Friday, 10 November 2017

Travel: Wexford Town - Be Entertained...

Okay, I admit it ... I have a bit of a gra* for Wexford...

I'm not 100% sure what the actual draw is but I can tell you that it started with a visit to Lambert's Bar and Yellowbelly brewery a couple of years ago and grew from that to the point where I try to get down at least twice a year, to lurk in strange corners of the town gazing at walls, doors or windows, drinking quietly in bars or just staring out to sea. Perhaps that's part of the attraction as I have a love of being close to the ocean but an intense fear of water, which means that maybe my psyche might be literally trying to psych me out, daring me to be close to the edge of terrafirma but not in the sea itself.

This time I was down with the other half - and by far my better half (well, she may be reading this...), who is also half Wexican I might add - on a quick overnighter, to relax and have a little alone time, which gets increasingly rare when kids, work and life's various bumps and bruises need attending.

Arriving in town in the early afternoon we checked into our lodgings at Bugler Doyle's and headed for lunch in the aforementioned Simon Lambert & Sons, or Simon's Place as it's also called. It was in the bowels of the cellar here that Yellowbelly beer was born and thrived, outgrowing its cramped surroundings and flexing its prodigious muscles into a bigger, better space just out of town. I had a tour of the cellar on my visit back in 2015 by head brewer Declan Nixon, whose passion for experimentation has birthed a thousand (or so it seems) different beers over the last few years, very few of which haven't appealed to me. Following the various Yellowbellys on Twitter is akin to watching a dysfunctional, manic family argue, joke and express some kind of quasi-love in what is quite frankly a disturbing - if endearing and entertaining - way ... but regardless of that, they produce great beers that rarely disappoint and are very likely to elicit 'Oohs!' and 'Aahs!' from the first sip.

Anyhow, Lambert's also do a very busy trade in lunch and we were fortunate to get a seat, as the place was extremely busy on the saturday we visited  ... luckily I'm not above elbowing little old ladies out of the way if there's a promise of good food and drink. I ordered a salad with chicken, black pudding and a fried egg, which may sound like a strange combination but was exactly what I needed, especially when washed down with a cask pulled Rascal's Wunderbar ... wunderbar indeed! Herself had a tasty looking steak sandwich which mustn't have offended her much, as she left very little of it behind her. I even convinced her to have a Yellowbelly lager instead of her usual - and frankly embarrassing-to-ask-for - Bud ... a minor miracle in itself.

We finally felt guilty about the amount of people looking for seats so we paid up - refusing to make eye contact with the little old ladies we had wrestled for our table - and toddled out into the town, very full and happy with our lunch, drinks and service.

Wexford is great shopping town and we wove our way along the very busy South & North Main Streets past shoppers, tourists and herds of feral-looking teenagers, glancing in the many windows that line the street. We weren't really shopping just browsing but I did end up in a quirky secondhand shop and managed to accidentally buy an old embossed, skittle-shaped beer bottle and get my ear bent by the owner. We wandered on to the old town walls and the gate that once guarded the town dwellers from marauding Carlow men no doubt. I guess the locals take all this for granted - a substantial part of the walls still remain - but when you live in a town that has lost all traces of its walls it makes you appreciate these lumps of rocks and mortar all the more...

Wexford has a long and colourful history which is worth looking into, so I'd suggest when you're finished reading this you delve a little deeper if that's of interest - you won't be disappointed.

We bookended our dinner that evening with return visits to Lambert's where I had a very pleasant McGargle's Toothless Dec brown ale and an absolutely sublime sour saison dry-hopped with Irish hops from Yellowbelly called The Harvest King, my favourite beer of the weekend. (No pints by the way, just half ones - drink less drink better remember?)

Later on in a then much busier bar that was full of the after-show crowds I had Are You Not Entertained?, a full-on double IPA which is exactly what I needed after dinner to scrape my palate of rabbit and pork fat...

We had that dinner in The Yard just off Lower George's Street, a rather nice if quite loud restaurant that was very popular on this Saturday night. I chose the potted rabbit for starter followed by a miso glazed pork belly dish, while herself had some excellent goat's cheese croquettes followed by lamb rump, and we shared a very nice, fruity bottle of Les Amies Chanteuses. (As well as a great looking wine list they also stock a selection of micro produced beers, so don't worry if wine is not your thing.)

My rabbit was served with radish, pickled blackcurrants and a slab of soda bread ... this fantastic combination worked really well and was one the nicest plates of food I've had while eating out in Ireland in a long time. The pork was served with a kimchi parcel, rice, cashew cream and pickled mouli ... and  those little parcels of kimchi were the highlight on the plate and I was quite sad when I'd finished the last one! I had some issues with the pork, as the miso glaze seemed to have over-salted the meat to the point where the lovely crackling was inedible and even the rest of the belly slice was just barely tolerable for me - a salt addict. It was still a very enjoyable meal but the salt did overshadow it a tad ... perhaps I'm not as salt tolerant as I think I am? I did mention this to our waiter and she said she'd say it to the chef ... if she did he either took it on the chin or decided I didn't know what I was talking about, which was perhaps the correct assumption. Service was excellent from booking to leaving, where we were given a voucher for a couple of free glasses of bubbly in a related bar on Monch Street, which was a nice - and clever - touch.

When we got to the bar we realised it wasn't our kind of spot, as it seems to have a endless procession of noisy, wobbly hen parties coming and going ... as entertaining as watching them might be it was too loud and brash for us middle-aged, slightly bloated, stick-in-the-muds to enjoy. Instead we rambled on along the quays where we witnessed a man in a van threaten the bouncers of a nightclub while shouting profanities. I'm not sure what his problem or agenda was but I'm pretty sure that hanging half out of the window of a Volkswagon Caddy waving a hurley and name calling was going to get him too far.

We watched the spectacle for a while before cutting back up onto North Main Street where we discovered poor Barry...

