Saturday, 13 December 2008

Düsseldorf's on hold

I am up to my ears with a work project at the mo' so I have no time to write or read Blogs. Will post a decent review of Düsseldorf before Christmas but it was fantastic. Just go!
Apologies for the poem by the way.
I don't know what came over me.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Ode to the Alt bearing Kobes

I'm back from Düsseldorf at last
and sad, I am, it's in the past.
Alt is the new love of my life.
(Just please, please don't tell the wife.)
The Alt, I tried in many places,
from Kobes full of airs and graces.
Some were surly, some were mean,
and some were really not to keen
to give me some of that amber brew
even though I felt it was my due.
(I'd braved the weather and the crowds
and avoided 'Hooter's', wasn't I proud?
I battled with the language too
and got raw pork instead of stew.)
They made me feel it was my fault
(The Kobes, I mean, not the Alt)
for daring to sit in their hallowed place.
I guess it wasn't always the case
As some were pleasant, even nice.
(Well that's what happened once or twice.)
But I forgive them all  their lack of cheer
for giving me such food and beer
and I'd raise to them a glass of Alt
If only I had one but I have nowt.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Shepherd Neame 1698

In 1698 Sir Isaac Newtown calculated the speed of sound. Fair play to him.
I don't know if there's any connection with that and the setting up of Shepherd Neame but think about it..............
Ok, that's enough. I'm still short on time.
I have had mixed feelings and tastings on the SN offerings but I kinda liked this one.
It's very mellow and smooth. The best description I can think of is of a very mellow whisky. Not watery mind, just very mellow and subtle. Especially with it's low carbonation.
With maybe a dash of lemonade.
The Verdict
Yeah, it's nice. I'd try it again.
Shepherd Neame - 50cl - 6.5% alcohol - England

Fuller's Golden Pride - AKA Liquid Christmas Pudding

Have to sort out my bag for Düsseldorf so I'll keep this short and sweet.
This is an intense beer. I think I read somewhere that it's categorised (I hate that term) as a Barley Wine. I guess it has a sherry like quality.
Sweet, Malty, Treacle-like taste.
You can sense the alcohol level and the buzz from it.
Lovely light carbonation.
The Verdict
Not bad you know. Nice beer for a cold evening in front of the fire, sharing it and the love of a good woman.
In equal quantities.
Told you it would be short!
Fuller's Golden Pride - 50cl - 8.5% alcohol - England

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Reasons to be Beer-Full - Part 1

When I started this blog I really didn't know where it would lead to. That was a few months and almost 100 beers ago.
100 beers! That seems a bit surreal. If someone had told me 6 months ago that I would go to Brussels and come back a beer addict I wouldn't have believed them. I think that's what it is with me, an addiction. I seem to look in every supermarket and off licence for something new to try. I guess I have become a Beer Ticker
Having said that I don't rate the beers on a scale. I just give my impression and personal experience of them.
I don't have a list of beers that I want. (Except for one or two mention by those that comment on the site)
I don't look like an Anorak, Oh wait, I actually do. I have the 3 Bs, Beard, Balding and Beer Belly. Is that 4 Bs?

But the thing is, I don't really care what others think! As I have mentioned before, this blog is for me.
I like people to comment and I like to see where people visit from but it's not like I comment on the Beer Rating sites. 
Or, for that matter, judge those who do. Maybe by saying this I am judging?!
It's like going out for a pint. I would prefer to go out with like minded people for a natter and a beer and I'd like my blog to be the same, with like minded people sharing opinions and information.
So call be a Beer Bore, Anorak, Beer Nerd whatever. Just keep reading and commenting.

I'm off to Düsseldorf on Saturday but will hopefully get in another post or two beforehand. Can't wait to try the Alt!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Morland's 'Hen's Tooth'

I'm still working my way through my stash of beer from my last visit to The Wine Centre in Kilkenny. They're getting scarce now so I better take a spin down to them when I'm back from Germany.
One of the beers I picked up was this one. I'm not really sure why, I think it was perhaps the name more so than the blurb but anyway I have it now.
It has a strange bitter-sweet taste but more bitter than sweet. Does that make sense? I got a burnt toffee flavour coming through after the bitterness.
It's not as smooth as I expected although it did mellow out a bit once I got used to it. I got a syrupy taste coming through towards the end. Couldn't taste anything else really.
Nothing special about it in my opinion although I see from the bottle that it won a silver medal in 2006 from CAMRA so maybe it was just me.
The Verdict
Certainly a strange one. Not really my kind of beer.
Morland's 'Hen's Tooth' - 50cl - 6.5% alcohol - England

Shepherd Neame Spitfire

To be honest, I wasn't overly hopeful that I'd like this one. My previous exploits with SN have bean only so-so so I expected more of the same. Oh well, here we go.....
Hey, this isn't to bad. It's not to bitter, which is good, with just a nice sour orangey tang. A bit like good marmalade. Also there seemed to be more to it than the others, perhaps a bit more depth and character. It also has a nice mellow aftertaste, no tartness.
So at last I have found an offering from SN that I like! I'm not sure that there was anything wrong with the others to be honest. Perhaps they got me on a bad day!
The Verdict
A nice beer with plenty of character. I'd have it again.
Shepherd Neame Spitfire - 50cl - 4.5% alcohol - England

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Erdinger Weisbier Dunkel - Nescafe anyone?

