Showing posts with label Eight Degrees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eight Degrees. Show all posts

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!



Thursday, January 24, 2019

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest. Wines, Spirits and Beers Events


CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers Events

Arthur Mayne’s Burns Supper
Some wee walkies too.

A night of literary celebration awaits as the annual Burns Supper returns to Arthur Mayne's! 

This year we've teamed up with Chivas Regal and 3 of the other Cork Heritage Pubs Mutton Lane The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega and Oval Bar to bring you a night to remember! 

On Friday January 25th the trail starts here in Arthur Mayne's! recite your favourite Burns poem and join us for a glass of Chivas Regal 12 year old and a piece of fresh haggis! 
See poster for details

Eight Degrees Tasting
Beer tasting at Kilbarry SuperValu, Tramore Road, Waterford.
Time: 14:00 to 19:00
Cans: Sesiún, Citra, Hurricane, Full Irish 
On offer at 3 for €10


TODAY FRI AT 2 PM
Kilbarry SuperValu · Waterford

Wines Direct
“Celebrate the end of your 'Janvier Sec' (we can't even say the words in this parish) in style with the return of our Mystery Box. Once again we have created a limited number of very special cases, heavily discounted and with Free Delivery included.” • 12 Bottles • 6 Red • 6 White • No Doubles • No Duds. €150. Details here https://winesdirect.ie/the-mystery-box.html 

SuperValu Offers You Bubbles for Valentine’s
SuperValu have a bunch of bubbles on offer just in time for Valentines Day. The one I fancy is McGuigan’s Frizzante. I remember Neil McGuigan introducing that at a dinner in the Trident not too long ago - he just loved getting the most out of the pronunciation!  

“It comes in a resealable bottle,” he said. “It is produced from Semillon grapes, it is easy drinking, for everyday”. Nothing wrong with easy drinking on Valentine’s either! It is fresh, soft, scented and grapey, with delicious lightness and good length. Best served chilled. And it is down from €14.99 to €10.00!


Spanish Wine Week including Two-day Tapas Competition in Kerry.
Part of Spanish Wine Week 8th -14th April 2019

Brittany at The Friary!
Cider and Crepes

 Let's all celebrate Brittany once again. Sat Feb 9th - 6.00pm! Details https://www.facebook.com/events/2925144140830855/

In a galaxy, not so far away, there is a country, proud and full of culture.
For one night, let's celebrate this wonderful land… Brittany! 

Gorgeous single estate cider and apple liqueur imported directly from Château de Lézergué, delicious salty and sweet crêpes made by the “bretonniest” of the bretons Cyril Kerboul, all of this wrapped with the best music that Bretagne can offer (and obviously with no partiality at all). [*edit DJ Arbraz*: extreme partiality intensifies]

Kentoc'h mervel eget bezan saotret…
Breizh da viken!*
Let's all celebrate Brittany once again.







L’Atitude WINTER WINE SERIES

MOUNTAINS, ISLANDS,
VOLCANOES & COASTS
Thurs Feb 7th 7.00pm

VOLCANOES

The Winter Wine Series focuses on the landscape around where grapes are grown and how it influences wine style. In this second tasting we will look at volcanoes and how volcanic soil structure creates a unique environment that influences grapes. There are many examples of interesting wines produced on volcanic soils – ranging from Etna to Santorini, Tenerife, Chile, Oregon and Madeira, to name but a few. We will present a selection we think really reflect their volcanic origin.

Join us and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau , Kilkenny as we taste our way though our selection of favourite “Volcanic” wines.

Tickets €20. Booking Essential





Richy’s BYO Offer
Clonakilty restaurant Richy’s are offering a helping hand when dining out. “Feeling the crunch after Christmas? Why not save some dosh by bringing your own wine to Richy’s! T&C's apply. Available 14th Jan - 28th Feb 2019. Corkage €5.”
Franciscan Well’s Cask Ales and Strange Brew Fest
Our favourite festival of the year....The Cask Ales and Extraordinary Brew Festival running from Jan 31st to Feb 2nd. Yellow Belly, Rising Suns, Metalman and West Cork Brewing are just some of the brewers at the festival and will compete in the Beoir Cask Competition to see who can come up with the most extraordinary beer under categories: Best lager, best "pale', best stout and best specialty. Judged by The national Beer enthusiasts club, winners will be announced on the Saturday of the festival. Live music, performances & Pompeii pizza! Admission is free

  


Monday, December 10, 2018

Taste of the Week. Eight Degrees Blowhard Imperial Stout.