Barry was getting a ferocious telling of from his partner. She accused him of bringing shame to her family - among other things - and called him a number of choice words that I won't repeat here. Barry was rambling in our direction with his hands in his pockets and head down, when he finally cracked, turned to face her and voiced his disagreement with her assessment of how their evening had went with a few germanic words of his own. This only caused his accuser to raise her voice louder - which I didn't think was possible - and give him a shove for his troubles. I presume some primitive survival instinct kicked in then as he avoided her next attempted contact and detoured up Rowe Street looking for sanctuary, as his soon-to-be-former-partner tottered after him, flinging more insults in his wake...

Five minutes later as I sipped my 'Are we not Entertained?' in Lambert's I thought ... Why yes, yes we are...

The Sky and the Ground is the other main my-kind-of-beer bar I frequent in Wexford and it was here we decided to have a night cap. Earlier in the day I had a pleasant drink from their more than decent tap selection and a read in the quiet, lovely little snug just inside the door. Tonight we headed up to the Suas bar on the first floor, as the last time we were here they had a great bottle range and I was hoping for something special to finish the night in style. The range on the chalkboard seems to have diminished since my last visit but I spotted two brett stouts from Otterbank Brewery - Declan from Yellowbelly's own brand - either of which would have suited my needs. Unfortunately the chalkboard wasn't up to date and both were gone ... a huge disappointment! I asked about any imperial stouts that might be lurking in the fridge, shelf or cellar but there were none, and sensing the barperson's impatience I settled on a gin for myself and a coffee liqueur for herself, and sat like a grump in the corner, cross and disappointed, mumbling about stouts and getting into a strop.

That changed...

This place is possibly the best place to be on a saturday night to people-watch. Notwithstanding hen parties, hurley bearing fruitcakes and poor Barry ... watching the comings, goings and interactions of people here was fascinating. Merry ladies spilling gin and hitting on whoever the could; a guy having a snooze as his girlfriend sat sourly beside him on a couch - only perking up when a lothario in a too-tight suit and wicked facial hair sidled over to sit beside her; someone at the bar who kept getting asked for selfies by a group of hangers on (Was he famous? Obviously not in my circles...); and a gaggle of ever changing drinkers and schmoozers wandering in and out, interacting with each other and giving the place a huge, buzzing atmosphere.

We sat sipping our drinks, being thoroughly entertained by all of these wonderful people. So if this kind of conspicuous voyeurism is your thing then I thoroughly recommend this spot ... just harangue them about their beer selection! (In truth it's quite good but perhaps needs a little filling out to appeal to contrary curmudgeons...)

The next morning we were up early wandering the deserted town, taking in a few sights that we missed the previous day and having a nice walk along the quays, feeling refreshed by the sea air, views and sights - more churches, gateways and walls. Eventually we also found somewhere open for breakfast - a rare thing on a Sunday morning in Wexford town it seems - before heading back to collect our bags and walk uphill to where our car was parked in the Bride Street Church carpark. (Which is great value by the way...)

We wandered into the church to check out the Harry Clarke stained glass window, which no matter what your religious views are is one of the must see things in the town in my opinion. We gazed and studied it for a while, checking out the detail and admiring the superb use of colour before heading out to the car and the shortish road back to Carlow.

Our trip only reinforced my love of Wexford town. Sure it's not perfect - no place is - but for a one night break it comes close as far as sights, shopping, food and drinks are concerned. And as for entertainment? Well, this trip would be hard to beat...

So huge thanks to all the places we visited, even those I may have berated slightly.

Oh, and if you see Barry, let him know we were thinking about him...


*Love - for those of you not from Ireland or acquainted with this stolen Irish word.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Beer History: Allsopp's Pale Ale Adverts - Facts and Figures?

Paper never refused ink they say, and I've learned than you certainly can't believe everything you read, but I came across the following advertisement by Allsopps in the Dublin published The Freeman's Journal of 1844.

The figures may be of interest to some people as they claim that their beers are best by virtue of the quantity that is shipped to India and the price it achieves in the ports there versus Bass and Hodgson...

It also contains a list of the places in Dublin where it was available if any of my scarce readers there fancy rooting in a cellar for a stray cask...

Not forgetting Cork, here is a advertisement from The Cork Examiner in 1856 again for Allsopps, but this time letting us know how wonderful their pale ale is for our constitution!

Well if you can't trust someone called BARON LIEBIG then who can you trust?!


Wait a minute...


(Ron Pattinson over at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins has more on the above price spat here.)

With thanks as ever to my local library...

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Food: Recipe - Pickled Eggs with Jalapeños & Garlic

Any of you that follow me on Twitter are probably sick to the teeth of pickled-egg-tweets but a couple of weeks back I tried out some new recipes to add to my favourite beetroot ones - that original recipe is here by the way.

So bad news for you lot because here's my new favourite recipe for eggs with jalapeños and garlic!

You will need:

  • 10 Eggs – I use small or medium size
  • 300ml of clear malt vinegar
  • 200ml of water
  • 1 Tablespoon each of salt & sugar
  • Half of a 200g jar of sliced jalapeños - drained
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 1 large jar (I use an empty 950g olive jar)

What to do:

Boil eggs for 10 mins and leave them sitting in hot water for a further 10 mins, then place in cold water for 15 mins.

While waiting on the eggs to cool sterilise the jar and lid. I do this by washing them in hot water, rinsing well, then pour boiling water into the jar and putting the lid in a bowl with more boiling water. (Warning: It has been suggested that the glass might crack by doing this so choose whatever way to sterilise that you feel is safe. In theory the vinegar mix will do this job but I'm over cautious... )

Add the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a saucepan, then bring to the boil to dissolve sugar and salt. Add the jalapeños and garlic and simmer for a minute or two. Carefully empty the water from the jar, peel the eggs and place them into the jar - putting garlic and jalapeños between each layer. When you’ve added all the eggs that you can - don’t pack too tight or they’ll stick together - fill the jar with the boiled pickling liquid and top to the rim with boiled water if required.

