Talking beer on the Ray D’Arcy Show

With the heatwave Ireland’s experiencing, I was invited on to the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio One on Friday 3 June to talk about beer… what else? The segment was dubbed BBQs, Beer and Sunny Weather! It was cool to be on with Ray finally as I never managed to make the Blackboard Jungle team back in school and this is still a sore spot for the quiz enthusiast that I am. I was on with the renowned chef Oliver Dunne and RTÉ’s very own Evelyn Cusack. If that wasn’t enough, Ray also had in studio, Hermitage Green to get us in the bank holiday spirit.

My brief was to suggest beers for someone dipping their toe in the ‘craft beer’ world over the long and sunny bank holiday. Accessibility was vital. The beers couldn’t be too high in alcohol, session beers were key. I was also asked to recommend a cider and a non-alcoholic beer. Each pick should be generally available across Ireland, not an easy thing when it comes to craft (even these days).  It was also suggested that I tone down the “beer geek” speak. So here were the five beers and one cider that I chose to make up my Six Pack of Summer. All of these were sourced in Baggot Street Wines, the ‘National Off-Licence of the Year 2016’.

You can listen back to the show here:


Six Pack of Summer

Victory Summer Love

Victory Summer Love – This beer is as bright as the summer sun. Golden ales are transition beers, easing the path for lager drinkers to the world of ales. Oh, it’s another fantastic craft release in a can, perfect for outside drinking. The label features America’s favourite pastime with games lasting around three sun-soaked hours, an easy drinking beer is in order. At 5.2% abv Summer Love may be a tad on the high side but other ales like Brooklyn’s Summer Ale or closer to home, you could look to Dungarvan’s Helvick Gold but the brewery’s summer seasonal Comeragh Challenger (it’s gluten free as well) would hit the spot.

Black's Kinsale The Session

Black’s of Kinsale The Session – There’s a perception out there that craft is only about high alcohol beers but session IPAs and pale ales are gaining in popularity. Founders All Day IPA anyone? Well-made versions can pack in the hop bitterness, flavour and aroma at session strength. This one from Sam Black fits this bill perfectly and is only 3.5% abv.


Galway Hooker – This is a great beer to go with food. Use it in batter but it’s even better with burgers, sausages, really anything on a BBQ. It balances out the tanginess of ketchup.   It’s one of my favourite go-to beers. At 4.3% abv this beer is to enjoy several bottles or pints on their own.


Black Donkey Sheep Stealer – This ‘farmhouse ale’ is perfect as this classic style was traditionally brewed in winter to give to farm hands in the Belgian fields in the summer. It’s effervescent, spicy, fruity, if you like wheat beers, you’ll like this. Also, try giving it to people who usually drink wine. They shouldn’t be disappointed. Sheep Stealer is perfect grilled food especially fish. Also, look out for Swingletree by Kinnegar for a higher but no less drinkable abv version.

dan kellys cider

Dan Kelly’s Cider – I’m not usually a cider drinker but then again my perception is based on developing a dislike for overly sweet mass-produced versions. This one isn’t and together with lower carbonation levels, it brings out more natural flavours grown on the McNeece family orchard. You pass through it on the Dublin-Belfast train-line.

Brewdog Nanny State

BrewDog Nanny State – BrewDog appears to Ryanair of breweries. I’m not talking about low-cost but rather the fact that  they like to annoy as much as they like to make beer. Seven years ago they got criticised for Tokyo*, an imperial Russian stout at 18.2% abv. Their response was to brew a beer at only 1.1% abv, not subject to beer duties and called it Nanny State. The beer has since been revised down to 0.5% abv. Thanks to the addition of four hop varieties and eight specialty malts, this dark ale has flavour and life to it. Too many non-alcoholic beers have little to them. It’s as if when they removed the alcohol, they also removed the taste. Many N/A lagers fall into this but wheat beers thanks to their ingredients fair better. Nanny State on the other hand can sate the taste-buds of hop heads should they need a quick and painless hit. It’s a little more extreme than other N/A beers out there.

A good name for a style that’s wandering

Over the summer Eight Degrees released their latest limited edition beer, Nomad. It’s an India Pale Lager folks. What’s that you say? It’s a style that has many detractors. A few see it as just an excuse to introduce a little variety to the IPA. The common denominator being hops and lots of them. It may fall outside style guides and the majority may be just going for the hop hype effect. However, when it is made well, it can be something to be sought after. Who better than then the likes of the Mitchelstown crew to try their hand at this. They’ve made some truly fantastic stuff over the past few years. Not only do they love what they’re doing, just as importantly they know what they’re doing.


