Showing posts with label ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ireland. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Irish Pub

The pub is probably my favourite institution on earth. Whenever I am off on my travels I spend more time researching places I want to have a drink than I do what beers are available in a particular drinking hole. I guess that's what makes me an awful beer tourist, you'll not find me visiting places just because of the breweries that are there.

The kind of pub I like doesn't have to have a stellar beer selection of the latest, greatest, trendiest IPAs and the like. Some of my favourite places to drink when I lived in Prague sold the near ubiquitous range of Prazdroj, Gambrinus, and Kozel ?erny, but I loved them all the same. Beer is not the point of the pub, community is, conversation is, comfort is, consolation is.

As I have got older, my taste in pubs has tended more and more to the simple pleasures of a well cared for pint enjoyed with good company. If I wish to get rat-arsed and listen to the greatest cheesey hits of the 90s, I can do that in the comfort of my front room.

Any way, all this thinking about pubs is because last night I came across a wonderful documentary film on Netflix called 'The Irish Pub' and spent the hour and a bit of it in a fog of nostalgia, there being so many similarities between pubs in Ireland and those in the north west of Scotland where I grew up.

Here's the trailer, and if you have Netflix look it up for the whole thing.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Gift of Guinness

Pottering around the shops a week or so ago with Mrs V, I saw a Guinness Holiday mix pack, with the rather natty slogan 'Be Generous, Give Guinness'. Making sure that purchasing said box of beer wouldn't send us into a poverty ridden experience, toiling in a work house and wretchedly asking the Beadle for more, I put it in the trolley (that's 'cart' for my Americans friends and readers). Sadly, disaster was just around the corner, the handle gave way as I was putting it in the car, sending a shower of beer across the asphalt of the car park.


Only 2 bottles had gone to meet their Maker, and after being good citizens of planet Earth, cleaning up the mess, informing the customer service people in the shop and in the case of Mrs V picking glass up by hand while some man sat in his car watching, not bothering to offer help until his own wife turned up, and apparently proffering nothing more than a cursory 'mind you don't cut yourself' - they drove off just as I returned to scene of carnage with a customer service bod - we went home. If you have ever had the pleasure of listening Mrs V venting at the sheer lack of manners and gentlemanly conduct that seems par for the course these days, you can imagine the ride home.

What about the beer though? Well, there would have been 3 bottles of the following:
  • Guinness Draught
  • Guinness Black Lager
  • Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
  • Guinness Generous Ale
As it was, only 1 bottle of the Generous Ale made it safely to the cellar, to fight another day. That other day was last night, while Mrs V watched American Horror Story I went up to the kitchen to prepare the starter for my sourdough bread and drink some booze.


For reasons best known only to my subconscience, I started with the Black Lager and it was pretty decent really. Very dark, with notes of cola, some coffee, a reasonably subdued roastiness and a nice dry, clean, lager like finish. Definitely not something I would turn my nose up at in the future, sure it's not something worthy of leaping in the car and driving across hill and dale for, but it reminded me of some Czech dark lagers I have tried, and for some reason put me in mind of the Guinness Extra Cold that was all the rage back in the 90s.


In a vain attempt to create some semblance of order, I opened the Guinness Draught next. Unless you have never drunk Guinness in your life, you know exactly how it was, dark, roasty, smoky but thin and watery, with a vague hint of something artificial about it. It was also the only bottle not proudly boasting being 'Brewed and Bottled in.....Dublin' and being a 'Product of Ireland'.


On to the one I had never seen before, Generous Ale, a holiday special that apparently celebrates the legendary generosity of Arthur Guinness to his workers and the wider community. Again a pretty decent beer, a beautiful deep red and lots of sweet caramel, a touch of honey and a little hop bite at the end to give it some balance. I was kind of bummed that the 2 broken bottles hadn't been the Guinness Draught to be honest.


In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that I am a paid up fan of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and its inky, silky delights, it's sachertort sweetness and burnt sugar bitterness, I just think it is downright delish - though after the Extra Stout I drank with Reuben of Tale of the Ale fame in Paris last year, it might not be my favourite Irish FES, but we can't get that other beer over here so I am ignoring it.