Carefully place the lid on and tighten. As the jar cools the lid will de-press and seal the contents. Rotate the jar as it cools to stop the eggs from sticking together - it will be very hot at first!

Once cooled, store in the fridge until you need them. They need at least a week for the flavour to infuse into the eggs. (The other eggs in the top picture are pickled with Komodo Dragon chillies - very hot, but nice too!)



(There’s a lot of discussions on various websites about sterilising and storage but this is what works for me with no issues so far. But I’m not a trained food handler so use your own knowledge and common sense.)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

History: In Praise of 'A Pot of Irish Porter'...

I came across the following piece in an old newspaper last week, and thought it seemed worth transcribing and putting up on the blog. I'm unsure of the background to it and could not find the original article it appears to allude to, but here it is anyway...

To  the COMMITTEE  for  conducting  the  FREE-PRESS

I make bold to congratulate you upon the success of your late endeavours in the service of your country, by so strenuously recommending the use of Irish porter.
    Your patriotic sentiments are, at length, almost every where adopted, and there are not now in the whole city, over half a dozen houses of any note, that continue to sell English porter, and they too (being only frequented, either by Englishmen, or those connected with the interest of the porter merchant) must very soon fall in with the rest, or else, by obstinately persisting to oppose the laudable wish and intentions of the publick, become neglected and despised.
    Curiosity, and a desire to contribute my little moiety to the general good, induces me often to mingle with my countrymen in their hour of relaxation, at these meetings, and it is with secret pleasure I remark the chearful[sic] satisfied countenance each consumer of this wholesome beverage displays, when he calls for A POT OF IRISH PORTER : the inward gratification he feels, whilst drinking the produce of his native soil, and contemning that of ungenerous Britain, is happily expressed in his face, and nothing but mirth, harmony and friendship are every where found to be the attendant effects of it.
    To you Gentlemen, the lovers of Ireland are particularly indebted, as the principal promoters of this happy change. Which, whilst it keeps at home many thousands heretofore lavished on ungrateful neighbours, has also rendered a material saving to the laborious class of people, by being so much cheaper and from its healthful and enlivening qualities inspiring a universal love and fellowship that is evident on every occasion.
    On this point then, there remains nothing now to wish, but that the Brewers of Irish Porter, continue to do that justice they have so well began with: and let it not be said that this great and necessary undertaking (like many others for publick utility) shall in its infancy fall to the ground because ------- very much encouraged.
      I am, Gentlemen,
            Your most humble servant,
                       A NATIVE
    Sep. 1 1779
~ Freeman's Journal September 1779 - Via Carlow Library Local Studies Room

Stirring words indeed! There seems to be more to this letter of course than just Irish porter and it could be classed as incitement to hatred perhaps, against porter from 'ungenerous Britain' at the very least!

Regardless of the deeper sentiment our writer is getting at, there are a few valid point we can still take from this...

The drinking of local beer, if it suits your palate and purse, and the gratification it elicits; that 'cheerful, satisfied countenance' that enjoying a pint in good company can evoke; and the need to always question what we drink, or eat for that matter, and ask, 'Is there a better alternative?', and that 'better' can mean something different to everyone of course...

Anyhow, I'm off to look for a pot of Irish porter ... wish me luck!



Thursday, 5 October 2017

Travel: On Forgetting to Remember...

It was on the Rue au Beurre in Brussels almost 10 years ago that I first remembered my father had died ... absurd as that sounds.

It had been four months since he had passed away. Taken quickly, leaving us to deal with the shock at first, and when it left what remained was sadness and a deep, aching hurt - tinged with anger and regret. And that pain was a constant presence in my head over those first few months, as if his ghost was rattling around inside of me daring me to forget him...

So I had gone to Brussels with a few friends, partly as an escape from the constant reminders of his passing and partly because I wanted to go somewhere to relieve that wanderlust itch, which no amount of reading or writing about travel can truly scratch.

Brussels did both. It was here I discovered Bruegel and Horta; it was here that I discovered a bar with 2,000 different beers; it was here I did the Cantillon tour and first found gueuze and kriek; it was here I was served beers in vases and horns hung on timber; it was here I learned how to pronounce Duvel correctly; it was here I tasted stoemp and sausage for the first time. And it was here I started to really appreciate beer, and began to respect it more.

And because of all of this I forgot about my father's death for the first time ... and not due to alcohol consumption I must add, but due to the sheer volume of information that had overwhelmed my brain and had distracted my thought process.

I was standing on the street, looking in the window of a gift shop on the last day of our trip when I spotted a tiny silver trumpet. It looked well made, with intricate, fine detail and came in its own little case. My father played a trumpet in a few showbands in the 1950s and 1960s, so it popped into my head that this would make a nice present for him. I was about to cross the threshold of the shop when I stopped, with my hand resting on the cold glass door...

It was only then that I remembered, as a wave of despair and pain struck me, that he was dead.

Anger then took over and guilt too, as I couldn't believe that I had forgotten his now permanent absence from my life. I turned from the door and crossed the street to a nearby church, seeking darkness and solitude. I sat down on an empty pew in the gloom and cried...

Loss is a difficult thing to deal with, as most of us know, but in those moments when it hits you again it can be crushingly, achingly painful. Ten years on it still happens, differently and perhaps lessened to a degree by repetitivity but it still creates similar feelings and emotions. In a way I'm glad it does, as it makes me appreciate and work on my relationship with others in my family ... especially my mother, and my own son.

But this is not a poor me/pity me post, although it possibly is about me exorcising my demons in some sort of cathartic way. It serves as a reminder that it's okay to grieve, i
t's okay to cry, it's okay to forget ... as the re-remembering that then occurs jars your emotions awake and makes you feel more human, mindful and alive - albeit with a strong awareness of mortality, and regret.