Nomad pours a golden rich honey colour. But as you look at this beer, you become conscious that this beer has a big, big aroma. Think pungent pineapple, kiwi and tangerines. It’s fresh. There’s a crisp bite to this beer with the first sip. There’s no sense of sweetness there. There’s a similarity with the likes of Jever and other northern German lagers but that’s where it ends. This beer certainly cannot be described as austere. It’s anything but. The aroma blends superbly with the clean, bitter body and finish.

Nomad screams out for food to be savoured alongside it. It could be one of the better beers this summer to have a with a good burger. It has bitter and crispness, along with a degree of heftiness that could match the char, red meat and an overdose of toppings that are burgers these days.


The beer works but like other IPLs, would people keep looking for this style of beer? Nomad makes a good seasonal release for sure. However, will hop heads continue with this style beyond the rare occasion? It’s doubtful beyond those ticking it off the list. But the willingness of Eight Degrees to constantly give things a go is to be admired. They have enough in their core range to appeal to varying tastes and that’s before we get to their rotating range of specials.  In fact, you could look to their limited releases to get a full picture of the challenges facing the IPA today. Besides changing up the hop bill for various releases, there has been black, white, double, single hop, single malt and session IPAs all from this brewery. This is replicated across the globe.

Liquid bread baking

Christmas has come and gone. No doubt many a beer geek received beer related presents ranging from beers to books to glasses to the occasional gimmicky present. One such present I received was a beer bread mix. All you had to do was add beer and bung it in the oven for three quarters of an hour. The only downside is if you make it too early in the morning, it’s hard to do Keith Floyd impressions without raising eyebrows.


I tried it out this morning as I wanted some fresh bread, which can be hard to come by in this part of the world (i.e. Nashville). So I decided to use a local brew, Yazoo’s Dos Perros Pale Ale to create the dough. It’s a dark, bready ale with the added benefit of being in the fridge. Yazoo opened in 2003 and Dos Perros and the Pale Ale are perhaps the most likely Nashvillian craft beer to be seen on tap around the city.


There’s nothing like the aroma of bread baking in the oven and after next to no time (5 mins prep & the allotted cooking time), the bread was ready. Using a prepared mix may be sacrilegious to skilled bakers and those who watch the various bake-off shows. However, it’s a nifty product, albeit any bread mix would do the same job.

A beer for that slice of pie

Americans love their pies. From homemade apple pie to pumpkin pie, there’s hardly a diner scene in a movie where someone’s not seen devouring a slice of pie. It’s even more prevalent with special occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin pie has been the inspiration for many an autumnal brew. This year’s first release was all the way back in June and was followed up by countless others. Pumpkin beer is not just for Halloween and takes in Thanksgiving and the remainders are supped over Christmas along with pie for desert.

For Christmas this year, desert featured chocolate pecan pie. Pecans are a southern US tradition and in Ireland they only tend to pop up in Cuisine de France pastries. Thus year gave me the opportunity to try some pie with a beer made with whole roasted pecans.

Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan & a slice of pie
Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan & a slice of pie

Lazy Magnolia is Mississippi’s oldest brewery (well post-prohibition speaking) founded all the way back in 2003. They produce a nut brown ale called Southern Pecan, which has a few awards to its name.

The beer (4.4% abv) pours burnished copper with a slight head that forms a band around the rim of the glass. It’s a malt forward beer (19 IBUs) and its aroma picks up roast vegetable notes with a liberal sprinkling of brown sugar. In keeping with its name, there’s a big hit of pecan on initial tasting with sweet nuttiness on the finish.

While the beer’s fairly light in body, it comes into its own with a good ol’ slice of pie.

On the radio talking about beer and “various things like that”

It’s been quite some time since I was on the radio for an entire show. Well gone are the days when I hosted a Saturday morning music show on Dublin Weekend Radio. So it was a nice to have been invited onto Food Talk on 103.2 Dublin City FM on Tuesday 5 August by the show’s host, Margaret Scully. The subject of the show was what else but beer and “various things like that”. I must say it was an enjoyable experience (especially finding out that the previous interviewee was Michelin-starred chef, Kevin Thornton) and the 30 minute chat just flew by, covering everything from beer sommeliers to how to taste beer to the vibrant craft beer scene in Ireland.

You can listen back to the show:


Check out Food Talk, which is broadcast on 103.2 Dublin City FM every Tuesday at 1pm.