Thursday, 28 September 2017

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


(There is an updated and expanded version of this post here.)

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 that close 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...

Image pre 1890 from Barnard's The Noted Breweries of Great Britain & Ireland

(There is an updated and expanded version of this post here.)


It seems that every time 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 in 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 some who find it of interest. 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 and still brewed by them in Cork for the Irish market at least. I was unaware of the seemingly well documented Midleton Distillery connection until I read it here and did a little research online. (Edit: I have since acquired a copy of The Murphy's Story by Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil & Donal Ó Drisceoil in which it is well detailed...)

The article continues...
   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/is 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 enamelled 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 ales is interesting to me as I had never (Edit: At the time of writing in 2017...) 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 - perhaps - we might take to be being more  hop bitterness than actual sour bitterness ... 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 (Edit: As mentioned I do now!) 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?


(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and can not be reproduced elsewhere without full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

(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?)

[(Original)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.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Thoughts: My 20th Century Pub ... 1988

At the pub…

Sticky marble and condensation rings
The feel of the counter at your back
Pints of stout, drank with King crisps
At the pub…

Snow-washed denim and nearly-famous bands
A wandering gaze and getting a Look
A hand on you shoulder, leaning in to order
At the pub…

Smoke in your eyes and shouting in your ears
A real phone ringing somewhere close by
Newspapers on a table - used, torn and jumbled
At the pub…

Talk about Cocktail and A Fish Called Wanda
Red Dwarf and China Beach
Real, meaningless conversations
At the pub…

(For Boak and Bailey's #20thCenturyPub Competition)


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Travel: Pearse Lyons Distillery, Dublin - Out of my Depth...

I know very little about whiskey...

So I was a little surprised to get an invite to one of the official openings of the Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin a few weeks back. It obviously came on the back of being part of the blogger pack at Alltech Craft Beer Festival earlier this year, and writing a broadly positive piece about it. Regardless of why, I was delighted to receive the invitation and even more delighted to be able to attend, a rare occurrence where some free time in my real life intersected with my imbibing life as a blogger.

The weather was warm and the sun was shining brightly as I made my way from Heuston Station up Steeven's Lane before hanging a left onto James' Street towards the old church of St. James which houses the distillery. The newly built visitors' centre - a sleek glass and stone building that sits extremely comfortably in its surroundings - is just up the street a little, but as I looked through the darkened glass my heart sank a little and panic set in. There were many, many beautiful people dressed to impress thronging the foyer. I looked down to the gate where an equally well dressed gatekeeper was checking in more well-dressed, well-heeled guests. I looked back through the window and caught my own appearance, with my open shirt over a t-shirt, jeans and my ever-present travel bag, all topped off with a pair of scuffed Skechers...

I turned to go, thinking I'd hit a few haunts in the city instead, when I caught site of a few guys with polo-shirts among the well dressed folk. Ah, I though so perhaps I won't be the most casually dressed person here after all? So with a quick pat-down of my hair and holding in my stomach I marched up to the entrance gate, where I was warmly received and pointed towards the entrance doors - without being turned away in disgrace, or being handed a tie to wear.

As I entered the foyer I must have looked a little like a startled rabbit, as I realised that the guys in the polo shorts were actually part of the distillery crew, and actually quite smart looking...

I was indeed the worst dressed person here...

I was the last one ushered through to a small auditorium, where we watched a short film about the history of St. James's and the reasons for creating a distillery here. I lurked at the back, acting nervous and looking shifty I'd imagine, as we watched Dr. Pearse Lyons tell us the story of the church, his connections to it and what it had now become. The history of the site was interesting and Dr. Lyons had a great patter that will certainly appeal to the throngs of tourists they hope to attract to the site.

Afterwards we were directed out towards the church itself, through a graveyard freshly planted with groundcovering pachysandra and I received a grateful drink as we waited for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The church itself gleamed as if newly built and with its new glass spire, it reflected beautifully in the newly built entrance building on such a lovely evening.