And that forgetting happens still...

I travelled a little with my father, and I was lucky enough to bring my parents to places such as Rome, Austria and Switzerland. Places both he and my mother had always wanted to visit but would never have gone on their own. And now when I travel, either alone or with others, there is a strange, irrational comfort in knowing that some part of him is with me on the same journey, seeing the same sights, eating the same food and trying those new drinks - because a part of him remains within me, still rattling around in my head.

My father was a hardworking, gentle, caring, honest man, traits I try to emulate although I often fail to attain. He was highly critical of the world around him, and questioned everything. He hated liars and thieves, had no time for fools and charlatans. We were always close although perhaps not as close as we could have been, and at times he was my biggest critic...

... but I'd give almost anything to sit at a bar in Brussels, or anywhere else in the world, and share a quiet beer with him right now.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

History: The Lady's Well Brewery ... Again - Talk of Enameled Tuns and Cornish Boilers...

Following on from my last post, I promised to get to work on a poor quality copy of another piece on the opening of The Lady's Well Brewery (Murphy's) in Cork in 1856. I've done my best to figure out all the text but a few words have escaped me and, as you will see, I have questioned any figures or words I wasn't sure about. This write up focuses on the brewing machinery and vessels mostly and combined with the previous post it gives a better picture of the size, scale and workings of the brewery.

Also, the above advert appeared in the paper beside this piece but was also of poor quality so I've used a legible version with the same text but from The Cork Examiner instead, the original is at the bottom of the post with the original text.

(From the Cork Constitution)
    A few years ago a stranger visiting Cork, and entering the city from the former terminus of the Great Southern and Western Railway, might have noticed a large square building, the high walls surrounding which frowned darkly up on the narrow and crowded thoroughfare. This building was the Cork Foundling Hospital founded in the latter half of the 18th century for the support of deserted children of both sexes and maintained by a tax upon coals. For many years the establishment continue to exist but the progress of legislation, which has subverted so many still more venerable institutions, has at length abolished the Cork foundling hospital. The property in the building became vested in the Poor Law Guardians, who wore it first desirous that it should be converted into an Emigration Depot, and entered into communication with the Emigration Commissioners for that purpose. It appeared, however, that, partly from the growing conviction on the public mind that emigration ought no longer be assisted by the home government, the Commissioners could not assent to the terms required by the Guardians or the use of the building. Subsequently the Guardians were about to offer the building to the military authorities for the purpose of an auxiliary Barracks, but for this its situation was on suited and at length the premises having been offered for sale to the public, they have been purchased by Messrs J. J. Murphy and Co., who intend devoting them to a more practical and, we hope more profitable, if not more useful, objects Nando's originally contemplating.
    Few persons not acquainted with the subject and have any correct idea of the immense quality of malt liquor annually manufactured in these countries It is calculated that in England the amount yearly drank is 85[?] gallons per head on the entire population in Scotland 212[?] and in Ireland 1 ½ [?] - that the entire quantity consumed per annum is 17,000,000 barrels. In addition to what is consumed by our home population, vast quantities are exported to almost every part of the habitable globe and the consumption, so far from diminishing, is largely augmenting every year. In England malt liquor is emphatically the national beverage - it is the favourite drink of the artisan, and is found on every dinner table. In Ireland it does not seem to have please the public taste so well as in the sister Kingdom, still large quantities are consumed, and it is to be hoped it may ultimately supersede the more intoxicating and less nutritious produce of the still.
    Comparatively little of the building which went to form the Foundling Hospital was available for the purposes for which the premises were purchased by the Messrs. Murphy, and considerable expense had to be incurred in order to render the works complete. They possess, however, one great advantage in having an inexhaustible supply of the purest well water, suitable for manufacturing the finest bitter and sweet ales. The entire area included within the boundaries of the premises is 278[?] feet square. The building runs along each of the four sides and, is 15[?] feet in depth, thus leaving an open square in the centre of 210[?] feet each way. In the middle of the square is the well already mentioned, from which the water is pumped up a depth of 60 feet, as often as wanted. For the purpose of securing a sufficient supply, a tank has been constructed capable of holding 3,000 barrels, communicating by pipes to all parts of the building, thus any damage from fire maybe obviated. The water or “liquor,”’ as it is termed in brewers phraseology, is either soft water, for the manufacturer of porter, or hard water which is preferable for fine ales and beer. 
    The entire of the building and apparatus of the brewery was erected under the superintendence of the Messrs. Murphy's brewer, Mr Gresham Wiles who studied subject under Mr James Young, of Messrs. Hoare and Co, London, one of the highest practical brewers in the Kingdom. The premises have been taking possession of by the Messrs. Murphy in July, operations were immediately commenced to render them complete at the earliest possible period, and in the lapse of a [...] less than six months they were so far completed that brewing was entered on. Acting under the advice of Mr Wiles, the materials are entirely heated by steam, not as usually the case by common [...]. Steam is supplied from boilers housed[?] in a designed[?] building - it is of a new patent construction, combining the principles of the Cornish and the tubular boilers. In appearance it consists of two horizontal cylinders 18 feet in length and seven feet in diameter, running parallel to each other. Underneath are the fires, which present a great improvement over those commonly constructed, as by a lever the stoker can break and pulverize the coals, and keep up the heat without opening the doors of the grates. These boilers not only heat the materials but feed several steam engines amounting to 70 or 80 horse power, which communicating by shafts to various parts of the building keep the apparatus in motion. 
    Ascending to the first loft the [...] is shown the mash tuns, which are 8[?] feet deep, 18[?] feet in diameter, and each capable of mashing 120 quarters of malt. The interior[?] of each tun is enamelled, a process patented[?] by Mr. Wiles and which enables the tun to be [...] cleaned after each time of filling. All ales and a porters[?] are in one sense brewed in the same way; that is to say, the water goes into the copper, passes thence[?] into the mash tun, through that into the receiver, then into the copper again, after which it is cooled. It then passes into the gyle tun where it undergoes the process of fermentation, and thence it is cleansed[?] into the cask. In this general light, the process is [...], but on the mode of which the various operations are conducted, on the proportion and quality of the ingredients, on the temperature, time, &c., showed in the different portions of the process the entire quality of the produce depends. This is of course one of those “secrets” which every manufacturer keeps undisclosed, but it is reasonably to be expected that has improvements are made from time to time in the mode of operation the quality of the produce will be better, and the cost of manufacture reduced. In this respect some innovations have been introduced in the establishment of the Messrs. Murphy, the [...] of which is stated to economise time, and while cheapening the expense of manufacture, to produce a liquor at once combining strength of body with excellence of flavour. 
    In the Lady's Well Brewery, the boiling is effected by steam, and such is the rapidity with which it is effected that the entire liquor, in two large batches, containing 200[?] barrels each, can be raised to a boiling temperature in three quarters of an hour. Boilers contain ‘sparges’ which are constructed upon a patent principle, combining economy of fuel with rapidity of operation. The liquor having been raised to the proper temperature it is let into one of the mash tuns already mentioned. Each of these “mash tuns” is capable of containing 430 barrels. The malt, having been ground, is then shot into the mash tun. Each mash tun at the Lady's Well Brewery may be filled and empty three times a day. The time and manner of hopping vary among different brewers, some using more and some less. Much of course, depends on the kind of ale or porter required to be brewed, and the particular particular market it is intended for. The heat should be just sufficient to separate the aromatic portion of the plant without extracting the rank and injuries elements. To the judicious management of the hopping is mainly due the mild and pleasant flavour of the “Lady’s Well Ale” manufactured at Messrs. Murphy's Brewery, and which bids fair to acquire and extend the popularity. 
    From the copper in which the work has been hopped it is passed into the cooler, where is is brought rapidly down to a lower temperature by means of the refrigerating process, which is affected by cold water, introduced through numerous pipes running through every part of the cooler, until the wort is brought down to the requisite temperature. It is then introduced into fermenting tuns of which there will when the establishment is completed be eighteen, holding from 200 to 500 barrels each. The process of fermentation which general generally last for days, is completed in Messrs. Murphy's establishment in half the usual time, after which it is drawn off into the cleansing rounds, where it undergoes a further fermentation before being fit for use. The cleansing rounds are 150 and number, and contain 8 barrels each. 
    The vats in to which the liquor is subsequently introduced are of large size holding from 300 to 800 barrels each. Some idea of the extent of this establishment may be derived from the fact that they can now produce 5,000 barrels of malt liquor, each barrel holding 36 gallons, per week.

