Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Vespa & Humla front

A quiet alternative

I’m not usually pushing news about the big global players in the alcohol industry. But when they reach out to small individual producers to do a collaboration with no strings attached, I don’t mind.

Jameson Whisky, which belongs to the Pernod Richard group, has been doing a series of collaborations with craft breweries with the same concept – beer aged in used whiskey casks. This time around, Grünerløkka Brygghus in Oslo was invited to join in, and head brewer Kjetil Johnsen has made a limited edition Irish Rock Porter.

This is a Baltic Porter (brewed with lager yeast, if that is of importance to you), which has spent some weeks in casks which were just emptied of whisky. It’s a one off, so don’t expect this to find this outside Norway or for promotional purposes for the destillery.

There was a launch last night in Oslo, and I am happy to report about a very drinkable beer. The whiskey character comes through in a subtle way – it has a lighter touch than scotch whisky barrels with all their smoke or bourbon barrels with a lot of vanilla. Sure, you feel the booze, and the oak plays its part. But it an easy drinking and elegant beer. Grab it if you can.

The tasting was held at Vespa & Humla, the new brewery tap of Grünerløkka Brygghus. They still have their main pub, but the new one is tucked away next door to the brewery.Expect to find a full list of their own brews and a relaxed atmosphere – and good home cooking.

Kjetil with beer glass. Kjetil has every reason to be pleased with his whiskey barrel beer.



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The Irish Times had an article recently taking as its starting point the feature in the Christmas edition of the Economist on the death of the British pub.

The Irish pub industry is facing similar challenges, you’ll recognize the complaints about limiting drinking and driving and the horrible supermarkets selling beer below cost and leading the country and our way of life into ruin.

But what I find fascinating is the views of the industry spokesman. On the one hand, there are complaints about supermarkets undercutting the prices on beer, wine and stronger stuff. But when he is faced with the opinion that the other side of the coin is that the pubs have very steep prices, the reply is that the products are totally different. The press get their share of the blame for covering pubs who overcharge their customers., which is obviously wrong of them

There is also a naive belief that someone should do something about the situation. Being a somewhat reluctant protestant, I have problems seeing this belief in divine intervention as a viable strategy. But what do I know?

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Back from London. A very active week, I’ll get back to the details over the next days and weeks.

Bought a few beers too many as usual, but I somehow managed to fit them into my suitcase. Including the tea mug.

Three main sources for these beers: The Fuller’s Brewery Shop, The Pig’s Ear Festival and my friend the Beer Nut.

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For cod and Ulster

A fairly inventive name for a chippy!cod and ulster 2

From the menu:

Ian Paisley
bacon, cheese, salad and an onion ring & any sauce!
Gerry Adams
bacon, cheese, salad & any sauce

Looking at the photos, the salad seems to consist of a twig of paisley parsley, but that’s hardly the main thing!

They say on their web site they plan to make t-shirts. I want one!

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The lucky Irish

Diageo Ireland are very proud of their new innovations – Budweiser Ice Cold and Budweiser Aluminium. Their Brand Manager for something is particularly fond of the aluminium-coated bottle, which will only be available for drinkers who really deserve it.

Consumers in these outlets are actively seeking cutting-edge premium products with a truly refreshing taste and temperature, in a portable format.

I could argue with many aspects of that sentence, but I’ll just pick one. What makes this bottle more portable than any other bottle or can? It would actually be less portable, as you need gloves to carry it around for the 17 minutes it is supposed to stay cold.

 The big brewing companies are still wondering  why they are losing lots of money fast. Someone should send the answer to Diageo Ireland. In a 473ml aluminium bottle. Which is 43 per cent more stupid than a regular 330ml bottle.

Thanks to the Beer Nut for twittering about this wonderful piece of writing.

