2017 Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair Roundup

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The great LL Cool J once said “Don’t call this a comeback, I been here for years” and although I haven’t written a long form blog post in a minute and a half, I’ve still been knocking around, posting on the facebook page, going to events and tweeting about stuff now and then.

Being in the final year of a degree my time is usually taken up by writing assignments or other boring things, but this past weekend I was lucky enough to be invited by Alltech to attend their yearly beer and food festival in the convention centre Dublin.

The festival hosted breweries from Ireland, the UK, Germany, the US, Spain and a few other countries as well as some of Dublin’s best street food sellers and a few spirits and wine producers, so it was a nice mixed bag to keep everyone happy for the weekend.

I didn’t bother taking pictures of the beers because despite how well run the event was, there was one major letdown, crappy opaque plastic glasses which meant there was absolutely not point photographing the beers. I did get a few snaps of the stands of my favourite brews of the weekend though.

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Reel Deel from Crossmolina in Mayo were in attendance and picked up a Medal in the Dublin Beer Cup for their Say Nowt Stout, I had a few schnakey halves of their Irish Blonde Ale which is a nice sessionable hoppy amber number.

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Trouble Brewing from Kildare had a few specials on for the weekend, their ever deadly Vietnow IPA was in fine form and I thought their Rhubarb and Custard Ale and Raspberry Weisse City Berliner were both great too, but their standout for the weekend was easily the Ambush 2.0 Fresh and Juicy Pale Ale. A 5% abv fruity hop slap in the face and definitely worth hunting down when it’s released soon.

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The Wood Quay Brewing Co. boys won a Silver and “Best Ale” in the competition for their Pilgrim Red Ale but for me it was their The Hunted Deer IPA which really impressed, and something I look forward to trying it again soon.

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Rye River Brewing had their newly re-branded McGargles range pouring. It seems the least loved family in craft beer have disappeared in all but brand name now. Presumably Ned, Rosie, Mary, Meabh, Francis, Dec, Frank and the rest crawled back into whatever corner of hell they came from. They added three new beers to the range, Little Banging IPA (3.8% session IPA), Double Banging IPA (8.0% Double IPA) and Export Stout (self explanatory).
All three were really nice but I actually really loved the Little IPA, it’s a proper session beer and I can see it being something I’d make a go to if it’s widely available.

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Yellowbelly from Wexford weren’t at the festival themselves but their new Pineable Double IPA named Unto The Breach was pouring at their good friend’s Hope Brewing’s stand. I loved this beer and it was one of my favourites of the weekend. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Hope also had a new Oatmeal IPA pouring and again this was right up me street, worth grabbing if you see it pouring or a bottle on a shelf somewhere.

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Black’s of Kinsale were pouring some rare good beers too, they had all their usual hits on tap and I was drawn back to the Hi-Viz double IPA once than once, but they also had their World’s End Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels pouring. The regular version is like a big bold chocolate milkshake and this is like it’s grown up brother with a little more complexity and a nice warmth from the wood. I really hope I find this pouring in Dublin or a bottle of it in an offie, cracking beer.

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Independent Brewing from Connemara had one of the hits of the show flowing all weekend. Their Coconut Porter was met with near universal love and adoration from everyone I spoke to besides one lad who admittedly doesn’t like dark beers or coconuts, so we’ll let him away with it. It’s a really nice low abv porter but the body is nice and full, the malt base gives some lovely caramel, chocolate and coffee notes and the toasted coconut just gives it a little extra oomph.

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Another one of the stars of the show this year was Boyne Brewhouse’s new Imperial Stout which is one of the best imperial stouts I’ve had in a long, long time. They had three versions pouring, one aged in bourbon barrels, one in sherry casks and one aged in new raw wood (a barrel that wasn’t used to age any spirits). All three were fantastic and tasting them side by side was a really interesting way to see how the various barrel types gave different characteristics to the beer. This is a must try beer in my opinion.

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Barcelona Beer Company where on hand with a few of their beers, their Miss Hop won a medal and rave reviews from judges and punters alike, and The Crafty Hoor agrees, she’s a cracker! I hear this beer and other Barcelona Beer Company brews will be more widely available on Irish shores in the near future and if the rest as as good as the IPA we’re all in for a treat, keep your eyes open for their arrival!