The Kerry Evening Post - 7th January 1857

As you can see it describes in a bit more detail some of the equipment and buildings from my first post, but some of the actual grammar and wording is still quiet hard to figure out in places...

Anyhow, I hope this and the previous post are useful to someone and that I'm not just going over old ground ... so to speak!


... with thanks again to the local studies room in Carlow Library.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

History: The Lady's Well Brewery - A Sighting of Cork Mild Ale & Imperial Double Stout...


It seems that everytime I sit down to do a little research my eyes catch sight of some snippet of information that has little to do with my own specific interest in local history, but still manages to steal a large chunk of my scarce time as I ponder and wonder at some fact or point that I was unaware of ... and as I am unaware of many things to do with brewing and beer this has happened more and more regularly in recent times.

And it's happened again...

I came across this piece from The Cork Examiner from 1856 while looking for more information on some local breweries, and as is often the case I ended up spending a while deciphering it. Having put some of it up on social media - albeit to what seemed to be a collective 'Meh...' and shoulder-shrug - I've decided to transcribe it and put it up here in case there are those who find it interesting. The newspaper's quality isn't the best as you can see and I've struggled to make out some text but in general the sentiment and information are all there. (I also came across a repeat of it in another paper, which filled in a few missing words.)

A lot of what is here is new to me but is possibly - and probably - covered elsewhere by others, but hopefully there are a couple of nuggets of information for others here - and please keep in mind that I am not a historian, beer-wise or otherwise so any comments here are from my truly ignorant standpoint!

We hail with pleasure the commencement of a new enterprise in the opening of the magnificent brewery at the Watercourse, which will be known by the name of The Lady's Well Brewery. The undertaking is one that not merely reflects great credit on the commercial activities and spirit of the gentlemen concerned it, but will be likely to prove of great benefit to the city in the addition it will make to its resources of the industrial employment, and the very large amount of capital which its success will be the means of putting into local circulation. The names Messrs. James J. Murphy and Co., highly [and] deservedly popular throughout the town and country, have been chiefly known of late in connection with the extensive Midleton Distillery, but the decided opening which lay in the brewing trade has made them turn their attention [to] that branch of business, with what chance of success we shall endeavour to give an idea.
This is better known as Murphy's Brewery to many and is nowadays famous as a macro brewed stout brand owned by Heineken. I was unaware of the seemingly well documented Midleton Distillery connection until I read it here and did a little research online. So, as you can see my knowledge of old breweries outside of Carlow is hazy and sketchy at best.
   In this country it is well known that the consumption of porter is very large, and that there is business in that direction to occupy a manufactory, we need not say; but there is new ground to be broken in which we feel a more direct interest, leaving as it does an opening for enterprises capable of indefinite expansion. For the last few years a taste has grown up in this country for a light sparkling drink called "bitter beer," or "pale ale." The rapidity with which the sale and use of this article has grown up has been most extraordinary, knowing how difficult it is to change the habits and tastes of persons in such respects. The article of this kind sold in Ireland - unless in cases of adulteration or imposition - is exclusively the manufacturing of the breweries of Burton-on-Trent, and comes from the celebrated houses of BASS, ALLSOPP, SALT, &co., &co. An idea of the extent to which the article has gone may be inferred from the fact, that Cork's receipts of one of those firms amount to nearly thirty thousand pounds a year. When we take, then, into consideration that our city forms but a small item in the list of consumers of an article which is exported alike to the Equator and Antipodes, we will see what a vast field for specification and enterprise lies in its manufacture. Hitherto, however, no attempt of any importance or any large scale was made in this country to compete with the gigantic English establishments. One reason, it may be mentioned, that has been popularly alleged, was the want of a water containing the peculiar qualities which gave so much merit to the Burton ales. But it happened some time since that the building known as the Foundling Hospital was put up for sale, and it was purchased by the Messrs. MURPHY. It is a splendid situation for a brewery, containing a range of buildings embracing an open square of nearly 200 feet. In addition to this, however, it contained what was still more important to their purpose, a well or spring of water coming from the same rocks, and of the same quality as the delightful Lady's Well; and also of properties precisely similar to those of the celebrated Trent water, taking advantage of this circumstance, the Messrs. MURPHY resolved to enter upon the manufacture of ales, in which they have already achieved a decided triumph.
This is an interesting paragraph, as it seems to suggest that the stout porter we associate with Murphy's was not the original reason for starting the brewery. If this editorial write up, which at times comes across as an advertisement and an ego massage for the Murphy's, is to be believed - and we should take everything here with a small pinch of salt perhaps - then the original plan for the brewery was to set themselves up as direct competitors to the glut of pale ales that were, seemingly, swamping the country, as well as exporting a good deal of the ale brewed.

