tasting. Say no more!
Thanks to Anton (far right) of Abbot's for the pics.