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Last but by no means least, The White Hag from Sligo and Kinnegar from Donegal had a combined stand where they sold beers from both breweries as well as their new collaboration Coffee Nitro Stout which was only fecking spectacular, a properly world class stout with bags of coffee, chocolate and caramel with enough raostiness to balance it all out. I also tried a little of this year’s Barrel Aged Black Boar from The White Hag. Black Boar is, in my opinion, the best regularly produced beer on this fine island and the barrel aged version this year is even better. I just wish I could have had a full bottle while sitting in front of a fire!

So that’s a rather long but strangely not very detailed account my my galivanting last weekend. Big thank you again to Alltech for the invite and all of the brewers and staff who had the chats with me, looked after me and were generally sound all weekend.

Hopefully the updates here and on FB will be more regular from here on in, but the next three months of university work will be my priority of course.

Cheers,

The Crafty Hoor

Breweries I thought I didn’t like part 1: Rye River Brewing Company

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In this series I’ll be re-visiting breweries which I’d usually avoid and seeing if I’ve changed my mind.

This has been prompted by my being surprised that several breweries I once thought were only capable of producing utter scour putting out some solid beers.

The first lucky fellows up for the Crafty Hoor school of second chances is Rye River, I’ve  picked up their sample pack of four beers and then a single bottle of a separate beer, which I’ll give an individual opinion of and conclude by deciding whether or not I was a bit hasty in my previous judgement of them.

The format will be the same for every brewery. I’ll be judging the beers solely on their taste and appearance, but I’ll also have a “judging it by the cover” opening where I look over the labeling and then move on to the beer itself. So without further ado, let’s get started.

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I started with McGargles (a Rye River brand) “Granny Mary’s Red Ale”. All of the branding for the McGargles is pretty similar so I’ll only do this section once.

Ok, first off, I’ll get this out of the way, I hate the branding on these beers, and it’s one of the things that turned me off so much initially. It’s just cheap paddy whackery and makes it seem gimmicky and to me it looks like the company cares more about aiming the beers at a certain market than making decent beer. Maybe that seems a bit harsh, but it’s my genuine opinion and there’s no point in pussy footing around it.

Judging the beer

Ok, first up apparence wise, It’s pretty dark for a red ale, and it smells pretty roasty, this is something I like, as it gives me hope that it won’t be just another red ale which all Irish breweries seem to think they’re obliged to make and tend to just “phone it in” and make a boring beer.

Taste wise, it’s a pretty ok red ale. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. Red ales tend to be boring beers, and I don’t know why, there’s no need for them to be, but breweries seem to just make them for the sake of having something to offer Smithwicks or McArdles drinkers. Some breweries such as O’Hara’s and Bru have managed to make beers which are interesting in their own right, and some who I won’t name have managed to make downright terrible red ales.

Granny Mary’s Red Ale doesn’t fall into either of those categories. Like I said, it’s pretty ok, it’s inoffensive, it has some of that roasty malt bitterness you get on the nose to it and it finishes a little bitter from the hops which is nice, but there’s also a very noticeable dextrin sweetness to it in the middle and it’s a little light in the body department.

If you’re a McArdles or Smithwicks drinker this will be something you could try without being too out of your depth flavour wise, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to acquire again.

2.5 out 5 for Granny Mary’s Red Ale for me, it’s worth trying if you like red ales, and it’s better than the offerings some other craft brewers have produced.

Next up is Uncle Jim’s Stout.

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Appearance wise, Uncle Jim’s Stout pours a kind of cola-like dark brown, lots of red hue around the edges, the head is a little over a finger thick and didn’t stick around very long.

Taste wise, well, it’s got a little bit of a mocha-y taste at the start and some dry roast malt notes to it, there’s not much evidence of the hops here but that’s pretty normal in the world of stouts but as a result the sweetness is a bit cloying after you finish your sip. On the nose you get some of that coffee and roast malt and some caramel. The body is extremely thin, this is not a heavy beer. To be honest, I’m not blown away by this beer at all and I’m a little disappointed in it. Again, it’s not a terrible beer, it’s perfectly drinkable, but I wouldn’t drink more than one in a sitting. I think if it was a bit more well carbonated it would be a better beer. I’ve heard reports from people more knowledgeable than myself that it’s actually very nice on draught so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that and may amend this later once I’ve tried it.