Not that I've had many, but wheat beer and especially darker ones appeal to me. I spotted this in the supermarket so I decided that it should be a good one. Or at least that's what I thought.
This turned out to be quite mild tasting. An unassuming dunkel if there is such a thing!
The best I can describe is that it tasted of a slightly burnt, watery, instant coffee. The fact that it went flat quickly added to the idea.
I guess if you were having a tasting night you could start with this one and work up from there. At least it wouldn't turn you off the style.
The Verdict
A bit mild and uninspiring for me.
Erdinger Weisbeer Dunkel - 50cl - 5.6% alcohol - Germany

O'Hara's Irish Red Ale & a Tangent

Carlow Brewing Company are situated just a few minutes from where I live. Indeed, they are sited right beside my old secondary school in the old goods store by the train station.
In a previous existence I have used them for corporate events where we needed to demonstrate some of the delights of Carlow to visitors. We would hire equipment and get a few kegs from them and dished out their offerings to people from all over the world on one occasion. It always went down well.
Therefore I'm a bit biased as to their beer. I have only reviewed one of their beers here, their Celebration Stout, so biased or not I decided I'd better make amends.
O'Hara's Red, which was called Molings but was renamed a little while ago, poured a nice dark red colour with a big fizzy head that dissipated quickly. It had an acrid but not unpleasant smell, if that's not a contradiction.
Taste wise it has a burnt caramel flavour and a bitter hop taste with very little fragrance of anything else. Having said that it doesn't really need a whole lot else, it's not he most complex of beers. The only negative comment I could make is that perhaps it's a little watery? The taste, I guess, either suits your palate or it doesn't.
Yes, I know that I'm stating the obvious but the more I drink the more I appreciate that beer that suits me might not suit others. I have gotten really wary of suggesting beers to people unless I know their general taste. Even then I would only make general suggestions.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this blog is about my tastes. I write it for myself and although I am more than delighted when people read or comment, don't take my word for things. Try them yourselves. (As I know ye do!)
Sorry. I've diverted from the plot!
The Verdict
A nice bitter red ale. Buy it, Carlow needs the money! (I'm not biased. No really!)
O'Haras Irish Red Ale - 50cl - 4.3% alcohol - Ireland

Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger - I Finally Got The Finger Out

 This was on special for two for €5 in Tesco so I grabbed it with Spitfire with my weekly shopping. I had put off trying this for no good reason really except, I guess, that it was everywhere I looked so I always tended to look for something different.
I was heading to a party that night so I brought it along. Hence the picture.
I have to say that once again this is a Shephern Neame that just doesn't do it for me. I know that others find it above average but I found it only ok at best.
The taste was a bit like burnt biscuits with a bitter aftertaste. I got very little fruit taste from it despite the promise of Seville oranges on the label. It went flat rather quickly too.
The Verdict
I am sure they're are many who this appeals to but it's not to my taste anyway. I can only hope the Spitfire is better.
Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger - 50cl - 5.4% alcohol - England

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Hilden Irish Ale

This was supposed to be a review of Rodenbach Gran Cru but when I opened the bottle it smelled of vinegar and was as flat as..............something really flat.
So, I rooted in my 'cellar' and found a bottle of Hilden Ale that I had picked up at Septemberfest and after giving it a light chill cracked it open.
It had a nice colour and a nice fine carbonation which seemed very promising. It had a slight hoppy smell of nothing in particular that I could really pick out. Taste wise, well........
It's not that there was anything wrong with it as such it's just that it seemed a bit on the light side. A bit boring perhaps. It's still a lot better than most of the 'normal' ales available in pubs but it seemed to me that perhaps they had dumbed down the flavour to appeal to a wider audience. Compared to similar offerings from Carlow Brewing or Whitewater it didn't seem to stack up but I wonder would it appeal more to non beer enthusiasts? I might do a test if I ever pick up another bottle.
Can't really so much more on it to be honest.
The Verdict
Nothing really wrong with this beer. It just didn't blow me away. Not even a little puff!
Hilden Irish Ale - 50cl - 4.6% alcohol - Northern Ireland

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Master Brew by Shepherd Neame - Fancy a cuppa?

My previous experience with Shepherd Neame brews didn't inspire me but I felt I should give them another shot. After all, they seem to have a decent pedigree, a good range of product and I have heard others speak highly of them.
Master Brew appealed to me as perhaps a nice hoppy beer. Perhaps it was the name playing with images of Kent and a brewer with a cloth cap dosing a brew with a summer ripened crop of hops. Wonderful.
The reality was different. A strange brew.
It looked good when poured but when I took a good sniff a got nothing. The taste took me by surprise, it reminded me of cold tea with a dash of lemon. I also tasted raisins and butterscotch  or burnt fudge. The light carbonation helped the flavours bounce around my mouth but as I say, very strange brew.
In one way it reminded me of a beer you would have with a dessert. Perhaps a fudge cake or apple and toffee crumble.
Nothing wrong with it really. I think.
The Verdict
I really can't make my mind up on this one. It was unlike anything I've had before.
Master Brew - 50cl - 4% alcohol - England

Delirium Tremens - The beer, not the condition.