Eight Degrees Blowhard Imperial Stout 12%, 330ml bottle widely available

Long yarn on the label, rare deep-diving whales who go down to the darkest black and blow hard on their return. The Eight Degree brewers trawled to the furthest limits here and, barely decompressed,  came to tell their daring Christmas tale and they called this deep-dark and delicious creation Blowhard.

The smooth and flavour-packed beer, from regions hitherto unexplored, was quarantined for 30 days in Jameson barrels. Don’t worry, it is now safe in this Christmas season to open the little bottle but do pour slowly, sip slowly too. No point in going overboard when the hard work of the voyage is done. Enjoy the amazing flavours and do watch out for a nice hint of uisce beatha in the long aftertaste!

This is a classic Imperial Stout, with knobs on. They stuffed the mash tun to the gills, double mashed for extra flavour, used premium Irish malt, went overboard with toasted dark malts and extra roasted barley – all before committing the beer to a month long sentence in Jameson whiskey barrels, courtesy of their friends in Irish Distillers.

It is a spectacular seasonal special. Try it, they recommend, with steaks and cheese. Or at the end of the meal, pair with a dark and rich Christmas pudding or a decadent Belgian chocolate mousse. Didn’t have either in the house last Saturday night but did have some Mince Pies (made by Foods of Athenry). Got lucky with that pairing as it worked a treat. Pudding is next!

Availability: Very limited draught. 330ml bottles (RRP €4.20).

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.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Two Hundred Year Old Pub Gets New Lease of Life Thanks to Máire and Victor. Emphasis very much on Local Food and Drink at O’Mahony’s Watergrasshill.


Two Hundred Year Old Pub Gets New Lease of Life Thanks to Máire and Victor.
Emphasis very much on Local Food and Drink at O’Mahony’s Watergrasshill.



O’Mahony’s Pub in Watergrasshill packs a lot into its weekend life. Start with the food: delicious sharing boards and small plates are based on the best of local and seasonal produce and don't cost the earth. While you will get your mainstream pints, you may also enjoy a good craft beer or two and their current House Drink is Bertha’s Revenge Gin made by their neighbours over in Castlelyons.

And that’s only the start of it. Take a look outside and you’ll see an area “as big as a field”. More like a big garden, with a stage platform and there’s lots of cover here making it an ideal spot for a celebration of any kind (they’ve already had a wedding here) and great too for BBQ with its own bar.
Antipasto

And it’s also here that you’ll find the Long Room, the music venue. And if you feel like dancing, go right ahead. Take the floor, a real dance-floor, maybe a chunk of a ballroom of romance recycled.

And all that music and dancing takes place in a recycled cow shed. The village used to be a staging post for cattle on their way to the city and indeed, there was a slaughter house at the back (a glasshouse will be going up there soon). The meat hooks hanging in the bar will remind you of those times.
Artists at work

And that’s not all you’ll see hanging here. Máire is an artist and her works are proudly on display. And that  leads me to the kids. Yours are more than welcome. Their own menu is up on the big blackboard. And there’s another blackboard, a whole wall of them, outside in a smaller sheltered area. Here the children can draw to their heart's content and every now and then there is a competition.

Just so much going on here. The Bushby strawberries, those beautiful fruits from West Cork had run out, just a few left. No problem. Blackberries are growing well “out the back” - lots of herbs there too and there will be more. So those blackberries are on the menu in an instant! Beat that for fresh and local.
Kofta

So what did we have al fresco on a sunny Friday evening? Started with Antipasto (10.50), one of three sharing boards. It consisted of Pana Sourdough, Mozzarella from Macroom, artichoke hearts and more, with little bowls of hummus and pesto. Enjoyed that, me sipping from a cooling flavourful pint of Eight Degrees Howling Gale Ale (5.00) while CL was enjoying some of Bertha’s Revenge Gin with Fever-tree Tonic (9.50).