2 out of 5 for Uncle Jim’s stout for me. I don’t hate it, but I’m not really sure I’d recommend it to anyone either.

Next up, Knock Knock Ned’s IPA.

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Disclaimer, the first time I drank this beer back when it was launched, I poured it down the sink half way through I disliked it that much. But with the knowledge that the brewery has since employed a new head brewer and is now producing some good beers, I approach with an open mind and hope in my heart.

Appearance wise, it pours an extremely clear, light amber colour. The head is pretty thin. On the nose you get some citrus, a bit of grassy pine and some bready sweetness.

Taste wise, you get a bit of the piney hop bitterness up front followed by a very sweet malt base. I’d describe this as an English style IPA and if you’re a fan of that style you might like this. Personally, I’m still not a fan at all. Again it has a very thin mouth feel and the sweetness doesn’t work with that in my opinion. It’s not as bad as I remember it being, but I’d struggle to finish a pint of it if truth be told.

1 out of 5 for Knock Knock Ned’s for me, I’d struggle to find something about this beer I like, I didn’t finish the bottle.

Up next is Grafters IPA.

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Grafter’s is a range of beers that Rye River producer exclusively for Dunnes Stores, currently there is a Pale and an IPA, They’re priced very reasonably indeed, the IPA is €2.45 per bottle and weighs in at 6.5% abv, so it’s definitely a lot of bang for your buck.

I first tried Grafters IPA last summer and I remember at the time I was perplexed by just how little aroma there was, I also remember that this lack of aroma carried on into the taste where there is a decent amount of bitterness but really not much less. I didn’t hate it but I never bothered buying it again. I did however like the Grafters Pale Ale which I thought was a pretty solid American Pale Ale style beer.  So lets see how I fee second time around.

Appearance she looks like an IPA anyway, a sort of hazy pale yellow with a fluffy two finger head. This is a good start. On the nose I instantly get everything I didn’t first time around. Big ripe citrus and stone fruit smells, a tangerine kind of sweetness and some floral grassy notes. This is promising indeed.

Taste wise, this beer is right up my street. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there’s been a bit of tinkering between when I last tasted this beer and the current version because the difference is night and day.
This is a proper American style IPA in my books. Sweet clementines, dank tropical fruits that remind me of jackfruit and mango, bitter grapefruit and pine, the malt base is evident in the body and caramel notes which balance it all out and there’s even nice dry finish that begs you to go again.
I’m half way through this in about 5 minutes. This is one of the better IPA’s I’ve had from an Irish brewery lately. This has just become one of my go to fridge beers. Value for money wise, this is hard to beat.

4.5 out of 5 for Grafters IPA, a massive thumbs up from The Crafty Hoor!
Go to your nearest Dunnes Stores and buy 1. Actually, on second thoughts buy 4, because you’re going to want a second and maybe a third and sure you may as well have a fourth while you’re at it and there are far worse ways to spend a tenner.

Next up, Francis’ Big Banging IPA

DSC_0503The Francis’ Big Banging IPA actually came as part of the 4 bottle sampler pack I picked up (€7 from Dunnes Stores, Tesco and SuperValu nationwide) but you can also pick it up as a four pack of just Francis’ for €8 from Dunnes Stores. At 7.2% abv it’s definitely not a light weight and represents very good value for money.

Appearance wise Francis’ pours a crystal clear pale orange with a light one finger head. It’s one of the clearest IPA’s I’ve ever seen.

On the nose you get a big, bold, brash tropical and citrus fruits. This is followed up in the taste. You’d never know this beer was 7.2% abv unless you read the label, it’s ridiculously drinkable. I’d almost say this beer needs a warning sign on the bottle because you will drink it quicker than you probably should. Grapefruits, peach, mango, passion fruit, pineapple, blood orange, lychee, it’s all there and it’s all good.
What you get here is a beer that is pretty much designed to be a showcase for a collection of some of the most prized hops in the world. The brewers at rye river got a hold of some Simcoe, Mocaic and Columbus hops and decided “sure feck it, lets go mad”, and mad they went.
This is one of the stand out Irish beers of 2015 for a very good reason.
It’s my feeling that Rye River’s brewers decided to respond to the people who were critical of them when they launched in 2014 (myself included) and release a beer that was not just “good” by their standards but good by global standards. This is up there with Galway Bay’s Full Sale, White Hag’s Bran & Sceolan, Eight Degree’s Full Irish and Trouble Brewing’s Viet Now as one of the best IPA’s currently produced in Ireland.