My first taste of the Delirium brand was on my trip to Brussels where we ended up one night in the Delirium Cafe with it's 2,004 beers. We didn't try the Delirium beer there, I think it was the next day in another pub and I'm not sure who had it. It's a bit of a blur now and back then I didn't take notes.
So anyway, when a friend of mine got me a couple of bottles of it I eagerly anticipated giving it a shot on my home soil. This was a chance to remind myself of the trip and the good time we had, even if I didn't try DT there.
I cracked it open and poured it out. It seem to have a slightly viscous nature that meant it glooped into the glass. this could have been my imagination as it defies rational explanation!
The smell hit me as something peculiar. Slightly fruity but also, to my nose anyway, a slightly smokey Ranchero smell! Weird.! The taste was a fruity mix of citrus and banana with a bare hint of spiciness. It's somewhat sweet on first taste but after a few sipsI  got a slightly tart after taste. Maybe this was because of the high alcohol content?
This could also explain the tingle on the tongue too but I suspect that this has to do with the carbonation.
All of these features combine to make a fine and tasty beer and looking at the picture on the bottle reminded me of the cafe too! 
I must go back.
The Verdict.
A great little beer with plenty of flavour. Mind the alcohol content though!
Delerium Tremens - 33cl - 8.5% alcohol - Belgium

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Budweiser Budvar Dark Lager

I found this lurking in my fridge where I had put it a few weeks ago. I think I left it in there one night and forgot about it due to the fact that I put some leftovers on top of it. What this says about my fridge hygiene and cleanliness is pretty obvious but there you go. Look on the bright side, you don't have to live with me.
Anyway, back to the beer. I had tried and enjoyed Budvar on draught before so this seemed like a good choice.

The colour was certainly intense, being a beautiful dark amber shade and the sweet, intense malt smell wafted through my nostrils just before I took a gulp. It was beautifully smooth with a rich coffee bean taste. Not espresso coffee beans, something more subtle and less severe. I got a slight nutty taste too and a slightly sweet after taste as it went down.

As I drank more the taste mellowed slightly, or maybe it was me, and it seemed to get sweeter. I found myself drinking it a bit quicker than I had anticipated and got to the end of the bottle way too quickly. Damn!

I was looking at the bottle and I spotted that it was 2 months out of date. Mind you, that didn't seem to affect anything about it. I thought it was a fine beer and one I could drink one or two of easily, maybe even three.....

Incidentally, it also gives the malts used on the ingredients list on the bottle. (Pale, Munich, Caramel, Roasted.)

The Verdict

This is a great beer for my palate. Plenty going on in taste and smell with a lovely smooth texture.

Budweiser Budvar Dark Lager - 50cl - 4.7% alcohol - Czech Republic

Monday, 17 November 2008

Cantillon Brewery, Brussels

I started a piece on the Cantillon Brewery for the blog but it turned into a longish article so I asked the main men at the Irish Craft Brewer site if it would suit them for their article section. It did and they have posted it there. I would appreciate any comments.

Read it here.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ayinger Weizen-Bock - Wait for the Cliche

With my taste buds reappearing after a slight hiatus I decided I'd better get back into the flow and dig into the reserves I've built up over the last couple of weeks.I picked this up on my last visit to Kilkenny even though the last Ayinger product I tried was not to my taste, to say the least. I hoped this was a different ball game and I usually find weizens are a safe bet for my palate.
I took a good big gulp, mainly because of greed. I hadn't tasted a beer in a while so I was a bit too eager. This didn't disappoint me. Unfortunately the cliched description of banana and clove are springing to mind at the moment as I sit here drinking it and I am trying to suppress it. It's too obvious, isn't it?
As I feel the alcohol tickle the back of my throat and the fumes help to clear what remains of my cold, I search for better words. Perhaps a little ginger? Definitely a trace of citrus, lime I think. It's perfectly carbonated by the way, the bubbles last well to the end of the glass and tingle away as it travels round my mouth and disappears down my throat.
This really is a good if not great winter weizen. I can see myself in front of a roaring fire with snow falling outside and a comely wench, if they still exist, serving me some of these. Only two or three mind, I need to be fresh in the morning for the boar hunting.
The Verdict
Great winter wheat beer. Cliched or not!
Ayinger Weizen-Bock - 33cl - 7.1% alcohol - Germany

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Tasteless Stuff

Poor me.
I've had a cold for the last week or so, which isn't an issue in its self. The problem is I've lost my sense of taste. Now many would say I had very little taste anyway but it's no laughing matter.
No Really.
I have a stack of beer to taste and review that I have been looking forward to for ages now and I dare not try them. Worst of all my own first homebrew is ready and I have waited patiently for 6 weeks plus as recommended and now I can't try it! I sampled it not long after it was bottled but I wanted to leave it a while before doing a proper tasting and review.
Who would have thought a bit of a cold would be such a disaster to my new hobby/lifestyle/way-of-life.
When I say I can't taste anything, I mean ANYTHING. I made a mustard and sausage sambo today to try to get it going and I could not taste the mustard. I tried chili and all I got was a stinging in the back of my throat. Nothing else. 
Pickled ginger you say? No joy.
I'm really pi**ed about it!
I was meant to be going to Bruges this weekend for a beer festival but changed my mind thank god. Imagine being there in this state!
I am off to Dusseldorf in early December so I hope I'm OK by then. Looking forward to trying the Alt!
Any ideas on what to do about the taste thing?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 6

Some final thoughts.

On Galway
Galway seems to me to be a city of contrasts. A mixture of old and new both in the buildings and the people. New shopping centres stand beside medieval buildings and old men sit drinking Guinness at the bar while the youth of the city, and other countries, drink lattes in the trendy bistros. Parts of the city are covered in litter and graffiti while most areas are clean and tidy. The locals go about their daily business as the foreigners buy Oirish souvenirs from other foreigners behind the tills. You are as likely to hear a strong mid-western American accent as hear a west of Ireland one. Perhaps more likely.

All this tourism is obviously good for the community in economic terms but I can't help feeling it's a bit like selling out to the lowest common denominator.

Did I fall in love with Galway? Well, no. It's a nice city no doubt but it seemed to lack a heart or a soul, I'm not sure how to describe it. It's like many Irish tourist conscious cities, Kilkenny is similar, there's something missing.

I feel that most cities I've visited in Europe still have that soul, that inner beat, that feeling that grips your heart and mind. Maybe it's just because I am a real tourist there where as I was just a semi-tourist in Galway. It will take a brighter mind than me to figure it out.