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Yet another American hack has tried to give a potted history of porter. Let’s just open up for rebuttals for my more scholarly inclined fellow beer bloggers to this:

The credit for inventing porter ordinarily goes to Ralph Harwood of the Bell Brew house in Shoreditch, who developed it around 1722. Before that, En gland’s best- selling beer was threethread, possibly a blend of pale ale, new brown ale, and stale brown ale. A publican did the mixing, but Harwood’s Entire, a bitter, dark- brown beer, required no fuss and came in a single cask ideal for export. It got its name from the men who “ported” goods at such London markets as Covent Garden and Smithfield. They had adopted the brew as their own, and swallowed it with the gusto of dockers. Guinness’s version, officially ruby- colored, was darker, richer, and more full- bodied than the original—a “stouter” porter, later simply stout. Its secret ingredient was a special strain of yeast whose clone is still around, supposedly kept under lock and key in the Directors’ Safe at James’s Gate.

It’s in a book just out – in the US, at least, dunno about Ireland, by Bill Barich, an author described in the NYT  as half-Norwegian guy from Long Island. Barich travels around Ireland trying to find the real, authentic Irish pub. A sample chapter is available online, so you can make up your own mind.

The review in the NYT is not too enthusiastic, and the sampler online does not make me click my way over to Amazon right away, either. Consider this nugget of thought from the Gravity bar on top of the Guinness visitor complex:

Guinness is Ireland, the branding suggests, and it forges a bond so absolute that you’ll feel unpatriotic if you don’t finish your jar. 

I doubt the Irish feel the same way looking at this from the inside . My encounters with the Irish is they are a bit too sophisticated to look for national symbols when they get thirsty. But the marketing is brilliant, no doubt about that..

I think I’ll wait for the paperback.

Comments, please. Beer Nut? The rest of the Irish Craft Brewers?

Nice view, pity about the stout

Nice view, pity about the stout

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Christmas reading

It is still Christmas, and if you haven’t read the Beer Nuts wonderful tale  of shame and redemption, it’s about time.

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I’m going to Prague next month. Oh, you’ll sure say. You mean going back to Prague? As a beer hound you must have been there before?

Yes, I’ve been there, but that was way back. 1988. I won’t bore you with the endless hours of haggling with our totalitarian hosts, nor with the long discussion we had with a chain smoking playwright just out of prison, as I try to stay clear of this type of discussions on the blog. But I exchanged a few dollars for local currency in a bar, and enjoyed a fair number of good beers in bars like U Fleku and the Golden Tiger.

I have enjoyed some of the Czech beers entering the European market in more recent years, too, but not in a systematic way. I am really looking forward to trying some of the unpasteurized beers on their home turf, and I have already enlisted the help of Evan  to advise me on how to go straight for the best pubs and avoid the tourist traps.

It was therefore quite convenient for me to have a look inside the Czech Inn in Dublin the other week, as The Beer Nut had mentioned that they had several interesting beers on tap.

This is a pub that seems to cater for a mixed crowd, offering an alternative to the endless pints of stout. There is probably a market of Central European expats making a core market, as the buzz of conversation I picked up during my afternoon visit seemed to confirm. (Hardly statistical evidence, but what do you expect from a blog?)

I did not see any food menus inside, but out front there were signs promising sturdy Austro-Hungarian fare like dumplings and goulash. I went for the beer list instead, which celebrates their two year anniversary by extra beers on tap in addition to the regular list of Czech and Slovak beers.

The Konrad Premium beer is a bit stronger than the ordinary Bohemian pilsner at 5.4%. It is biscuity, with lots of cereal flavour. Rather sweet, but there are enough hops to make a well composed beer.

Kvasar from the Cerna Hora brewery is brewed with honey. This has a very full flavour, with the honey clearly evident, giving an extra dimension to the beer without making it cloyingly sweet. It is similar to some of the best beers I tried in Latvia earlier this year. This beer would be wonderful for cooking, I would love to poach some salmon in this brew and make a sauce of it afterwards.

A medium body, a very quaffable beer. There are even hops in the background making sure the honey does not steal the show totally.

The scene? Rather 1980s retro, lists of cocktails at 8 Euro a glass, very quiet and civilized in the afternoon. But, this being Temple Bar, I imagine it is more suited to a younger crowd around midnight. By then I was safely tucked up.

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Busy, busy

I’m terribly sorry, but there is a life outside the blogsphere intruding on my time and priorities. In the meantime, I would like to proclaim the first floor beer hall of the Bull and Castle, Christ Church, Dublin, as the most photo-friendly pub on the planet.

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By Herschell Hershey. From the Londonist.

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