4.5 out of 5 again for Francis’ Big Banging IPA from The Crafty Hoor. Since it was launched a few months back this beer has become a staple in my fridge, value for money wise I think it’s near unbeatable right now.

In conclusion, I still have my reservations about their branding and one or two of their beers aren’t to my tastes at all, but they are also capable of producing some very, very good beers.

If you want to try some of the Rye River beers for yourself and make up your own mind, you can grab 4 bottle sampler packs for €7 as well as four packs of individual beers for €7 or €8 each form Dunnes Stores, Supervalue and Tesco nation wide.
They also produce the Grafters range exclusively for Dunnes Stores as well as the Solas range exclusively for Tesco.

Because the Rye River beers are retailing at such reasonable prices, it’s worth the investment to a few different styles.

Seán

 

Irish Craft Beer Festival Round-up

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Last weekend I was lucky enough to be asked to cover the Irish Craft Beer Festival in the RDS for the lovely people at iRadio for their new blog iDLE.ie.

So off I set on a lovely August Friday evening to Ballsbridge with my press credentials in one hand and a thirst only fine ales could quench. Luckily for me there was plenty of that to be had!

Joe surveying his work

Joe surveying his work

On arrival I decided my first port of call would be to possibly my favourite Irish brewery, The White Hag from Ballymote in Sligo. I was greeted by their head brewer Joe who told me that they had 12 individual beer on offer ranging from their Oatmeal Chocolate Stout “The White Sow” dry hopped with coffee beans to their “Beann Gulban” Irish Heather Ale, a lovely sour beer which was naturally fermented with wild yeast and aged in Cabernet wine barrels.

I tried a few of their beers and was especially fond of their “Little Fawn” Session IPA which used stout male and simcoe hops and was a great way to start the night!

The Mont lads brough half the brewery!

The Mont lads brought half the brewery!

Sharing some counter space with The White hag was a new addition to the Irish beer scene Manor Brewing, who launched their Mont Irish Mountain Lager, made at their brewhouse just outside Blessington in the Wicklow Mountains and I’m told it’s the highest brewery in Ireland.

The lads told me their philosophy was that “every beer should be earned” whether that be from doing chores or going to the gym or passing an exam, when you do achieve something you deserve to be rewarded. Their Lager  a lovely malty lager with just enough grassy hop bitterness to keep it interesting seems like just the job for that. I’m not really a lager guy, but this was lovely.

Some of you might recognise the smiley head on the right as former manager of The Salt House in Galway and The Dark House in Blackrock. Tarem Davis is part of the Manor team and brings years of experience in the craft beer industry in Ireland with him. Looking forward to seeing their beers around the country.

The calm before the storm for Trouble Brewing

The calm before the storm for Trouble Brewing

Next I made at adventure across the hall to visit Trouble Brewing who have gone from strength to strength over the last 2 years. They have been cranking our consistently brilliant beers and being extremely creative in the process.

Keeping to that pattern I was delighted to get my hands on a glass of their always good Deception Golden Ale from the cask, the kicker here being that they had added gorgeous ripe mangos to the mix. It was everything I’d hoped for and more, but I’m slightly obsessed with mangos.

The Belgians are coming!

The Belgians are coming!

From there I sauntered as far as the Radikale stand, a new brewery where Alain Dekoster is acting as brewmaster and mad scientist and making some fantastic, slightly off centre beers.

At the festival he brought along a “Curious Brew”, a beer where he used no aroma hops at all. Hops were added at the start of the brew to give their bitterness but all the aromas came fro gin botanicals. It was a little different and definitely needs to be approached with an inquisitive mind, but I thought it was great. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his stuff soon.

Plain sailing for the hooker lads!

Plain sailing for the hooker lads!

From there I paid my respects to a brewery who have been around for a while, Galway Hooker. The lads were part of vanguard of the current Craft Beer explosion and their Irish Pale Ale has been a staple in any respectable craft beer bar ever since.

Aidan Murphy, one of the owners, was manning the stall and gave me a taste of their lovely 60 Knots IPA as well as a glass of their flagship Pale Ale. Great to see the lads in flying form and the beer was a hit as ever.

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The Wolves were out in force!