I'd still go back to Galway, just to see if I was wrong. In a way, I hope I am.

On The Great Irish Beer Festival
The debate could go on forever as to whether it deserves the word 'Irish' in the title. One side of me says that there should have been a better selection of beers from Ireland. Galway Hooker and Whitewater via Bierhaus were the only ones I saw. From what I've heard, this is because of the charges for a stand plus percentage of turnover the organisers wanted but I've only heard one side of the argument so it's a bit unfair of me to comment. I guess it depends on whether you attach the word 'Irish' to the 'Festival' or the 'Beer'. After all, The Wexford Opera Festival probably didn't have many operas written in Wexford. Syntax can be a deceiving thing.

Anyway, no matter what way you look at it, anything that pulls people away from mainstream, poor quality beers can only be good in the long term so I think it's a positive thing. It was relatively well organised (apart from the seating). For a novice like me it was a good way of trying beer without having to go to a many different places, not to mention the fact that we could share bottles and not appear like cheapos. We also got a chance to talk to some of the suppliers, which helps with understanding the beers and beer trade.

Would I go again? I'm not sure. It would depend on the beers available next year but I would recommend anyone who's starting down the beer journey that I'm on to go to it.

On Drinking
It's no fun drinking and appreciating beer on your own. Well I guess what I mean is that it's better with a few like minded individuals. You can debate about the taste of the beer as well as the usual banter that beer drinking stimulates. Then again that's true of many things in life.

Another lesson I learned was not to judge a pub by the amount of beer it stocks. Sheridan's was my favourite pub by far and it probably had the smallest selection of the three 'beer' pubs we visited. (It still had a great selection though!)

Life's to short to listen to s**t from bar staff and be deafened. I can get that anywhere.

Surround yourself with good friends that will put up with you when you're blathering on about something they have no interest in, because they know you will do likewise. Good people will always be more important than good beer.

Here endeth the lesson.

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 5

We arrived at the Bierhaus and again the joint was jumping. It was fairly full but not packed so there was plenty of room to move about. We split up a bit and ordered our drinks. I had a Weissbier which I was told I couldn’t have on draught as it would take too long so I was given a bottle instead! Strange, the place wasn’t that busy but I didn’t grumble.

We wandered around to find a place to chat without getting our heads blown off by the DJ. It was quite loud no matter where we went so one of our group asked if they could turn down the music a tad as everyone was shouting and trying to be heard above the din, not just our group. The guy behind the bar suggested that, and I quote, ‘If you don’t like the music you can go somewhere else’ and gave us a dismissive gesture. I was a bit shocked by this, although I don’t know why, poor service and surly behaviour seems to be the norm in many places now. He could have just said that it was out of his control, it was up to the DJ, suggest a quieter corner, whatever.

Maybe we ARE getting old.

Needless to say we took his advice. We wandered down to Salt House to check it out and we were pleasantly surprised. It’s a smallish place but they seemed to have as good a range of beers as the Bierhaus. It was much quieter and the staff certainly had less attitude. By this stage I was a bit too worn out to take note of the beer list but my draught Budvar was excellent. 

We finished the night there and headed back to the hotel, regretting the fact that Sheridan’s was closed.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 4

I was up early on Sunday so I took a walk along the dock and up along the river. The weather had certainly improved and there were a fair few people with the same idea. I was feeling a little muggy from my shenanigans the previous night so I walked for ages and stopped for a coffee before meeting up with Beer Goggles down the town.

The plan was to go to Sheridan’s for food and a pint again and then to collect Beer Mat before heading to the festival. We headed down towards the dock and turned the corner only to find Sheridan’s closed!

Disaster. Seemingly they don’t have a Sunday licence, which I found a bit strange. Not to mention disappointing. This also meant no nightcap here tonight. I guess we were going to have to go to plan B.

We picked up BM and headed to Naughton’s instead. They had Hooker, a wheat beer and the usuals on draught and a small selection of bottles. It was a nice place, very traditional. I’d say the yanks love it. There seemed to serve only soup or full dinners so we decided to hold off on food until the Festival. We did have a couple of Hookers and a wheat beer though before heading on to The Black Box.

We got caught in a downpour on the way in and arrived like drowned rats at the Speakeasy beer stand. We tried Untouchable pale ale first and it was very smooth and tasty. Fresh tasting with plenty of malt and hops with a nice touch of orange. An excellent beer. Next up was Prohibition ale which was good but not as good as Untouchable. Perhaps a little to bitter for my taste. Big Daddy IPA was the last of the trio. I thought I would really like this but again only found it ok. It was full of flavour no doubt but it tasted a little sharp to me. For me the stars from these guys were Untouchable and the Gordon Bierschs we had yesterday. Give me more!

The place was much quieter today so we got a picnic bench and sat down. BG went off for our next beer and we were joined at the table by Mick. He was from Australia via Oughterard and was a mine of information on wine making and beer brewing. He worked as the former and had completed a course on the latter. We ended up chatting for most of the day on all kinds of beer and wine topics and we really enjoyed his input. In the mean time, BG had arrived back with a bottle of Wells Bombardier. I had heard about the beer before so I was looking forward to it. Strangely, it seemed bland to us. A poor smell I thought, BG piped in with ‘No length’ and Mick thought it thin tasting. Very disappointing, for us anyway.
I was milking Mick for more brewing information when MB arrived with a Youngs Double Chocolate Stout. I tried a little and I have to say it was kind of nice. I mean it is exactly what it says on label. No danger of being disappointed or surprised I guess.

