Meet the Brewer American Craft Beer Evening at the Bierhalle Review

A nice bright sunny friday evening one could almost sense summer threatening to arrive. Ensconced at a window table in the Bierhalle seeing the sun glinting off the lovely River Lee and enjoying their “Meet the Brewer” dinner event. My thanks for a great experience goes to all those involved at the Bierhalle and from Premier International Beers, BeerHeaven.com and the Craft Brewers’ Alliance. Here I will reflect on the evening and sketch some brief reviews of the craft beers I sampled.

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Franciscan Well Easter Beer Fest 2013 Review

There aint too many better ways to spend Easter Sunday afternoon than sampling brews at the Franciscan Well’s craft beer festival. Although it was a decidedly wet and miserable day out the beer fest provided an oasis of retreat from the elements. We arrived there not long after 2 and perused the festival menu, there was a wealth of options on offer.

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A few in the Porterhouse Cork

On a chilly wintry late March evening decided to finally pop into the Porterhouse on Sheares Street in Cork with some friends. I believe this brew pub opened last autumn and it is very well presented and has a nice if somewhat cavernous feel. The Porterhouse have been in Dublin and Bray for many years, as well as having pubs in London and New York (also Galway I think).

Last night I firstly tried TSB, their bitter which was on cask. With an ABV of 3.7% this is one that bitter lovers could could drink all night. Though there was a pleasant floral aroma and it did taste nicer than any bitter I have previously tried. However it just is not for me and though I keep trying I believe that my palate just does not appreciate bitters. So for me this would just get 2 Corks on my 5 Cork scale. Price: €4.10 a pint.

Next up I decided to go with the taster tray option, as did one of my friends, its a great way to try a wider selection without being stuck with a pint of something that you may not like. At three 70 fl. oz. glasses for €5 I believe this is a great deal and would urge anyone trying craft beer for the first time to go this route. Plus it makes for great fun and banter. The three I tried were Hop Head, Brain Blasta, and Hersbrucker Pilsner.

The Hop Head was the star of the show and at an ABV of 5% one could happily quaff several pints of this. It had a delightful aroma that reminded me of spring, floral and hedgerow, and the taste was invigorating and refreshing. One of the best Pale Ales that I have tried and one which I will happily order again. The taster I had prompted me to move on to having a pint of this splendid brew. Highly recommend and if you love hop forward ales you will love this. 4 Corks.

An Brain Blasta: 7% ABV, this was a dark strong ale that was had an almost oily aroma with a good mix of bitter and sweetness. Definitely one for a wintry evening, this is a pleasantly warming brew. 3 Corks.

Hersbrucker Pilsner: 5% ABV, this is a classic pilsner and would be excellent on a summer or warm spring day. Subtle hoppiness combine well with malty sweetness to deliver a very easy drinking pilsner. 3 Corks.

It was a good evening and the tasting tray is an excellent option. They also have guest brews which change regularly as well as some Eight Degrees and Metalman on tap (though they were sadly out of both last night). Well worth a visit.

Craft Beer My Top 5

As one goes through life I find that there is a constant drive to categorise and to rank, after all pretty much everyone has their favourite movies, songs, books.  One of the most prevalent forms is the construction of top 100 lists and the debates they so often provoke. Essentially it is nearing the top of the list that the greatest argument is aroused, I remember many a heated debated about who are the top 5 footballers of all time, the top 5 movies, directors, songs, singers, etc.  This line of thought has prompted me to develop my own very personal list of the top 5 craft beers.  The list is personal as (alas) I have not sampled all the world’s offerings just yet, and influenced my own particular taste.  Yet I fully believe that to try any of these 5 is a delicious experience.

Anyways to the list, in reverse order….(some of which I have reviewed on my blog)

5.  White Gypsy American Pale Ale

From White Gypsy microbrewery in Tipperary the label of this ale promised “A bitter hoppy beer with a dry grapefruit finish” and that it would be “great with spicy dishes and grilled chicken”. I opened the bottle as I sat down to a delicious roast chicken dinner and this American Pale Ale worked very well with it.

On pouring it shows a decent head which it retains well.  There are hoppy fruit, almost hedgerow floral aromas, and the taste is of citrus fruit with a pleasantly bitter bite. This is excellent ale to accompany food and with an ABV of 7.5% lends itself perfectly to drinking over a leisurely dinner.

4.  La Trappe Dubbel

La Trappe Dubbel 7%, 500 ml crook (ceramic bottle).  It is made from specially selected malts, hops & yeast and undergoes a second fermentation in the crook.  From the Koningshoeven Brewery, in Holland, is the only of the seven Trappist breweries located outside Belgium.