Moving along my pack and I roamed as far as the lads from Wicklow Wolf Brewing Co. where Co-founder Quincey Fennely served me a glass of their Elevation IPA, which was bloody lovely. The lads have been around for almost exactly a year now and have been rightfully been receiving praise from all quarters in that time.

Old dogs with new tricks!

Old dogs with new tricks!

Right next door to Wicklow Wolf, The Porterhouse Brewing Co. were dishing out the beers that have made them an Irish beer institution over the last 19 years. But it was their new creating I was interested in. They recently launched their “Hopped to F#ck” Double IPA. This was an 8% hop bomb and I loved it. I guess even old dogs can learn new tricks!

Family affair.

Family affair.

Up next was Boyne Brewhouse where Peter Cooney told me about how himself and his siblings started the brewery as an extension to the family’s already successful cider business. I sampled their Long Arm Dortmunder Export Lager and thought it was a great example of the style.  A crisp flavourful pale lager you could easily drink on a session with enough going on to keep you interested. Well done lads.

Killarney Brewing team

Killarney Brewing team

Moving swiftly along I hit another new kid on the block, Killarney Brewing Company. I had a chat with Paul Sheehan, a director of the company, and he told me there were in the process of setting up a bottling line and getting their beers ready for national distribution.

I had a sup of their Gold Spear Blond Ale and I thought it would be the perfect partner to burger during a BBQ on a hot summer evening. I’ll be patiently waiting for their beers to make the trip to Atlhone in the near future.

Two out of three ain't bad?

Two out of three ain’t bad?

Next up was O Brother Brewing. Barry O’Neill told me about how around a year ago himself and his three brothers bought a second hand kit from the UK. The man they brought it from turned out to be a master brewer and insisted in helping them set it up in their new site. As a result they got a smashing brew kit and a defacto mentor for the price of one.

The lads have been getting rave reviews since their beers started appearing on tap in the usual craft beer bars in Dublin and I’ve been a big fan since the first taste of their “The Fixer” American style red ale. At the festival I got to try their new “The Sinner” IPA and it’s every bit as good as it’s stable mate. These lads are making serious beers, grab some if you can when they start appearing in bottle around the country in the next few weeks!

The cat in the hat

The cat in the hat

After that I headed over to sample the wares of Simon Lambert & Son’s in house brewery where Declan Nixon, seen above looking quite dapper in his lovely top hat, is brewing up the delicious “Yellow Belly” range of beers. I’d been tipped off by several people that I needed to get over there before I left and the advice did not disappoint.

I had a few sips of a few different beers and for me the stand outs were the Pale Stout, which I still can’t get me head around at all, and the Yellow Belly Lager, which is one of the best pale lagers I’ve ever drank. I’ll be planning a trip to Wexford to sample these beers in their natural habitat asap!

From Petaluma to Ballsbridge

From Petaluma to Ballsbridge

Last but by no means least, I visited the stand of Lagunitas Brewing Company. Based in Petaluma north of San Fancsico, these guys have been one of the darlings of the American craft beer industry for a while now. They were guests at this years Festival and are available in most good off licences in Ireland thanks to their Irish distributors Grand Cru Beers.

I had a chat with Fraser Murry, their European Market Manager and he let me have a sample of their “Laguintas Sucks” which was insanely good.

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I had a great time at the festival and I’m really looking forward to the next one in the spring. Thanks again to the lads at iRadio for the gig and especially to all of the breweries featured who were kind enough to take time to talk to me, give me cheeky samples and let me take their pictures.

Cheers,

Seán.

Athlone Beer Club Eats: Indian Edition

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I will be hosting this edition of ABC as Simon Says. You really should drink this is up the walls at the minute.
Athlone beer club has tried Thai food and European food already and we’ve had some great nibbles in Kin Khao, The Fatted Calf and most recently The Left Bank Bistro.

But we haven’t visited what many believe to be the greatest of all foods to go with beer, that of the Indian subcontinent.

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Hot & Spicy Grill recently opened in the Golden Island area of Athlone and they operate a BYOD policy which makes it a perfect place for us to imbibe some lovely beers while enjoying a really good curry.

The plan is that during the week I’ll make up a shopping list of 3 or 4 beers in O’Brien’s, which is about a 90 second walk from the restaurant, and anyone who’s coming can pop in and pick them up on the way.