At this stage I had to head back to the Weihenstephan guys with their decent glassware and great beer. I picked the Tradition Bayrisch Dunkel. It was ok. Quite bitter and burnt with a malty taste. My notes say, and I quote, ‘Like Burnt Water’? Figure that one out!

Next was Mac’s Gold lager which we felt was ok if nothing special. A sweet malty flavour but a little insipid. Very inoffensive really.

At this stage I remembered that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so went off for a bite. I picked up a few bites from a Spanish themed place. Lovely Serrano ham, olives, bread, peppers with goats cheese, anchovies and another cheese I can’t remember the name of. Very tasty.

I wandered back over to the Weihenstephan stand to see what else we could try. I spotted a colourful bottle with the name Korbinian on it. I asked one of the guys serving who told me that there was only 2 or 3 bottles of this in the country! Hmmmmm, yeah, right, sure. I brought it back to the table along with 2 of their decent glasses and poured it out for BG and I. Mick had left at this stage and BM was on the lighter stuff, chatting with a nice couple we were sharing the table with now.

Holy mackerel this was suberb!
There was a heavenly scent and taste of molasses or burnt syrup, a little spice and a bit of citrus too. It had so much going on but everything seemed to gel. It was smooth and full of flavour with a nice finish. I really had trouble describing it. A great end to the festival.

As we made our way back in to town , with another bottle of Korbinian to bring home (only one left now!!!)that BM got for me for free and a Weihenstephan glass I borrowed til next year, I reflected on what my favourite beers of the festival were. I liked all the Gordon Biersch that I tried and most of the Weihenstephan. The Speakeasy Untouchable was good too. I would find it hard to pick my top 3.

But I will anyway.

1 – Korbinian

2 – Marzen

3 – GB Hefeweizen W Vitus Untouchable. I think it’s a tie.

With that we decided to head to the Bierhaus.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 3

After leaving the festival we moseyed back into town to see what was happening and somehow ended up in a packed bar with poor beer. The place was heaving with no room to move. The antithesis of what I was looking for.

Not my kind of place.

I made my excuses to all and left by myself for a better look around town.

 I decided to cross the river and head towards the Bierhaus. It was busy there too but at least you could get a drink at the bar. The music was a bit loud (maybe it’s because I’m pushing on!) and it was hard to make yourself heard. I  spotted  ‘New Belfast Beers’ on the specials board and asked for a Clothworthy Dobbin but they had none left so I settled for a Bitter & Twisted  from Harviestoun instead. This was served in a Bitburger tankard that suited it well and the beer was not too chilled, it was perfect.

On draught were London Porter, O’Hara’s, Becks, Staropramen, Leffe, Hooker and others I couldn’t get a good look at. They had a good few beers in the cooler too.  I still wonder why the beers are not separated in different coolers, with one temperature for ales, etc and one for lagers and the like. Or maybe that’s just me.

Hunger was taking a hold now and I headed out to see if I could find something spicy to fill me up. I was heading back across the river when I spotted the Salt House and the mention of international beers. It was a bit late and I was a bit hungry so I decided to leave it until the next night.

Back across town I found a nice kebab shop, ordered a Lamb Shish and took a seat. It was very quiet and I took the time to chill out and relax. The food was exactly what I need, nice and spicy with plenty of sauce. I decided to call it a night and headed back towards the hotel.

Passing Sheridan’s I noticed they were still open and couldn’t resist a second visit. I ordered a Leffe, served in a Leffe glass, to wash down my Shish and took a seat.  This place was busy too but in a better way, people could talk and listen without having to shout or use sign language.

Now if I only had someone to talk too.......

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 2

My comrades Beer Mat and Beer Goggles turned up in due course and after they got a bite to eat we headed up to The Black Box to the festival, stepping around the broken umbrellas and puddles as we went. I have never seen so many dead umbrellas in any city, there were hundreds of them. A testament to the earlier weather and the lack of concern for littering and rubbish in this country. (and many others of course.)

We arrived around six and the place was fairly packed. We headed first to the Gordon Biersch/Speakeasy importer to see what was on offer.

I had read about these on the ICB site and thanks to The Beer Nut so decided to try the Gordon Biersch range first, beginning with the Hefeweizen. The tasting notes had mentioned banana and bubble gum but I didn’t believe it until I took a whiff. Well it certainly did smell of both, the taste being a little more subtle with a little malt and spice coming through. It was a really nice beer, refreshing and easy to drink. Next up was the Marzen, a sweet, spicy beer without being cloying. A fine and tasty beer indeed. I had decided that I would not try the Blond Bock as I thought it might be too rich and sweet but I was splitting bottles with BG so I said I’d try it. It wasn’t bad but not to my taste, perhaps it was after the Marzen, which was so good. A great start to the day, this was a great-tasting range. We decided to move on to another stand and leave the Speakeasy until tomorrow.

Seating was a bit disastrous at the event. There was a scattering of picnic tables and a few chairs. Apart from that you had to stand at tall tables or sprawl on the ground.  Certainly not an ideal arrangement, surely a few more picnic tables could have been bought. It’s been a bad summer, they’d be cheap now!

We snuck in on a tall table that was quite full already and had a look at the list I had printed out. (Yes. I am that sad/efficient! Delete as applicable.) We decided on the Gulpener Korenwolf. With its blue bottle and hamster on the label it certainly looked appealing. Taste wise we thought it ok but didn’t blow us away. I got a bit of spiciness but not as good as I thought it should. A mix of flavours with a bit of lemon to the fore but the taste didn’t seem to last. I think I might have to try it again in other circumstances as I feel I might have missed something.

Next up was the Well’s Banana Bread Beer which was ok actually. I really did exactly what it said on the bottle. I’m not sure I need to say more.