Victor is well known for his part in the House Cafe in the Opera House and there are similarities with the food in that successful venture. For instance, suppliers such as Ballyhoura and Kilbrack Farm also feature in Watergrasshill.
Bavette

As does butcher Eoin O’Mahony (no relation). The O’Mahony’s Bavette steak salad, a beautiful Asian marinade worked a treat on the meat which is scattered with sesame seeds and served with vermicelli noodles (9.50), is a beauty. 

The Lamb Kofta is another highlight, also €9.50. This comes with Cork made Syrian flatbread, hummus, tzatziki, sumac pickled onions and leaves.
Dessert, with ultra local blackberries! The timber serving boards are made in nearby Carrignavar.

Time now for dessert. With the strawberries running out, Victor suggested the Treats Board (8.50). And we shared the delights of the mix of a Shortbread treat with fruit (those blackberries from Watergrasshill, not Guatemala), a chocolate brownie, a lemon curd slice, and more.
Local drinks: Bertha's Revenge and Eight Degrees

Too full to dance after that! Only joking. The food here is excellent, well sourced and you won’t be stuffed with chips, mash, baked potatoes and so on. But do watch out for their side of Patatas Bravas, just one of many good things in this warm welcoming venue. Try it out soon, just ten minutes from the tunnel!

Tradition and sustainability
O'Mahony's
Main St, Watergrasshill, Co. Cork
Food
6pm – 9pm, Fri – Sun

ENQUIRIES
+353 (0)86 831 6879

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, December 14, 2017

Farmgate Café. Traditional. Seasonal. Regional. Food of the land and work of local hands.

Farmgate Café. Traditional. Seasonal. Regional.

Food of the land and work of local hands.
Irish stew. Bacon and Cabbage. Just the mention of these traditional Irish dishes can get some modern “foodies”, some chefs too, on their high horses. They don’t want us posting pictures  of our peasant food on the internet, preferring instead those “decorated” with colourful drops from a squeegee bottle. 

I like my stew, like my bacon and cabbage. Just as the French like their hardly photogenic Coq au vin. And when I saw the lamb stew on the menu during last Saturday's visit to The Farmgate, above the English Market, I had no hesitation in ordering it. It was a cold day and the warming stew was the ideal comfort food. And reasonable photogenic as well.

The Hartes (Kay and daughter Rebecca) are in no doubt about the value of tradition. “Farmgate Café embraces much of what is unique and traditional to Cork along with new influences in this dynamic multicultural food market and port city. Centuries old traditional, seasonal, regional, even ‘forgotten’ foods are at the core of the Farmgate ethos, and also form a visible link between the menu and the wonderful array of produce downstairs.”

“This allows Farmgate Café to provide a uniquely Irish eating experience both reflecting and playing a small role in a vibrant Irish food culture truly embracing how good indigenous ingredients and food products are.”

The popular Farmgate is divided into two sections, as you may know. You may well need to book to get a table in the Dining Room while most of the rest of the mezzanine, the Balcony, is informal so you just queue and order and the order, if not self-service, will be delivered to your table. 

We had booked and were lucky to get a table in an outdoor room adjoining the Dining Room. We were told it would be cold but no problem. There are glass panels up to head height (where you sit), heaters overhead and, just in case, blankets!

No need for the blankets though as we ordered from the regular list. There are always at least three daily specials: meat, fish and tart. The Lamb and Potato stew (€14.00, a euro less on the balcony) has regular company in Chargrilled Chicken, Traditional Pork Sausages with lentils, a Cured Fish plate, a Market Mezze, and a Warm Salad of free range chicken. Traditional yes but not hidebound by the past either.

In any case, that Lamb stew was delicious, the meat flavoursome and tender, the vegetables spot-on, and the potatoes were perfect. And here you’ll have no problem enjoying the last of the tasty liquid as, in addition to knife and fork, they also provide a spoon.

Lunchtime queue for the Farmgate lunch
on the Balcony while the market continues
below.
This was peak lunchtime on Saturday yet the staff, in their smart seasonal clothing, were excellent, very helpful all the way through.