I’ll make sure the lads in the shop know you’re coming and have the list themselves so that it’s as easy as possible for everyone

I’m going to try and pick a few different styles to keep it interesting.

Please click the link below to find the Facebook Event page and click attending if you’re coming!

Cheers,

Seán.

Facbook Event.

Well, it’s definitely Stout weather!

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Today has definitely seen a turn in the weather and winter seems to have officially landed in Ireland. We can’t complain though, we’ve had another really good, long summer, two years in a row, I could get used to that. Doubt I’ll ever get used to cold, wet, windy winters though.

I really think that winter is the best time of year to enjoy certain beers, especially Stouts, which benefit from being drank at “cellar” temperatures, rather than ice-cold straight from the fridge. A lot of people think when we say cellar temperature we mean  warm or room temperature, but cellar temperature is not warm, it’s just not freezing cold. A good temperature for most stouts would be in the 8-12 degrees Celsius range. This is warm enough for the aromas to really open up and allow you to taste the beer better, but not so warm that it “feels” warm as you drink it.

This this little lecture in mind, I’ll move on to my fist beer of the night, Anchor Porter. “But wait, you said we’d be doing stouts!” I hear you say. And to that I say this, the only difference between a stout and a porter, in modern brewing anyway, is the name. If you want to wade through the gigabytes of debate about this matter online then feel free to google “the difference between stout and porter”, but I’m nailing my colours to the mast here and saying, for all intents and purposes, stout, porter, same thing.

Anchor Brewing are based in San Francisco, California and have been producing their famous “Anchor Steam Beer” since 1896. So while they might not be old timers compared to some European breweries, they’ve been around for a while and aren’t wet behind the ears.

Anchor have been producing their porter since 1974 and it is generally regarded as one of the first great American micro brewed beers. Still loved as much today as it was 40 years ago, Anchor Porter is a seminal American craft beer and it’s no wonder so many people still rate it as one of the best Porters around.

Anchor Porter is 5.8% abv and pours pitch black with a big, fluffy beige head that sticks around as you drink. The smell is massively malty, almost like walking into a bakery followed by notes of chocolate, coffee and oats. The taste is much the same. Caramel and chocolate malt is followed by a bitter mocha and oats, there’s a bit of herbaceous hope taste near the back and the end is roasty and dry. This beer has a lovely coating medium-heavy body and a surprisingly prickly carbonation. Super moreish, always satisfying and always, always, always worth revisiting. One of my absolute favourite beers. Available fairly widely in good offies and bars. Drink store have an offer online of €10 for 4 bottles, which is crazy value. Get some!

Anchor Porter

The second beer tonight is Founders Breakfast Stout, a “Double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout by the lovely people from Grand Rapids, Michigan who I mentioned in my earlier post. It’s a winter seasonal brew (only available from October to December), and much coveted by beer geeks around the world as it can be hard to get outside of the U.S.

Founders Breakfast Stout an 8.3% Imperial Stout, so it’s definitely a sipper! It pours as black as black can be with a thick tan head. The smell is full on dark roasted coffee, bitter dark chocolate and molasses sweetness. The taste delivers on the promise of the nose. The first thing that hits you roasted bitter coffee followed by a surprisingly sweet chocolate, oats add to the sweetness and then a little citrus hop bite. Finish is long, roasty, coffee bitterness. This really is breakfast in a glass. The body is heavy, chewy and coating. The oats adding to the fullness. Carbonation is just enough to make everything sing.
An absolute beauty of a beer and perfect for sipping in front of the fire at home or sitting at the bar chatting to friend on a cold Irish winter night. Those boys in Michigan really can do no wrong. Founders Breakfast Stout is available in most good offies and pretty much every craft beer bar worth their salt. Luckily for ourselves in Ireland the wonderful people at Grand Cru Beers have a great relationship with the brewery and as a result Ireland gets more than it’s fair share of Founder’s seasonal specials, so no excuses now, get out there and try it.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Intercontinental Pale Ales

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I decided to bring you three different pale ales (well, two IPA’s and one APA if we must be exact). The first from the home of the Modern IPA, The United States, the second from the new hop capital of the world, New Zealand and the third from a little closer to home, Ballymote in Sligo.

First up I decided to go with what a lot of people would consider one of the benchmarks of what a hoppy pale beer should taste like, produced by what is roundly regarded as one of the best breweries in The United States. Founders Brewing Co. Are based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and have been producing world-class beers since their launch in 1997.