After that, we moved on to the Weihenstephan range. BM and I had tried them at a tasting in Kilkenny and I was keen to try them again. We went first for the HefeWeissbier Dunkel and it was nice to get these in proper glasses and not the plastic ones. This caught me by surprise as I smelled of the seashore! It was quite rich in taste though with flavour of bitter banana and spices, perhaps a bit of clove and a touch of lemon. Not bad at all.

As we drank we commented on the amount of young people there and decided this was a good thing. They were experiencing something other than ‘the usual’ in the pubs. However much you would lament the lack of Irish beers there, it would still seem that this festival was a good thing. Not perfect but still a good thing.

The food was quite good.  One stand selling German style food and another selling a mixture of continental style sandwiches and stews. BM and I had the Krakeaur (Bacon sausage) and BG had a chick pea and roasted vegetable stew. All were excellent.

We decided to continue on the Weihenstephan beer and picked the Vitus next. Wow this was good! It was sweet, tasty and spicy but, again, not in a sickly or cloying way. Loads of sweet barbecue banana with cloves and a bit of malt. A super beer, this would be hard to beat.

By now we had been joined by The Cider Girls and another mate from Dublin. The CGs were working their way through the cider on offer and the odd beer. Time was pushing on and we decided to have one last beer  here for tonight.  BM picked a Maisel Weisse Dunkel to keep us in the same general area. It was smooth, very smooth and subtle. I couldn’t pick up a lot in taste but I think that we had maybe gone one to far here so I will reserve judgement for another time.

It was now ten and most people still here were either very merry or worse but there was no hassle.

 I have to say that I was quite cheery myself but not too bad really. Just in need of a walk and some more food.

So off we toddled into the night.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 1

I almost missed the connection to Galway.

Going from Carlow to Galway involves going east to head west, changing trains in Kildare.  When I booked the ticket online I had 25 minutes to spare before the Dublin-Galway train arrived. Unfortunately I never reckoned for the first train running so late so I arrived in Kildare with 2 minutes to spare. I would like to think that Irish Rail held the train, were super efficient and conscientious and knew that there might be people on my train needing to change in Kildare but I think that would be one leap of faith too much. I think I was lucky.

I ended up opposite a rough looking woman who smelled of feet. I don’t think it was just her feet that smelled of feet it was kind of all encompassing. She also had two black eyes and a strange bearded husband with a small head and large hands. She had a strange habit of lying flat across two seats and sticking her feet out in to the aisle causing the odour to waft around the carriage in an almost visible manner, like the stink lines in a cartoon. I should really have changed carriages but I was too fascinated by the woman to move and I thought she might do something worth hanging around for, like spontaneously combust. 

I was wrong. She left in Athlone. Her smell got off in Athenry.

When I arrived in Galway it was spilling rain. It was noon and Beer Goggles and Beer Mat had not left Dublin yet. They had a wedding there the previous day and were driving across the country at some stage. Although I got soaked getting to the hotel I was keen to get back out and get in to Sheridan’s on the Dock as soon as possible for a pint of Hooker. I quickly dried off and made the short dash along the quay and went inside.

I was greeted by friendly staff and a ferocious back draft from the lit open fire. I sat up at the bar and took a look around. It was a nice place with two separate rooms as well as the main bar area. Not very big but that seemed part of the charm.

The list on draught was quite impressive, for me anyway. As well as Galway Hooker they had Leffe, Erdinger, Staropramen, Budvar , Hoegaarden and others.  They also had a nice range of beer in bottles including specials on Sierra Navada Pale Ale and Menabrea. This was the first pub I had been in that served a decent selection of beer, I’m not the Beer Novice for nothing you know!

There was a nice mix of hearty food on the menu too, ranging from stews to meat and cheese platters.  I spotted a Rare Beef Sandwich and immediately knew this was the perfect compliment for a pint of Galway Hooker. I was quickly served with my beer and my food followed soon after.

Well what can I say, it was without doubt the best lunch I have had in years. The beer was suberb. I had previously tasted it at Septemberfest in Farmliegh and had liked it then but somehow, sitting at a bar in Galway with rain pummelling down outside, it was fantastic. The fact that my beef sandwich was superb helped. It was fat slices of beef in generous proportions, crammed between thick slices of bread with salad inside and on the side. Words can’t express how good it was. The fresh, hoppy taste of the Hooker combined with the rich beef was a perfect combination. This was Nirvana.

I wasn’t just the food and the beer, it was the whole sense of comfort, homeliness and satisfaction.

So as the smoke billowed out of the fire I relaxed and waited for BM and BG, who were on their way at last.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Brooklyn Lager - (Insert stereotypical New York saying here. Use a name like Vinnie and words like 'soy-ten-lee')

I have to say that I wish that there were more American craft beers available over here. From what I've read, America seems to be the place for variety, inventiveness and quality.
(And to think the make Bud Lite too!)
I have really only came across a few and I don't think Sam Adams counts anymore. This might be remedied soon according to Mr Beer Nut and I hope to try some in Galway at the weekend.
In the mean time, this one has been sitting in my fridge for a week or so and it seemed like a good idea to give it a try.

Good idea indeed. When I poured it, it looked great. A really nice, fine, foamy head and a lovely deep colour. Mrs Beer Novice took and sniff and declared that it was quite 'perfumy' and I know what she meant. It had quite an intense scent that reminded me of another beer, Whitewater Belfast Lager. Surely that could only be a good thing, for me.