Overall then, a couple of decent beers, one of my favourites and then the Guinness Draught made this a reasonable choice of mix pack. I am looking forward to the rest of the Black Lager and FES, and perhaps hoping to find a six pack of Generous Ale somewhere. The Guinness Draught will likely be used to marinade a ham for Christmas! Sure Guinness might be part of the evil multinational corporation that is Diageo, but the guys at St James' Gate make some pretty tasty beers, just make sure they are actually a 'Product of Ireland'.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Pub

Pubs. It is fair to say that I love the places.

There are few places in the world I would rather spend an entire day in, tucked up in a dark corner, or sat at the end of the bar, preferably with my back to a wall so I can glance up from my book or newspaper from time to time and simply people watch. My mind wanders back to Mrs V and I's trip to Oxford in 2008, I spent inordinate amounts of time in the city's pubs while she was at a conference. In one day sat in Far From the Madding Crowd (a more perfect name for my kind of pub simply doesn't exist) I read about 80% of the Iain Banks book I had bought in a bookstore just minutes before opening time.

A few months later and Mrs V and I were again on our travels, this time to Ireland to visit Tale of the Ale's Reuben and wife, though in his pre-Tale days. Sadly the pub in which we sat and watched Ireland play New Zealand in the rugby is no longer in business as far as I know. Sheridan's On The Docks was everything you could possibly want from an Irish pub, a peat fire, an excellent selection of beer, including the delightful Galway Hooker, and it was there that I had my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In many ways it was like being in your own living room, with the benefit of a bar.

On our various travels, whether it be Berlin, Paris, Columbia or Charlottesville, Mrs V and I have found pubs in which to spend time and just relax over pints. I am convinced that regardless of whether a country has a vibrant, overwhelming beer culture or just a few major brands doing nothing weird and wonderful, pubs are almost universally the kind of places I like to be in.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ultimate Drinking Experience?

On my way home from work yesterday, admittedly via a slightly circuitous route, I popped into the local Barnes and Noble to see if they had the latest editions of the various beer and brewing magazines that I like to read. There was a new edition of Brew Your Own, which is fast becoming my favourite beer related magazine, and as I already had the current edition of All About Beer, I picked up their special edition Beer Traveler. Having driven the rest of the way home with Rammstein in the CD player, I was looking forward to reading about the places where "serious beer lovers" should go in order to get oneupmanship points on the rest of the world.

Naturally I wanted to see what they had to say about the Czech Republic and there was some stuff about Plzeň, for some inexplicable reason it was spelt "Pilzn" on the map Stan Hieronymous' was using (name and address of the cartographers please, so I can send vicious email claiming ignorance!), and about the Eggenberg brewery in ?esky Krumlov, a place where I saw this most interesting of signs:


Of the rest of the special, I was most interested in the 150 Perfect Places to Have A Beer, a list of which purports to tell the dedicated beer traveler where to find the finest beer drinking experiences. Now, I am not sure how they compiled this list, though I somewhat doubt it was as thorough as the Good Beer Guide, but a couple of things intrigued me, other than why their software couldn't handle some of the diacritics in the Czech pub names.

Speaking of the Czech venues on the list, they were ranked as follows:
  1. U Flek? (Prague) - 14th in the overall list
  2. Kr?ma (?esky Krumlov) - 44th
  3. Czech Beer Festival (Prague) - 54th
  4. Pivovarsky klub (Prague) - 75th
  5. Zly ?asy (Prague) - 83rd
Really? Are you kidding me? The Czech Beer Festival is a better place to get a pint than Zly ?asy or Pivovarsky klub? Let me get this completely straight, in the mind of All About Beer, an over-priced beer fest swimming in mass produced swill is better than two reasonably priced pubs with an ever changing selection of quality beers? Apparently the Flying Saucer, of which there is one that I enjoy going to in Columbia, South Carolina, is ranked higher than all the Czech pubs, bar U Flek?. On what basis? Now don't get me wrong here, I like the Flying Saucer in Columbia, and have raved about it many times on here, but better than Pivovarsky klub? You're having a laugh surely?

What about other pubs and places I know and have enjoyed pints in? Well, Dublin's venerable Bull and Castle ranks 18th, while the Porterhouse in Temple Bar is 42nd (only 2 places above Kr?ma? WTF!) and that's it for Ireland, other than the Gravity Bar at St James's Gate.