Founders Centennial IPA is a 7.2% abv single hop beer, meaning that they only used one type of hop (Centennial, hence the name) in this beer. It pours a hazy orange with a thick off-white head which clung to the sides of the glass as I drank.

The nose is masses of bitter citrus pith and oils, some piney notes and a little treacly malt on the back and an intense, lasting bitterness.

The taste is much the same. This is a beautifully balanced beer. You’re hit with an intense citrus fruit taste, a little oily pine resin and a nice malty sweetness to balance it all out. The body is medium with a sort of oily stickiness. This is a classic American IPA and it’s no wonder it’s roundly held as a world-class example of the style by beer geeks around the world. Available in all good off-licences and a lot of good craft beer bars nation wide so there’s no excuse for you not to try this cracking beer.

Next up is Tuatara Brewery from Paraparaumu, New Zealand with their APA (Aotearoa Pale Ale).

This beer gets its name from the Māori name for New Zealand, Aotearoa, a name with a really cool mythological story attached to it, but if you care about that you can google it yourself.

This beer uses all kiwi grown hops and is a variation of their hugely popular American Pale Ale. Basically what happened was they launched an APA which quickly became very popular and was sought out by beer geeks both sides of the Pacific.

The beer was bring masses of attention (and business) to the company and everything was going great but then everything went wonky. Suddenly they weren’t able to find a reliable source for the American grown hops they were originally using to brew the beer, so instead of scrapping it and starting from scratch they decided to use local varieties to plug the gap, and so Aotearoa Pale Ale was born. And it was even better than the Original.

The beer is 5.8% abv and pours a clear, pale amber colour with fluffy white head. The aroma is immense. This is one of the best smelling beers around in my opinion. Loads of sweet, ripe summer fruits, honey and bready grain notes, and a little grassy bitterness at the end.

The taste is much the same. The hops jump out at you, ripe tropical fruits mingle with a grainy bready sweetness and the finish is dry grassy and pine bitterness. This beer might be harder to track down but the really good offies like Drink Store, Martin’s and McHugh’s in Dublin should all have it in stock and all deliver nation wide. Worth adding to your online shopping list!

Last but not least, we head to Ballymote in County Sligo and visit The White Hag Brewing Company with their “Bran & Sceolan Irish IPA” which takes its name from Irish mythology and, in my opinion is kind of a naff name. But sure a rose by any other name and all that.

This is a 7.2% abv beer and it pours deep orange colour with a nice dense white head which stays for the duration. The smell is massive amounts of pineapple, mango and pine. This beer smells amazing. Even better than the Fleadh Ale, which I reviewed last week. I don’t know whether to drink it or use it for aroma therapy.

The taste is even better than the smell. There is ripe pineapple, dank mangos, tart passion fruit and sticky, bitter, piny resin which are reigned in by a beautiful toffee malt profile. This is a medium-light bodied beer with a prickly carbonation and is insanely drinkable. This doesn’t taste even close to 7.2% alcohol. If you didn’t have your wits about you, this beer could easily catch you out! It’s the sort of beer that you want to drink in gulps instead of sips, but I wouldn’t recommend that if you had an early morning the next day!

I feel like I owe The White Hag an apology. Last week I said I couldn’t understand why they chose not to have the Fleadh Ale as their flagship beer, well now I have my answer. “Bran & Sceolan Irish IPA” might be a kind of naff name, but this beer is a total show stopper.

I firmly believe this is one of the best beers ever brewed by an Irish brewery. The Fleadh ale is, in my opinion, a world-class beer, but this is a world beater. The only other regularly produced Irish beer that I feel matches “Bran & Sceolan Irish IPA” in terms of sheer quality and taste is Galway Bay’s “Of Foam and Fury”. Anyone who knows me will know this is high praise indeed, because I believe “Of Foam and Fury” is one of the worlds best Double IPA’s.

The lads up in Sligo might be one of the newest breweries in the country, but they are already years ahead of most of the competition in terms of the quality of their brews. Every single beer they have released so far has been next to flawless. I honestly can’t believe beer this good is available for €3 a bottle from offies in Dublin, and it is brewed right here in Ireland. “Bran & Sceolan Irish IPA” should be available from good offies all over Ireland in the very near future.