My comment about nettles and the Belfast brew came back to me as I got that intense hoppy (I presume) flavour and scent. As well as that I got an aftertaste of citrus, like really tangy mandarin oranges, which I seem to be picking up in the last few beers I've had so could be down to my palate. Whatever the reason I liked it. It seemed a more bitter brew than the Belfast one too. I will have to try them side by side soon. (Any excuse!)

Oh and also, it also had a strange smell towards the end, a bit like wet dog but not in a bad way(!?)

The Verdict

I liked this beer, I liked it a lot. Will certainly have it again.

Brooklyn Lager - 35.5cl - 5.2% alcohol - USA

De Verboden Vrucht (The Forbidden Fruit)

I think I might keep this review short and sweet. A bit like this beer.

It's an ok beer if nothing special. It has a sweet and sour thing going on , which might appeal to some but I didn't really appreciate it. I got a citrusy, fruity taste that reminded me a little of Tango (or at least I think it was Tango) or some other orangish beverage. There was a little spice there too that does suit my palate but it seemed a bit lost in the sweet and sour thing. I got a slightly funky taste too that I couldn't shake off.

Maybe I was having an off day. Oh well, no harm done.

The Verdict

I just couldn't get enthusiastic for this one. Might try it again if I'm stuck.

De Verboden Vrucht - 33cl - 8.5% alcohol - Belgium

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Schneider Aventinus - My Faith Restored....For Now

I had picked up a bottle of this with the Ayinger Doppelbock that I had a couple of weeks ago. I was a little scared of it after the Ayinger until The Beer Nut and Adeptus eased my worries.

I'm glad they did.

This is a gorgeous beer and means that I might try other Doppelbocks in future. Although it might be hard to top this one.

It was smooth and slightly sweet and left a tingle on my tongue. It had a nice maltiness with no trace of bitterness. The alcohol content is 8.2% but there is little sense of the strength because it blends so well with the flavours. This is good stuff!

There's a strange fruity taste there too perhaps like a little banana with burnt oranges, I'm not sure. What a smooth tasty beer, not to mention a decent size bottle. Not good stuff, great stuff!

The Verdict

A great beer. This goes in high on my list.

Schneider Aventinus - 50cl - 8.2% alcohol - Germany

Leffe Triple - The Ugly Older Sister?

As ye know by now I have a bit of a soft spot for Leffe beers in general. Yes, I know there part of InBev and as ubiquitous as a old bike in an Irish theme pub but I still like the Blond, Brunette and the Red Head.

With that in mind I was really looking forward to the Triple. I mean really.

I waited for the perfect evening and pulled out the bottle. I gently peeled away the foil and carefully eased the cap off. I tilted my glass and let it slip gracefully and easily in with just a slight gurgle. It eased up towards the rim and at this stage I could feel my heart pounding. I picked up the glass and eased it to my quivering lips, the sense of expectation palpable in the subdued lighting.

(Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?)

I took a swallow and then, and then, and then...feck!

It wasn't good. Like finding out that, up close, the girl of your dreams is not really that attractive and has a slight nasal twang that you never noticed before. Feck!

All those dreams you had about her should have stayed that way. Just as dreams. You admired her from afar for so long and now you wish that it had stayed that way, Afar. Feck she's ugly up close!

Will ok, maybe ugly is a bit strong but Leffe Triple is a bit harsh for my taste. The alcohol is over whelming, it gets up your nose it's that strong. I've had stronger beer than this but never had the same uncomfortable feeling. There's a strange metallic taste too (Maybe she's wearing braces?) so that between both of these issues you loose the lovely spicy, mellow after taste of the others. I couldn't get it at all. The last mouthful was sweet and sticky and really was the last straw. Feck.

Oh well, at least from now on I won't be wondering.......

The Verdict

Shocking disappointing. Feck again!

Leffe Triple - 33cl - 8.5% alcohol - Belgium

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Edelweiss Weissbier - An Alpine Treasure?

Velky Al mentioned this one a while ago so when I saw it on one of my beer fetching trips to Kilkenny I said I'd give it a shot. It's a nicely branded and well presented bottle, which I know doesn't count for much regarding taste but at least it shows a bit of professionalism.
This had a nice deep colour and certainly looked the part in the glass. The first thing that struck me was a little sweetness, which I didn't expect, that lingered a little on the tongue. There was a slight metallic (to my taste buds) tingly taste there too that was not unpleasant. It has a smooth and silky texture that makes it very easy to drink combined with a nice fruitiness of a little lemon or maybe mostly lime.
This is quite a complex beer and well worth investigating.

(I was back in Kilkenny last Friday and they were out of stock! But Liam gave me a glass to make up for it.)

The Verdict
A really nice wheat beer that might become one of my favourites. The sort of beer that I could bring 3 or 4 to party no bother. Not to share though!
Edelweiss - 33cl - 5% alcohol - Austria

Menabrea Bionda

Anything Italian seems to attract me like a moth to a flame so this was one I had to try. My previous experience of Italian beers have been Nastro Azzuro, Moretti and one in Sicily that escapes me. Messina perhaps? I tried these first in Italy and I would tend to have them fairly regularly when out for an Italian meal here. I had never spotted this in Italy but that is probably because I wasn't looking at the time!
I noticed that it had a darker colour than either of the before mentioned beers so that appealed to me on some level.  It's quite a sweet beer with an almost grapey taste. It has more body and flavour than N. A. or M. and certainly lingers longer on the palate. It's a well made beer I guess although it seemed to go flat quite quick but that could be just me. (Or my glass.)
The Verdict
It's a nice beer that I would probably choose over any other Italian one in a restaurant (although I still have a soft spot for Nastro Azzuro) but not one I would go out of my way to drink again.
Menabrea Bionda - 33cl - 4.8% alcohol - Italy

Friday, 17 October 2008

Spaten Premium Lager

I had this at the weekend because I fancied a nice lager and, well, that's what I got.
I have to say that I don't think it was anything special but as lagers go it was good. Very refreshing and tasty. Sorry I can't say more.
I think the issue is that my tastes seem to be gravitating towards slightly heavier beers. Ales, stouts and fuller bodied brews seem to be more my thing, apart from wheat beers which still appeal to me..
I don't think there was anything wrong with Spaten Lager and perhaps in the right location and atmosphere it would fit the bill but for now I think I'll stick with what I prefer.
Mind you I still have a few to get through.
The Verdict.
Nice lager I guess but not for me at the moment.
Spaten Premium Lager - 50cl - 5.2% alcohol - Germany

Monday, 13 October 2008

Xingu Black Beer - Have a Brazilian. Go on...