I’d finish up also with a traditional touch. Had been swaying between the Christmas Pudding and the Mince Pie (3.50). The Brandy Cream swung it for the Pie which had a nice layer of crumble on top. 

CL wanted to experiment so she went for the non-traditional Salted Caramel Confit Banana with Rum and Raisin Ice-cream (5.00). A brave woman to take on the ice-cream but it was a seriously delicious finish.

The Farmgate believes in supporting local food. And local drink too. Ciders come from Longueville House and Stonewell, beers from Eight Degrees and Dungarvan Brewing, while the wines are all European.

We had been taking the odd peek down to the floor of the market and, after settling up, we joined the crowd down on the floor. Eventually we had a stroll through Glow and then visited Christmas markets in St Peter’s and The Franciscan Well (this is on again next Saturday).




English Market
Princes Street
Cork
T12NC8Y
Tel: 021 427 8134. Int: 00 353 21 427 8134
Email (general enquiries only): info@farmgatecork.ie

Monday, December 11, 2017

Winter Kings by Eight Degrees. Royal Clash of the Oak. And the Holly.

Winter Kings by Eight Degrees.

Royal Clash of the Oak. And the Holly.
Ale (left) and stout, peaceful in the pack.

Quite a lot of talk about Brett C when Eight Degrees recently launched their pair of winter seasonals, a Belgian Pale Ale and an Imperial Stout, both part of the Ballyhoura Series.

Who the hell is Brett C? I googled it and found that he is a Melbourne, Australia based photographer who specialises in sport, fashion, event and people photography. 

We all know Eight Degrees have antipodean connections but this is the wrong answer. Brettanomyces is its proper name and it is a yeast that the brewery has used in each of these beers. Brett C, the yeast that is, is more likely to be noticed in the aromas than in the flavours and funky is the term regularly associated with it.

Mid-winter is a source of many legends and myths and the battle between the oak king and the holly king is the one you’ll see on the bottle labels. Various versions abound and here are two links you might explore when sipping these Mitchelstown gems.


The Holly King (wren) and the Oak King (robin)  https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/04/13/the-holly-and-oak-king/

Scott (left) and Cam, at work

The Oak King Belgian Pale Ale, 6.5% abv, RRP €7.95 (75ml bottle) 

This Belgian style pale ale has an amber robe. There’s an almost cider-y intro to the palate, gradually getting more complex before a tart finish. Sour maybe but not crab apple sour, perhaps the oak has rounded off any extremes.

Austere is probably the single best word to describe this sophisticated offering. Don't let the “austere” put you off though. This is one of the most interesting seasonal beers this Christmas and I may well be serving it as an aperitif in champagne flutes as suggested by the brewery.

Brewery tips: Serve well chilled in champagne flutes as an aperitif on Christmas morning, with a half-dozen oysters or some smoked salmon, or take it to the dinner table to pair perfectly with your turkey.

The Holly King Imperial Stout, 9.8% abv, €11.95 RRP (75ml bottle)

As black as a mid-winter’s night in a Ballyhoura boreen, though it starts with a tanned head that, like many a tan from a bottle, doesn't last too long. The intro to the palate is intense, treacle like in flavour or maybe it’s funk, but soon more traditional flavours, including coffee, take over. Some vanilla there too, all brought together, along with Brett C of course, during the sojourn in the oak casks (previously used for Pinot Noir). Strong start, strong finish, quite a player for the Christmas team.

Brewery tips: It's a hugely complex beer, so pour it into snifters and sip it slowly to end a meal with a slice of spicy Christmas Cake, studded with nuts and dried fruit, classic Black Forrest Gateau or a box of cocoa-dusted dark chocolate truffles.

* Both are packaged in 750ml amber champagne-style bottles and are available individually or as 2 x 750ml bottle gift packs (RRP €19.95). They are widely available, including at Bradley’s Cork; for more stockists and more info, click hereBeoirFinder App now available for Android and iOS .

* And while you're on the net, check out some of my favourite funk right here




Thursday, December 7, 2017

The SpitJack's Superb New Menu. Amazing Cheese and Fortifieds List

The SpitJack's Superb New Menu. 
Amazing Cheese and Fortifieds List
Pom'O (right) and Ice Wine
from Glounthaune.