3.  Hen’s Tooth

This is a bottle conditioned strong ale, which has finished its fermentation in the bottle.  Produced by Morland Brewing of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, at 6.5% alc. vol. this is on the lower end of the strong ale spectrum.  Once poured it is an amber colour with a slight cloudiness (due to the bottle fermentation) with a thin bubbly creamy head.  There is a hoppy spice on the nose and there is a dry hoppiness with a touch of winter fruit on the palate.  The aftertaste is rich, warming and smooth leading to a long, dry finish.  Indeed it is the aftertaste that lingers most in the mind about this ale.  Perfect for a winter’s evening it definitely leaves you warmed up on the inside.

2.  Brewdog Punk IPA

This is the one that seduced me into a love of IPAs and remains my favourite of the style.  It pours a light golden in colour and immediately stamps its distinctiveness with an enticing floral aroma.  The taste, hmm how do it justice, there are hints of caramel and citrus balanced by a biscuity maltiness.  You gotta love this ale.

1.  Eight Degrees Howling Gale Ale

This ale has rapidly become my favourite for relaxing after a hard day and is truly excellent with food. It pours a cloudy amber colour with an initial nice frothy head, there is a slight hint of something citrusy in the aroma, indeed for me its aroma reminds me of the smell of summer rain (which is a good thing). The citrus is there in the taste combined with a sweet maltiness and a crispy zing that makes this a perfectly refreshing ale for the summer.

So that’s my Top 5 and as with any list there are those that deserve an honourable mention:

Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA (Portland, Oregon, USA)

Innis & Gunn Spiced Rum Finish (Scotland)

Franciscan Well Rebel Red (Cork, Ireland)

Franciscan Well Stout Aged in Jameson Casks (Cork, Ireland)

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA (Maryland, USA)

Dungarvan Coffee & Oatmeal Stout (Waterford, Ireland)

Also I find that the majority of the Brewdog range is top notch, their limited edition Hoppy Christmas was excellent.

[I originally wrote this for another blog and it can be viewed here]

Tasting Note Previews for the Franciscan Well Easter Beer Fest

Ahead of this weekend’s beer fest following on from my previous post I had a look at each of the craft breweries websites and the brews they will have on offer, based on the provisional list.  Then  I decided to whet our collective anticipation by gathering together each brewery’s tasting notes  in one spot for perusal. Continue reading

Franciscan Well Annual Easter Beer Festival 2013 – Preview

The Franciscan Well Brewery hosts its annual Easter Beer Fest this coming bank holiday weekend, showcasing more Irish brewers than ever before. It will run from 2pm on both Saturday March 30th and Easter Sunday.

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This Patricks Day be crafty – Go Craft

A little missive to urge all those out there to be crafty this Patricks Day and drink some of the many craft beers or ciders from the many microbreweries of Ireland. I can heartily recommend the following:

Eight Degrees Howling Gale
Franciscan Well Rebel Red
Dingle Brewing Company Stout (cant remember its specific name)
White Gypsy’s Russian Imperial Stout
Franciscan Well Stout Aged in Jameson Casks

The Scottish brewery Innis & Gunn also do a special beer aged in Jameson casks, that is one of my personal favourites. For those of a cider persuasion the Longueville House Cider and the Stonewell Ciders from Nohoval Brewing are surely worthy of a try. Alas I have not as yet tried either.

For a more detailed post that I believe remains relevant though I wrote it last year, click here

Happy Paddy’s Day one and all

Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA

If memory serves “embrace the dark side” was the tag line on this ale’s label and if it wasnt then it very well should have been. Brewed by the Widmer Brother Brewing Company in Oregon, USA, its ABV is 6.5% and I believe I purchased it in a 355ml bottle.

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As you can see it is indeed pitch black almost obsidian in colour with a nice caramel brown head which maintains a good lacing throughout. I got roasted malt with typical IPA floral hints on the nose with a touch of smoky earthiness. The taste evolves as you gently sip away, ideally while stretching your legs out in front of a log fire on a chill winter evening. Theres the citrus floral hoppiness of a normal IPA with a richly textured roast coffee coming through on the finish.

It is only released as a seasonal and usually only available between January and April. The hops used are Alchemy and Cascade and the blend of malts are 2-Row Pale, 2-Row Caramel, 2-Row Crapils, Special Roast and Carafa Special II. (http://widmerbrothers.com/beer/#pitch-black-ipa)

I will be attempting to get more of this Ale as it perfectly suits this time of year. I would give this 4.8 Corks and heartily recommend that you too “embrace the dark side”.