Black beers are always a surprise to me as I never know what to expect from them. Will they be sooty or smokey? Will they be bitter? Will they be smooth or sharp?
More importantly, will I like them?

This did not taste how I expected. It didn't really taste like beer, more like a soft drink. It reminded me of cola with a touch of treacle to give it a syrupy quality. It's lightly carbonated and very smooth so it lacks the throat cutting effect of a soft drink.
I guess it's just a very, very mild beer.

One thing that worried me were the E-numbers E224 and E316 with E405 thrown in for good measure. Now call me old fashioned but do E-numbers really have a place in beer? I have to say i don't get to worried about them in general but there's a place for them and IT'S NOT IN MY BEER!

E405 seems to be giving it the syrupy quality if not the taste and E224 is a bit bizarre as it says:

"Side effects: Due to its oxidising effect, it may reduce the vitamin content in products. It is reduced in the liver to harmless sulphate and excreted in the urine.
People who are intolerant towards natural sulphites should also avoid added sulphites (E221-228). It alleviates the effect of a hangover."

Is this the world's first beer with a built in hangover cure? Wow!

The Verdict.
Even with the E-numbers I kind of liked this. It's an easy drinking laid back kind of beer. Anyway, I need to test my theory....

Xingu - 12fl.oz.! - 4.6% alcohol - Brazil

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Whitewater Belfast Lager - Mind out for the Nettles

When I was young, I lived out in the country and one of my favourite times of the year was late spring. All the flora and fauna of the countryside were starting to wake up and make their presence felt in the landscape. I wasn't one for telly then, or homework come to think of it, so I usually wandered through the fields close to our home. I'm not really sure what I was looking for but I didn't find it. 
Perhaps it's just nostalgia kicking in but it seemed then that the sights, scents and sounds had a different quality. Somehow sharper, crisper and more intense.
My real taste of Belfast lager brought all of this flooding back. (I had sampled a little of it at SeptemberFest.)
I have already had the Clotworthy Dobbin from the same brewery, which is one of my favourites, so expectations were very high for their lager. It didn't disappoint.
It was the smell that hooked me in. It had that fresh, clear, fragrance that I didn't think you could bottle. I could get the smell of crushed nettles and the taste of sour sorrel as I took my first sip. Sip? Well a gulp. A full flavoured lager with a nice hint of bitterness.
This is what a lager should be because, well, firstly it has taste, secondly it's really refreshing and thirdly because I said so.
The Verdict.
Another good one from Whitewater. Decent size bottle too!
Whitewater Belfast Lager - 50cl - 4.5% - Northern Ireland

Ayinger Celebrator

Yikes this is sweet!
This is my first Doppelbock and I didn't know what to expect. It was slightly out of date which might explain why it was slightly flat. It was quite smooth but tasted liked, well, treacle I guess. I'm not sure what else to say ................ ah ................ ah ............ it might be nice on a cold night in front of the fire.
Did I mention it tasted like treacle?
The Verdict
Doppelbocks are not for me! An acquired taste no doubt. Feel free.
Ayinger Celebrator - 33cl - 6.7% - Germany

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil - Get Lubricated

I spotted this on the Harviestoun website after I had the Bitter & Twisted from the same brewery. It sounded the business so I decided to give it a shot when I spotted it in my favourite haunt.
This is marketed as a dark beer as distinct from a stout or a porter but to my taste it's a stout. Mind you, descriptions count for nothing sometimes.
The taste reminded me of dark plain 70% chocolate, even down to the balanced bitterness. It has a wonderful smokey flavour, as distinct from burnt. A lovely creamy taste, tiny bit of spiciness and light carbonation are the other appealing characteristics of this beer.
It's a winner in by book (or blog).
The Verdict
This is one of my favourite 'dark beers'. Very tasty, pity the bottle's not a bit bigger....
Harviestoun Old Engine Oil - 33cl - 6% alcohol - Scotland

Whitewater Clotworthy Dobbin

This was one that I was eagerly anticipating for the last few weeks. I tried it at Septemberfest in Dublin on cask and it blew me away. I was in Kilkenny at the weekend and spotted it in The Wine Centre so I grabbed a bottle along with a few other that were new (to me) ones.
As I mentioned before, sometimes your mind plays tricks on you and I wondered was this as good has I had remembered?
It was.
It really is a mouthful and a half. The same wonderful fresh, fruity taste that I remembered from before that almost defies description. You get a beautiful malty flavour with just a hint of bitterness and a lightly burnt taste that still reminded me of confectionery.
Having said all that I still preferred the cask version. It had a smoother more velvet quality that suits my palate better. I felt the bottle was a bit sharper perhaps.
But anyway, it's still bloody good!
The Verdict
A great, great beer. 
Whitewater Clotworthy Dobbin - 50cl - 5% alcohol - Northern Ireland