The SpitJack has hit the ground running in Washington Street and, with its first summer a success, has just announced its new winter menu. I took the opportunity to try it out in mid-week. The meats as you’d expect, as SpitJack is a rotisserie, are top notch but the real surprise was the new Cheese and Fortified Menu. Not too many of our top restaurants will match this magical list of possible combinations.

And the good news is that there is quite a local input. Near neighbours, Ardsallagh Goats and Johnny Fall Down, feature strongly. The inventive Glounthaune drinks outfit are doubly represented with a Pom’O Apple Port and a Rare Apple Ice Wine.

The Pom’O is based on the traditional Normandy pommeau (pressed apple juice with apple brandy) but the Glounthaune orchard has added a twist or two of their own to make this beauty. They used rare apples and then a combination of freezing and thawing, a year long fermentation and nothing at all was added to make the Ice Wine, the first Irish ice wine to be sold.

It is beautiful and rich and perfect with the cheeses that we had and with the Ardsallagh Ash Pyramid in particular. Ardsallagh have a much longer history in the East Cork area than Johnny Fall Down but Jane Murphy continues to innovate and this is her first ash pyramid. Made from pasteurised mild goats milk, it is formed into the traditional Valencay shape and sealed in ash. Got an early taste during the Culture Night but this is the first commercial batch and it won't be the last.

The Ardsallagh was served with Fig Compote. Our second cheese was a favourite of ours from our (too) few visits to the Basque country. It is a sheep cheese from Ossau-Iraty a area of the Pyrenees where we got “lost” once or twice. In the Basque country, they often serve it with a Black Cherry conserve (I use Loganberry jam at home!); last night, SpitJack’s Quince paste was excellent. 
Lamb

Then we finished with the Comte AOC from the Jura mountains, served with truffle honey. This 24 month vieux is a beauty, delicious, and enhanced by that honey. 

Other cheeses on this impressive list include: Brillat Savarin, Camembert Bonchoix AOC, Cashel Blue Mature, Durrus Og, Epoisses AOC, Manchego 18 months PDO, Pont L’Évêque AOC, and Stilton PDO. There are three Quinta Seara D’Ordens signature ports on the fortifieds list while dessert wines include Chateau Camperos Sauternes and a couple of sherries, a  Colosio PX and Orleans Borbon Manzanilla, plus the two Johnny Fall Down drinks. 
Pork

The new menu, like the previous one, is well constructed, in the sense that, if you wish, you can avoid meat in the starters and that’s what we did.

Salted cod is an Atlantic tradition so I was delighted to see the House Salted Cod “Bunyols” (€8.5) Catalan Style Cod Fritters, Flaked Salted Cod, Fried Crisp Exterior, Soft Pillow Centre, Lime Chantilly, delighted too that I choose this tasty plateful.

Across the table, CL also made a good pick. The pickled Heirloom Beetroot Carpaccio (€7) with Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Foam, Candied Walnuts, Tarragon Oil, Watercress, looked well and tasted well.
Beetroot

On now to the main event, as my Eight Degrees Sunburnt Red Ale sank in the glass. Time for the Rotisserie Pork Belly Porchetta (€17), Slow Roasted Pork Belly Stuffed with Sage & Garlic, Crisp Crackling, Kale Colcannon Potatoes, Braised Kale & Apple Compote, Sautéed Tender Stem Broccoli, Honey Mustard Jus. “Savage,” as we say around here. The word’s not the most sophisticated but, when pronounced with soul, means the meat (in this case) is rather good my dear.

And it also may be applied to CL’s earthy choice, a peasant’s pleasant pot in winter time of Brazed and Rotisserie Roasted Lamb Shank (€19.00), with Red Wine Glaze, Pearl Barley & Winter Vegetable Cassoulet, Crème Fraîche, Mint Oil, Braised Lamb & Brandy Jus. Local and seasonal, simple soul food, simple but superb.
Cod fritters

So two very happy customers and that was before the cheese and Johnny Fall Down took us to a higher level!

Check out the new menus and more here at SpitJack

The SpitJack
34 Washington Street
Cork City

0212390613

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke. Temple of Fire and Smoke

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke

Temple of Fire and Smoke
Wings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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