Chocolate orange stout

The never ending range of craft beer available to us never fails to amaze me and coupled with that is that craft brewers now have to use their imagination to come up with something a bit different to stay competitive. When perusing the off licence shelves recently I saw something that promised to be something different- a chocolate orange stout from James Brown Brews. This is truly an excellent stout, at first I was struggling to get the chocolate orange flavours but after a few further sips it start coming through and didn’t disappoint. I had this after a nice meal and found it to be an excellent ‘dessert’ beer!

It turns out that James Brown Brews is at present a one man show. Only set up since February of this year, he is currently using Brú Brewery on a contract basis but plans are afoot to set up his own brewery and expand. At present the Chocolate Orange stout is his only beer but in keeping with keeping things quirky his next venture will be a Rhubarb tart IPA which hopefully will be in production over the coming months. There is also the possibility of a limited edition whisky barrel brew for the Christmas market.

The chocolate orange stout is mainly sold in bottle format but it is available on tap in Mulligans of Stonybatter and there are plans to introduce it on tap at more pubs soon. It is available in bottle format in O’Briens off licence nationwide as well as various pubs.

The beer was also a winner of a bronze medal at the Alltech festival in February which for a first time brew is a fantastic achievement. This is a brewery I will be keeping a close eye on and I look forward to future brews!

Till the next time……Stout

Dungarvan

So there we were, myself and my good friend Kieran spoiling our dearly beloved wives with a few days in Waterford, wining and dining them without them touching their purses [thank God they don’t read this!] when we suggested to the girls that we heard Dungarvan is a lovely little town worthy of a visit. Now obviously myself and Kieran had an alterior motive in that we felt a little visit to Dungarvan Brewery might be in order! We tried ringing in advance to no avail so decided to be really cheeky and just turn up! Eventually [thanks to Google maps] we found the Brewery and we were warmly met by Head Brewer Cormac who very kindly agreed to give us an impromptu tour. dUNGARVAN Dungarvan Brewery was set up in 2010 and currently their regular beers under their belt consist of Black Rock stout, Copper Coast red ale, Helvick blonde and Mine Head American pale ale, these are complimented by regular seasonal’s. All their beers are vegan friendly. Bottling is currently done by hand on site but there are plans to move to an automated system in the coming months. All their beers are named after local places [a fact borne out on the drive from Waterford!] Interestingly of the 7 Beer Sommeliers in Ireland, 2 of them are from the Dungarvan Brewing stable. All in all this is a brewery that has some great beers under it’s belt and will only go from strength to strength.

The Weekly Tipple.

You know how it is, you ramble into the off licence to see if there’s something new that might tickle my fancy. Sometimes when your searching the shelves it can be an eye catching label on a  bottle that catches your attention and that was how it was when I spotted a bottle of 12 Acres Pale ale.

12 Acres was set up by 4 brothers in Co. Laois on the family farm and the name reflects a 12 acre field on the family farm where malted barley has grown for years. Indeed the barley has won several awards for excellence.

While the Pale ale is the only beer available from 12 Acres at present, I’m told that further beers are in the development stage.

For a first attempt I thought this is an excellent beer. An American style pale ale that comes in at 4.6% ABV, this is a lovely crisp ale that pours golden in colour and the flavour is quite heavy on the malt which compliments the hops and citrus very well. Overall very impressed with this beer and looking forward to the next beer from 12 Acres!

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The Perfect Pub.

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Those of us that enjoy beer will always be striving to find the perfect bar to enjoy our beer in. For some people they can move to an area, find the closest pub to their house, call it their local and live happily ever after. For some of us it’s not that simple because when it comes to beer some of us are fussy gits! So what do I want from a bar? Well as a lover of craft beer I want a good beer selection. I also want good pub grub, friendly and knowledgeable bar staff, comfortable surroundings and if possible- no TV! The last bit you might find strange as I’m a huge sports fan but if I’m out on a Saturday afternoon with Her Indoors for a quiet beer or 2, the last thing I want is a guy in his Liverpool / Utd. shirt that has probably never set foot in Liverpool / Manchester shouting and roaring at a TV screen.

All the above boxes I was able to tick when I discovered Against the Grain a few years ago. The bar first opened it’s doors in September 2010 on the infamous ‘Corner of Death’ in Wexford St.,nothing sinister in the name, only that every pub that opened there died a slow death! Well safe to say that title has been well and truly banished as Against the Grain has flourished and would be recognised as one of the leading craft beer establishments in Dublin. Owned by the lads behind Galway Bay Brewery, it is one of a chain of 10 bars in the group which shows no sign of slowing down as another Dublin bar is also coming on board very soon.

Now I’ve got 3 pubs a few minutes walk from my house so what is it that makes me walk past those pubs to get a bus to ATG? It’s simple things really, the first time I was there I was greeted with a cheerful welcome and when leaving I was thanked for my custom. It was something simple but something that I found over the years lacking in so many pubs, even in my local pubs, in short your custom was taken for granted and there was no need to be polite to the customer. The staff may have changed over the years in ATG but the one constant has been that as a customer you are treated with respect, regardless if your a visitor having 1 beer or a regular, you are treated the same. Regarding the beer choice, do you remember as a child walking into a sweetshop and looking at rows of jars of sweets and wondering what to pick? Well I feel like that every time I walk into ATG, 32 draught beers, many of which are rotated on a regular basis, fridges full of bottles of craft and shelves lined with whisky from every corner of the globe.