As for the UK, I don't think I have been to any of the places on the list, but I am not expecting a case of existential angst over the matter any time soon, but if the list is to be believed, the best place to get a beer in the UK is.....the Great British Beer Festival. It would appear that great places to get a pint in the UK are limited to London, Sheffield and Stonehaven. Sorry Burton upon Trent, you have nothing to offer. Sorry Oxford, the Inklings clearly knew nothing about a good place or two to have a pint. Sorry Manchester and area, Tandleman is clearly ignorant of the lack of good watering holes in your neck of the woods. Sorry Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen (home to the BrewDog pub), Newcastle, Carlisle, Birmingham, Cambridge, Norwich, and so and so on.

Of course one man's pivní perfection is another man's hoppy hell, so list's like this must be taken with a large pinch of salt, and I allowed myself a wry smile at the many pubs I love and miss in Prague which didn't make the list. However, forgive me if I am overly cyncial, but surely the best place to get a beer in the world would be the only place you can buy Westvleteren with the blessing of the monks? Where does In De Vrede come on the list?

It doesn't.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Brewer of the Week

Our destination for Brewer of the Week today is Ireland, Dungarvan in County Waterford to be more more precise. It is here you will find one of Ireland's youngest breweries, in what seems to be an ever increasing number of craft brewers.



Name: Cormac O’Dwyer
Brewery: Dungarvan Brewing Company

How did you get into brewing as a career?

After several years as a home brewer my brother in law and I decided to take the plunge and set up our own micro brewery.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

It has been said to me by several people that you have to be slightly mad… I would say that you have to be adaptable, flexible, meticulous and always ready to deal with the unexpected (i.e. slightly mad!).

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes, I homebrewed for many years before going commercial. All the beers I brew have their basis in a beer I homebrewed, with tweaks along the way.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

Not at the moment. We’re only up and running a couple of months, so things are a bit hectic at the moment. When things settle down a little I’ll fire up the 100L pilot brewery, and start working on new beers. That’s probably as close to homebrewing as I’ll get for now.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Probably our Black Rock stout. All that roasted barley gives a wonderful aroma on brew day.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

Never worked in any other brewery. Straight in at the deep-end here.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

At the moment I’m loving Helvick Gold. It’s a blonde ale with a nice dose of hop, so is perfect for this weather we’re having (or had!).

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

A certain amount of authenticity for beer types is important but having the freedom to push the boundaries can lead to some great innovations in brewing.


If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

It would be great fun to collaborate with another Irish brewery – perhaps Galway Hooker, as they were a great inspiration for us starting our own brewery.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Landlord by Timothy Taylor – an outstanding brew. Simple yet complex, I always look forward to having one when I’m going to the UK. Had it from cask in a sailing club in Wales once, found it difficult to leave it behind and sail back across the Irish Sea!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saintly Days

Scotland and Ireland have a long shared history, going back to the days of Dál Riata and the Gaelic kingdom covering much of modern County Antrim and a large chunk of the West of Scotland. Indeed the Scots, as opposed to the Picts, came from the North of Ireland, when Scotia meant Ireland rather than Scotland, so I guess it is no surprise that the Scots and Irish have a strong affinity for each other and share many cultural traits. I imagine then that everyone and his uncle will be expecting me to celebrate St Patrick's Day with all the vim and vigour that many have come to expect of this particular day, especially given the possibility that St Patrick came from Scotland, specifically near the town of Dumbarton.

Then again, and I say this as a self professed Hibernophile, I won't be going out of my way to wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage, drink a trough full of Guinness or start wishing all and sundry "top of the morning", or engage in any other "traditional" activities. Why ever not I hear my slightly less curmudgeonly friends ask? Simply put, despite my affection for our Gaelic cousins to the south, I am not Irish and would feel like a cultural interloper. Not to mention that, having studied theology and read the writings of St Patrick, a fairly quick read really, it is difficult to put St Patrick and drunken revelry in the same bracket for me, just as St Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas have been debased in the name of commercialism.

Before I sound like a total miserable sod, I would like to wish my Irish readers a very happy St Patrick's Day, with plenty of good craft beer, great music and healthy craic (a word quite possibly originating from Scots) in the pub.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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