(I also wonder if the water chemistry was close to Burton water?)

It continues...
   If energy be an element of success, the new firm decidedly can boast of it. They got their building on the 27th of July, and on the 8th of December the commenced brewing. When they took possession of the concern, all the found available for their purpose was the large shell of the building. They had to erect floors and fittings, pipes, vats, shafts, chimneys and machinery. All their work was done under the superintendence of their brewer, Mr. GRESHAM WILES, and as it has been constructed on the newest and most advanced scientific principles, a passing reference to it may not be devoid of interest. In the first place, it may be remarked, the entire of its processes are regulated and carried on by steam; and in this respect it is, we believe, quite unique in this country. Then there is scarcely a single item of its machinery which has not undergone some improvement, and does not mark an advance upon the old system. For instance the mash tun, a huge vat where, by means of huge teeth or saws, the essence of the malt is extracted, is covered with a coating of enamel, a perfectly new invention, which the firm have registered. The advantage derivable from this is chiefly its obviating any chance of mixing the colours of porter and ale, a defect to which machinery of the ordinary kind, in which both are brewed, is very liable. Even the contrivance by which the grains are expelled from this vat, after the essential principle of the malt has dropped through the false bottom, is, though simple, a great saving in labour and at the same time a great novelty. A more important improvement, however, has been effected in the machinery for extracting the essence of hops. In place of the older mode, which involved considerable waste of fuel and employed a great deal of labour, a new system, also registered, and about to be patented, has been adopted by the firm. The boiling batches (two of which are used for extracting the bitter juice of the hops - one for porter and another for ale) are covered with a perforated false bottom. In connection with this is a "sparge," or cylinder of copper, through which, by means of pipes, steam from the boilers is introduced. From the various apertures in the cylinder the subtle vapour permeates through the hops, leaving not a single one untouched, and extracting in a most complete manner their bitter principle. An equally interesting improvement has been effected in a process of depriving the porter of superfluous yeast; in the cooling apparatus, and even in the process of transmitting the malt from the lower floors through two series of flats, to the top of the building; but we do not feel ourselves at liberty to enter into particular descriptions of these. It might be thought that with so many novelties in the machinery of the brewery, there would, at some one department at all events, be risk of failure; but though on the occasion of the first brewing, out of twenty-five men employed in the establishment, not one had ever been engaged in a brewery before, not a single item failed or went out of order, and all the machinery worked as freely as if it had been twelve months in operation. The capability of this machinery may be judged, when we mention that, in full work, it can brew 5,000 tierces of ale or porter in the week or an aggregate of 260,000 tierces in the year. In connection with the appearance of the building, we may allude to one fact en passant, which will be of interest to a large class of our readers. There are no less than 150 gas lights burned in the establishment, and though the Messrs, MURPHY received most enticing proposals from the United General Gas Company to contract with them, they preferred to aid the citizens of Cork in their anti-monopoly movement, and declined the tempting offers made them.
5,000 tierces is around 800,000 litres, which is an awful lot of ale - even if it is hypothetical ale - and I don't know enough about 1850s breweries to know whether this is a little on the high side perhaps. Certainly the description of the enameled covered 'huge teeth or saws' sounds impressive, but some of the other descriptions of the equipment are a little vague, and the 'sparge' being used to extract the 'essence' from the hops seems to me to be either rushed note taking on the part of the writer or Mr. Wiles was deliberately confusing the writer so as not to let others know his secrets, but yet again it's all quite interesting and perhaps there is such thing as a 'hop sparger'...