When having a beer or 2 you tend to get a bit pickish so it’s nice to have some food that will compliment the beer. ATG took the unusual but very welcome step of asking their customers via social media what food they feel would work with craft beer. The advise was duly noted and it has to be said that the standard and choice of food is excellent and represents good value for money and compliments the beer very well indeed!

Overall if your looking for good beer, good food, friendly and knowledgeable staff then you could do a lot worse then trying Against the Grain in Wexford St.

I aim to review more craft beer bars soon and obviously these trips will be more work then pleasure as it will be all in the name of research!

Till the next time.

James

London calling

A friend of mine was over at Christmas bemoaning the fact that he’d been invited to an old workmates 50th birthday in London but he didn’t fancy travelling alone. Now at this stage I’d had a few beers so of course I piped up ‘sure I’ll go with you’ not for 1 minute thinking the little trip would come to fruition. So a few weeks later, there I was sitting in the plushy confines of the 108 in Rathgar on a Wednesday night tasting aged Chimay [as you do] when Yer Man rings saying he’s about to book flights and how much he’s looking forward to it. Now being the sensitive soul that I am I didn’t have the heart to say it had all been a misunderstanding and I really didn’t want to go to London to a complete strangers 50th. So quicker then you could say ‘Queen Vic’ flights and hotel were duly booked.

So last Saturday morning we found ourselves at the bar in Dublin airport at 7am, 2 pints of Guinness and a greasy fry later we were off to London town with the only turbulence coming from my stomach as the fry and the pints bedded down. I had done my craft beer research in advance and had a list of establishments to visit, however the best laid plans went by the wayside and instead we found ourselves sitting in the Nags Head in Convent Garden at 11am. A quick scan of the taps and I spotted my 3 favourite letters in the alphabet- IPA.

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The IPA was from the McMullen brewery from Hertford that dates back to 1827. While the beer was a nice full bodied ale with a 4.8% ABV it certainly wasn’t what I’d expect from a usual IPA in that there was a distinct lack of hops. But drinkable it certainly was!

A quick hop across the road and we were in the White Lion. Again a quick scan of the taps and a pint of the Reverand James was before me. It comes in at 4.5% and is produced by the Brains brewery using the original receipe dating back to 1885 [I’ll have to take their word on that one!]. I’d had this drink in bottle format before but the draught form left me a little underwhelmed. Nothing great going on in terms of flavour and it actually went a little flat half way through.

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Following a stop off at a rather plush hotel for Cuban cigars and 12 year old Scotch whisky [as one does at 12.30pm on a Saturday!] it was off to meet some aquaintances in Conways pub in north London, a small Irish owned establishment. A scan of the taps didn’t take long as choice was limited so I opted for Tetleys bitter. At 3.7% and knowing there was a few pints ahead it was a wise decision as at this stage it was only 2.30pm and there was still a party to go to!

Now as the party was a room above a pub I wasn’t expecting much in the form of choice of beer but I was glad to see a John Smiths tap only to be told upon ordering by a gruff barman with a West of Ireland accent that they don’t stock it any more. So it was pints of Guinness for the night. The next day I was surprisingly bright eyed and bushy tailed. Yer Man spent the morning calling God on the big white telephone in the hotel room toilet. The taxi journey to the airport he spent with the window down and his head hanging out [much to the annoyance of the driver as it was bloody freezing!] At the airport he curled up in the fetal position while I found the bar and had a couple of pints of Bass ale. The flight he spent with his head in a Tesco bag filling it up with fluid while I read my paper pretending I was travelling alone. The smell from said bag of fluid and his various groans and retching ensured there was much tut tutting around us and he cut a lonely figure as he sheepishly trundled off the plane in Dublin with his Tesco bag of fluid vowing never to drink again.

Till the next time!

James

A love at first sip!

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I’ve been threatening to do a Beer Blog for a while now so finally decided to give it a whirl! As the title of my blog says ‘I love craft beer!’ so if you share my passion hopefully you’ll find this blog somewhat of interest. This first blog is just an introductory one.

It’s now wildly accepted that in the drinks industry there is a revolution taking place and it’s called craft beer. In Ireland It’s been a bit of a slow burner of a revolution. There hasn’t exactly been a rush of people out burning their Guinness slippers that their beloved got them for their Christmas ‘stocking filler’ or vowing never to let the famous ‘black stuff’ or any yellow fizz from foreign multinationals wet their lips again. Instead people’s drinking habits have been changing slowly over the last few years. People want choice and what’s more are willing to pay for the privilege. The fact that the craft beer movement in Ireland has flourished during some of the worst recessionary times in our history is testamount to that.

I can’t actually define when exactly my passion for craft beer began to flourish, it was certainly before the ‘revolution’ as I know at the time there was only a small amount of speciality off licences where you could buy craft beer. It certainly wasn’t a case of strolling into your local supermarket or convenience store as it is now! Myself and a good friend, Kieran shared the passion and on a regular basis would buy a few bottles of craft along with the smelliest cheese we could find and hook up in one of our houses to sip away at these beers and take our taste buds on a journey of discovery!

Now, when it comes to craft beer thankfully we’re spoiled for choice whether we wish to go to the pub or have a few at home. Craft beer pubs are going from strength to strength while their mainstream counterparts are closing in their droves.

My aim for this blog is to review both craft beers and craft beer bars in a down to earth manner. I read some blogs and you wouldn’t know it it’s a beer or a plant that is being described! I aim to take the BS aspect out of my reviews. Hopefully if you’ve an interest in craft beer you’ll enjoy the blog!

Till the next time!

James