Without too much pomp the opening ceremony was performed with the usual scissor escapades, joking and speeches, and then we shuffled into the church to see what it had become, and how a working distillery could be shoehorned into a relatively small building.

It is very clear that there was little or no expense spared in the restoration of the church and the fit-out of the distillery, and Dr. Lyons was quick to point out that this was a project that was wholly in the hands of his wife Deirdre and her team of builders, planners and craftspeople. Everything gleamed and shone, with the two stills taking centre stage - so to speak - on the altar and an extremely expensive looking and impressive brew system from Salm sits to one side, looking hungry for malt, with its tanks sitting open. The new distillery-themed stained glass window glowed in the evening sunlight, with images of coopers and distillers doing their thing. Displays of whiskeys, bourbons, books and beer-scented candles(!) lined the wall in cases made to look like shopfronts, and tables of whiskey samples were laid out for trying and tasting, as gin, beer and water - followed by canapes and sweet treats -  were offered to the invited guests by well dressed waiters.

And so the evening progressed with speeches, singing and schmoozing ... and as one not used to this ligging-lifestyle I must say I found the experience a little surreal. Tenors sang Irish ballads and a piano player gave us a rendition of Happy Birthday in numerous different musical styles, as those waiters wafted by with those gorgeous nibbles and more drinks. Writers of whiskey blogs, drink reviewers from newspapers, other whiskey making people and those who helped create this place all laughing, talking and asking all the right questions - enjoying themselves. I felt out-of-place, awkward, still underdressed and more than a little bemused by all the touristy-touches, songs and stories...

But then it dawned on me ... this place wasn't about me nor was it aimed at me, so I should feel awkward, as I'm an outsider in every way. This is about the Lyons family, it's about the history of the church, it's about the people of this area of Dublin, it's about whiskey lovers and most importantly it's about tourists and those who will pay to visit. I don't think it's even about the money spent or revenue to be gained ... as my overwhelming feeling was for the passion injected into the project and of all of those involved wanting to do the right thing by the building, the local area, the local community and those visitors who would soon be welcomed.

I had been utterly selfish and foolish in my thought process...

I came to the conclusion that maybe it's not always just about the whiskey, or beer, or whatever ... and it's not really about people like me, and nor should it be.

Once I realised all of this I let my nagging negativity wash over me and started to enjoy myself. I tasted all the whiskies and listened to the spiels, preferring the Distiller’s Choice of the four whiskeys offered. There are enough reviews of the whiskies out there from brighter minds and better palates than mine so I'll leave it to them to discuss the finer points of flavour, age and provenance ... but I can say than anyone I talked to was quite open with their information, and this is now a working distillery.

Unsurprisingly my most interesting chat was with one of the distillers, with whom I talked for a half an hour about beer, sampling both the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - which seemed to have more body and flavour than how I remember it - and the Bourbon Barrel Stout - which had less than I remember. Both of these are brewed up in Station Works Brewery up in Newry, which I must admit has never excited me with their varied offerings - but as here, I doubt I'm the target audience...

Just as I was getting comfortable and enjoying the wonderful building and the people, I realised that I had to leave or I'd be late for my train, so with a quick goodbye to Tracey Flinter the manager of the distillery I went looking for Dr. Lyons or Deirdre to thank them for the evening, but both were in deep conversation. I hopped from foot to foot waiting but eventually had to run for my train, luckily it was all down hill to the station. The doors closed behind me as I dragged my dishevelled, puffing self inside and collapsed on a seat, wheezing and thinking hard in equal measure as the train pulled out of the station and began its journey back to Carlow.

I'd learned a little about whisky ... and a lot about myself.

Many thanks, Pearse Lyons Distillery!

P.S. Huge, huge thanks to the guy in the NASA t-shirt who arrived in late and relegated me to second worst dressed at the opening.


(Full disclosure: Yes, all the samples were free. No I wasn't paid to attend and write this, and yes, I even paid my own train fare - gladly!)