Let's keep going...
 The manufacture of the brewery consists of common draught porter, bottling stout, imperial stout, mild, sweet, bitter, and pale ales. Of the qualities of some of these we can speak as affording promise rivalling, nay, in some respects, surpassing, the beverages produced by the great BURTON houses. The "Lady's Well" ale, made with the spring water of which we have spoken, is one of the most agreeable malt drinks that could be manufactured. It is a clear, amber colour, possessing a light, piquant bitter, and its flavor is in every respect fully equal to the highly-prized, a we may add, highly paid for, BASS or ALLSOPP. The bitter ale is of a stronger kind, and its acid quality is more powerful. This ale is intended for export, and from the success of this article we look for results of great importance, as, should a local firm obtain a most footing in the foreign markets, or which Burton brewers have so long enjoyed a monopoly, we might look forward to its laying the foundation of a new and valuable trade for this city. Of all the manufactures of this new establishment we can only speak in terms of commendation, but we confess to taking the strongest interest in that which leads them into competition with the English firms. They have laid the foundation of their undertaking in the soundest manner; they have brought to its assistance skill, capital and enterprise; they have constructed it with every advantage which science can afford, and we consider, therefore, that they deserve to succeed. The qualities which they have brought to their aid, are indeed those of which we have been most deficient in this country, but we trust to see the success of the Messrs. Murphy affording an example and a stimulus to others to strike out new paths of industry and increase the manufacturing energy of the country.
~The Cork Examiner 31st December 1856

This paragraph was for me the most interesting, as it describes the beers being brewed at Lady's Well at this time. So it seems that '...draught porter, bottling stout, imperial stout, mild, sweet, bitter, and pale ales...' were being made. Again I took this with a degree of scepticism but there are a few things that caught my eye. First was that four paler ales were being produced as well as the darker ales we are more familiar with from Murphy's, although I never knew they brewed an imperial stout. The use of the word 'mild' for the lightest of their pale ales is interesting to me as I had never heard that term outside of English brewing, and and perhaps reflected the training of Mr. Wiles at 'Mr. James Young of Messrs. Hoare & co. in London' (this information is via a poor quality write-up for The Cork Constitution that I will try to work on for a separate post.), and I thought might just be a descriptor as it was spelled with a small 'M'...

The description of the Lady's Well ale mentions an amber colour - Hardly a precursor of the infamous Irish Red style? - and seems to mention a light but sharp bitterness and compares it to Bass and Allsopp pale ales. The writer then goes on to talk about the 'bitter ale' being of a strong kind, so more alcohol perhaps and more 'acidic,' which we might take to be being more hoppy ... and that this is the ale intended for their assault on the export market, it was still all a little vague.


But then on the 12th of January 1857 the following advertisement appeared!

Wow! This seems to make it clear exactly what was being brewed at the time, no less that seven ales and five porters including an Imperial Ale and two imperial stouts! And there's that Cork Mild -  with a capital 'M' this time as well as an X Ale and XX Ale. I don't have access to any books written specifically on the brewery but other books and most online sources state they opened with just two beer types, this was clearly not the case - but again perhaps this is common knowledge...

Unfortunately this range does not seem to have lasted too long, as an advertisement in November of the same year list just XX Ale, XX Stout, X Stout and Porter available.

On 24 0f December 1860 a Imperial West India Stout was being bottled but after that the advertisement appear to dry up for anything different or exotic.

So it appears that this huge trade of exported ale never materialised...

I wonder did it ever get shipped anywhere?


(Incidentally a William Gresham Wiles died in a accident in 1863 at the Gresham Wiles & Brown brewery of South Malling, Lewes, England according to online sources. I wonder did he head back to England when his huge range of beer failed to make the impact he had hoped?)

[Edit: According to the Ó Drisceoil's book The Murphy's Story, Edward Lane was the head brewer when the business opened. It was he who was responsible for the beers produced not Mr. Wiles who just designed the brewery. I can find no mention in the book of the huge range of beers produced at the start or any recipes for them.]

... with thanks again to the local studies room in Carlow Library.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Travel: Valencia, Spain Part VII - Final ~ Missing Pieces...


128,713 steps...
91.89 kilometres...

According to the health app on my phone that's the distance I walked in Valencia...

Even taking in to account that the maths doesn't quite work out - or I did a lot of walking on the spot that I'm not aware off - those are impressive figure if I do say so myself. And not just me of course, as apart from a couple of solo excursions my family did the same amount of walking, which is especially impressive for my 9 year old daughter.

But we saw a lot, as you will be aware if you have followed the six other blog posts, and considering what we ate on our trip I'm glad we burned off a good few calories. If we hadn't then, I for one would have been put in the hold with an 'Overweight Luggage' sticker stuck to my forehead for our flight home.

Looking through the photos and notes I noticed that I had left off a few experiences that I should have mentioned but couldn't find a way of fitting into the other posts. So here's a short round up of those missing pieces...

Foodwise I'd like to mention the very cute Bocatería Tandem on Carrer d'en Llop which served us some excellent patatas bravas along with some nice squid, and chicken wings, amongst other bites. Pintxo i Trago on the way into Plaça Redonda, with a nice little beer list and some excellent nibbles set up on the bar. Mamá Delicias on Carrer del Periodista Azzati for its excellent Bocadillos, and finally Ocho y Medio in Plaça de Lope de Vega who served me really tasty Sartén Longaniza with padron peppers on our first day in the city. All of these are worth a look...

Horchata had to get a look in, it's a Valencian speciality made using ground Tiger Nuts. It's strange but likable reminding me of Sugar Smacks cereal from my childhood. I'd recommend giving it a go!

Cafe de las Horas on Carrer del Comte d'Almodóvar is a flowery, baroque-esque masterpiece of a cocktail bar, well worth a visit for a pre-dinner drink or late night cocktail - the coffee looked good too! El Cafetín on Plaça de Sant Jaume is an interesting spot to sit with a Zeta beer and watch the world go by, and at Beer & Travels on Plaça de Manises you can do the same, looking out on the pretty square and enjoying a very good range of Spanish and imported beer and cider - or a glass of wine.

I had to try a Turia beer while in Valencia, originally brewed in the city it's now brewed by Damm in Barcelona. It's supposed to be a Märzen-style beer, and I guess it is although it reminded me of the much maligned Irish red ale. Anyhow, it's a pretty inoffensive beer and worth a shot if you want something refreshing that you don't have to think about too much!

Beer & Travels, mentioned above, also have a bottle shop down the street from the bar that carries a nice range of both Spanish and imported beers, I only got to visit it twice, as it was closed any other time I passed it. La Boutique de la Cerveza is a small but excellent bottle shop on Carrer de Lluís de Santàngel in the interesting and lively Russafa area of the city. They are extremely helpful and knowledgeable and worth a call to if you have a little luggage space or need hotel beers! They carry a great range from Spanish micros as well as sought after Belgian ones, amongst others ... worth a trek out from the city centre.

So that's it, that's my last post about Valencia! As I've mentioned before it's a fantastic city as long as you're prepared to put some walking and work into your visit, sure it's a little grim and grubby in places but then again it's a real city, not a chocolate box image transferred to the real world. The series starts here if you've missed any of it, and feel free to contact me with any questions - I wouldn't profess to be an expert on the city but we did see a lot of it!

Remember ... 128,713 steps ... maybe...

Thanks Valencia!


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Travel: Urban Brewing, Dublin - The Return of the Famous Carlow Ale?

Way back in 1799, Saunders's Newsletter carried an advertisement for Carlow Ale, available from Grand Canal Harbour in Dublin for the princely sum of 23 shillings a barrel. As to what type of ale this was we can only speculate, although it's the second time I have come across the words 'Carlow Ale' being used as if it were a specific, local style. The other mention, in a new brewery advertisement in a local paper from 1817 with the phrase 'as it used to be' makes me think that there was perhaps something special about the beer brewed locally in the 18th and early 19th century in Carlow...

Mr. Green's brewery stood on Castle Street in Carlow town and there's a story to be told about it if I ever get my research finished and fill in the blanks in the history of this and the other local breweries. Unfortunately the recipes for the beers these breweries made have long since disappeared so it will be impossible to know with any certainty what it tasted like, although with the county's rich farmland and the noted quality of the malt it produced - and still produces - we can speculate that it was quite good, especially if it warranted shipping to Dublin.

The last brewery appears to have closed in the town in the late 1870s (and strictly speaking that was across the river in Graigue) and for many years after all the beer that was poured in the town was imported from various parts of the country and further afield, although Corcoran & Co conditioned and bottled a few different types for a while in the mid-20th century...

Then along came O'Hara's - Carlow Brewing Company - in 1996 and once more there was a brewery operating in the town, brewing in The Goods Store near the train station. As part of its expansion the brewery moved to Bagenalstown, they added an O'Hara's-centric pub to the Kilkenny bar scene and have since gone from strength to strength - acquiring Craigies Cider and the old Minch-Norton malthouse outside Bagenalstown.

Their latest (joint) venture is a stylish and sleek brewhouse and restaurant in the CHQ Building on Custom House Quay, across the Liffey ([Edit - see comments] and further west) from where Mr. Green was storing his ales 220 odd years ago. His beer came from Carlow via the canal but I arrived on this side of the river via a quicker train and Luas, having been kindly invited to the official opening of Urban Brewing. The entrance to the brewhouse is a little anonymous in a way but that suits the general feeling of classy-chic meets urban-modernity that the ground floor level of the bar exudes. Brick and grey metal combine with the wonderful glass roof hung with Edison-style bulbs to give a stark but comfortable feel. On a gantry above the bar sits the brewhouse where the house beers are made before being dropped to storage tanks downstairs where the beer is then pumped to the taps at the bar.

As well as these in-house beers they also stock the full O'Hara's range from the Carlow brewery, some guest brews and also a huge bottle list - plus cocktails, wine and spirits. Foods run from tapas for those wanting to graze a little, to a full restaurant offerings. (I was very happy to see rabbit on this menu!) We got to sample some tapas including a fantastic swordfish carpaccio and some beautifully cooked prawns from the 23 listed on the interesting tapas menu. The vibe and buzz in the place was great, helped by the army of liggers like me who had turned up, but I could also see myself sitting here - equally happy - on a quiet afternoon with a beer, a book and a bowl of something tasty.

And of course I tried the four here-brewed-beers on offer - Urban Wit is a bog standard Belgian wheat beer, that didn't excite or disappoint; Paradisi, a grapefruit IPA, tasted - well - like grapefruit juice and was a little harsh for my palate, as it's not a style of which I am overly fond; Denali IPA was a strange one ... I thought I had been given the wrong beer, as it tasted very like milder version of O'Hara's Freebird a wheat IPA, but after a brief argument discussion with the barman we decided to agree to disagree about it and I just enjoyed it for what it was ... or what I thought it was.

My favourite was The Forager's Wife, a saison with elderflower. I'm not sure I really picked up the elderflower but I did get a lovely dose of barnyard funk up my nose and a really nice meaty, hop-floral taste that I quite liked.

All the beers were fine really if a little hazy but as it's a pretty new system I think the brewer is still finding his feet with it, as you would expect ... and from what I hear the place is very busy so the beers are not getting much time to rest and condition. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what's produced over the coming months, and I'm hoping quietly for a brown ale to appear...

It's pretty much impossible to describe in words or show in pictures how wonderful the subterranean part of the brew pub is ... but I'll give it a shot. A gorgeous corridor stretches off into the distance with large alcoves running off from it filled with seating areas, a room for wooden barrels full of sleeping beers, and another full bar. It's all moodily lit with low level strip lighting and uplights showing off the vaulted brick ceiling. It reminded me of somewhere in Belgium or France, or some Kellerbar somewhere in Germany - it really did put a huge smile on my face as I poked around.

As I made my way back up the stairs it struck me that this was a place to be experienced not just visited...

So, it's great to see some Carlow Ale back on the quays of Dublin and I'll be back in Urban Brewing as a paying punter fairly soon. It's a fantastic spot and as I ran off once again to catch yet another stupidly early last train back home, I felt a little pride that maybe Carlow brewing had come almost full circle...


(Please Note: At the opening all the food and beers were free, although I didn't overdo it. I haven't been paid to write any of this, and as usual I paid for my own train ticket. Yes I live in Carlow, and yes I sort-of-know the O'Hara's - take all of that into account if need be, but remember I am an honest guy!)

The history bit is with thanks to the local studies room, Carlow library.