Friday, 1 September 2017

Travel: Valencia, Spain Part VI - Horse Meat, Ocean Life and the Future...

Okay, so I'm sure by now you are getting sick of Valencia but I do need to be thorough don't I?

So stick with me...

I've grouped together three of the main sights together here, size-wise and time-wise they deserve that, but also because I have more than the usual amount of images to include in my brief description, and yes I will keep this one brief.

Here we go....


First up is the Central Market (Mercat Central) which is situated exactly where you think it might be, acting like the hub of the city. Everywhere should have a market like this, thronged with buyers, sellers and - admittedly - annoying tourists like us. It was an education in every way as we wandered up and down the huge number of stalls selling practically everything food related...

The building itself is huge too, with its high ceilings giving it a wonderfully airy feel, reminiscent of a brightly lit cathedral more than anything else, and this is quite an appropriate analogy as it really is a temple of food, thronged with worshippers. Tomatoes the size of ostrich eggs, and ostrich eggs the size of - er - ostrich eggs take pride of place with super-fresh seafood plus huge cheese and baby cheeses...

Meat lovers are not ignored with many stalls selling cured meats of every shape and make as well as glass cabinets full of aged beef. Want some rabbit? Six varieties of snails? How about a little horse meat? No problem, this is the place to find it...

If you are interested in food and have an hour or two to kill some morning just go and wander ... grab a coffee, munch on a bocadillo and just take it all in...

You won't be disappointed.


As with zoos, this is a controversial one I know but the Oceanogràfic in the south east of the city is another must visit, especially if travelling with kids. Many ocean habitats are recreated here and there is a deep sense of both welfare and education as you wander around the ultra-modern buildings looking at the exhibits.

And yes it does have a dolphin display...

Much of the time you are wandering underground looking into huge aquariums and in some cases walking through tunnels with fish swimming over your head. It's a surreal feeling when a Great White or a Stingray swims past, half a meter from your scalp! There's a Beluga whale, penguins and every manner of creature from crabs to starfish to see as you wander through the subterranean world, quite literally.

It's not just fish and sea mammals, there a also a spherical aviary holding exotic birds and a few turtles, and a wonderful butterfly house, which also held fascination for the kids as they flitted around from flower-to-hand-to-flower.

One of the highlights for me were the many tanks of jellyfish, as you could appreciate their beauty close up, as they billow about in their tanks ... unlike the anonymous blobs that are usually seen washed up on our shores.

Plants abound here too, and most corners of the park have interesting and clever planting, with a brightly budded Brachychiton catching my eye in particular, but then again how could it not?

I guess you make your choice as to whether to support these places or not - and I'm not without my reservations about the whole concept - but if there is an educational aspect and money is channeled towards research then it's hard not to support them in my opinion.

(One other point about our visit was that the price of food is quite high so I'd recommend bringing a packed lunch, although the pizzeria on site is relatively reasonable...)


Last of the big three is the most imposing and surreal ... the City of Arts and Science -  Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias - right beside the Oceanogràfic and the end of the Turia park. These group of building were used as film sets and for tv shows such as Tomorrowland and Dr. Who (Thanks Beernut...). Viewed from a distance you can understand why ... but up close they are even more fantastical as they leap from the shallow water of pools or hunker down into the grey and white landscape.

The combined site has a science museum, an IMAX cinema, an opera house and a convention centre. The museum is great again for kids as there are loads of interactive experiments, virtual reality trips, dinosaur fossilised and petrified plants! Keep an eye out for the pendulum clock!

... and the dark side of the moon.

I truth if you just went here and walked around the buildings you would consider that a justifiable reason to visit Valencia.

Its an astounding site, and sight...

(Don't forget that Burger Beer is close by too if you fancy a bite and a drink!)


That's it from my penultimate post, last up will be a round-up of a few places and things that didn't quite fit in with any other post!


The series starts here and the final part is here.