Missing keg happily reunited with owner, cheers twitter

Recently I came across a stray keg on the lane where I live. The natural reaction was to ignore it but this keg was unusual because it belonged to Bo Bristle. Baggot Street is fairly barren in craft beer terms (not counting Baggot Street Wines of course), except for the odd pint of Galway Hooker and O’Hara’s. So I tweeted the brewery to see if they were starting selling in the pubs in the area or if this was a keg that had gone walkies.

The keg was indeed missing and after some inspired sleuthing by John aka @thebeernut, it was deduced that it could have contained Carrig Lager (produced under licence by Bo Bristle) via Doheny & Nesbitts. So within a few minutes, Carrig Brewing Company had got in touch regarding this wandering keg. Turned out the beer is no longer being sold in Dohenys, Baggot Street has lost another craft beer but they made the arrangements for its safe return.

The image that the twitterati not only located but faciliated its return to its rightful owners

Why is this important you ask? Well, we tend to forget the sheer cost of purchasing kegs, all the more acute for small, independent breweries. Apparently over four hundred thousand beer and cider kegs have been stolen or gone missing in Ireland since 2007, costing producers approximately €40 million, according to research by the Irish Brewers Association. So if you see a keg abandoned, check the labels and at the very least tweet the owners.   

The keg was recovered last week after a brief soujorn staying in the back garden and of course there was nothing else to do but to enjoy a couple of beers from Bo Bristle to toast it’s safe return.

Logistics-ace Denis reclaims the keg & made sure it got safely home

The brewery from Bannagher, Co. Offaly has come along way since first emerging on the scene back in 2010 as Breweyed, with a Blond Pale Ale and Lager in tow. However, owners Morgan Smyth and Andrew Horn felt that the brand as it stood could not break into the mainstream and thus Bo Bristle was born in time for the second All Ireland Craft Beer and Cider Festival in 2012. This renewed approach saw them rejig the beers in their portfolio and adopt an interesting approach to market. They signed a deal with large multiple Marks & Spencers to stock their beers under the Bo Bristle name (not like some of the other beers produced exclusively for M&S under different names but by reputable producers).   

At present there are two beers in their core range: an amber ale (4.5%) and an IPA (5%). Hopefully their American Brown Ale, which debuted at the 2013 edition of the beer festival will hopefully make a more regular comeback (it’s a serious brown ale that has the characteristic sweetness perfectly blended with American hop oomph).   

Bo Bristle Amber Ale pours as if it’s not just a clever name. It is polished amber in colour complete with a thick frothy head. There are summer fruits and juicy berries on the nose. Tastes initially sweet but develops a slight bitterness, which is balanced by a biscuit body. It has an extremely pleasant finish.

The IPA on the other hand has a distinctive orange hue to its appearance, topped by a creamy head. Again there’s fruit on the nose but perceptively lighter than the amber ale. Instead, the bitterness comes through pleasantly in the flavour yielding at pace to a dry bitter finish.  

Both beers are enjoyable and strongly reminiscent of English-style ales, perhaps the hand of English-native Andrew Horn. They are enjoyable session ales and I can’t wait to try them on cask again because this brewery is getting better and better. I must admit I wasn’t that taken by them when tried almost eighteen months ago but these beers have come along way and so too has the brewery.

Absolutely a brewery to look out for and perfect beers to have on hand for Sunday lunch or that microwaveable meal (did M&S spot something here?) when you’re feeling that mid-week laziness.    

Top tips for enjoying a beer festival

Beer festivals are fantastic for discovering new beers and breweries. I’ve put together the following advice based on experience of attending festivals.

  1. Develop a plan of attack: Festivals can vary in their size and approach, some may be banks of taps manned by enthusiastic volunteers or others may be stands with the brewers themselves, either way there could be 100s of different beers that could be sampled. Have a look at the festival guide and get a sense of the breweries present and the types of beers on offer and target breweries that you want to try or particular styles that you may like.
  2. Don’t ask, don’t learn: Confused about beer, don’t know what a IPA is or what hops do? Ask. Beer festivals aren’t just for beer nerds like me (don’t worry there’ll be plenty of us at the festival) and don’t feel intimidated by other people asking fairly intense questions. Brewers are more than happy to talk to you because they want to win you over and gain new customers. Feel free to tell them what styles you like and let them suggest beers to try. You might like them and when the festival returns, you might be the one asking those tricky questions
  3. Leave the darker, heavier beers to last: A simple Belgian rule is starting with the lighter beers first and move in ascending order of alcohol strength before moving gradually darker. It’s basically about intensity of flavour, try a hoppy beer before a lager for example and you may not be able to detect little else but carbonated water. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule – lambics, anyone?
  4. Sample before you buy: Festivals are a time to discover something new as well as reacquainting yourself with old friends. It’s not in the breweries interest if the only beer you try from them is not for you (they may have plenty of other that do) so don’t be afraid to ask before you buy. It’s also a great way of getting to learn about different styles and tick off a number of the beers at a festival.
  5. Take notes: This can be as simple as noting down the beers you like, you can quickly forget otherwise. I’ll leave it up to you how best to record what you tried, some guides have notes sections under the beers or others can be simply recorded on the back of beer mats etc (I use my iPhone for instance). However, I must warn you that this can quickly become addictive and and you could be in danger of becoming a “beer ticker” like the rest of us.
  6. Talk to the brewers: Get to know their story, their inspiration and where the beer comes from, it can give you an added appreciation of the beer in your glass. Who says that wine can be the only one with terroir!
  7. Visit breweries making their festival debut: New breweries are popping all over the place. Festivals are often the first time outside select venues or localities that the general public get to sample them. Stop by and see them and give them some encouragement. It’s a good feeling when you see a start-up brewery that you first met at a festival starts becoming available over the months in off licences and bars. It gives you a sense of belonging to a movement.
  8. Take to social media: Festivals can feature limited runs or rotating taps of beers that you might want to try. Also, some beers may be even more popular than expected and run out early. Twitter can be a great way of finding up to the minute information on latest developments, so get learning the hashtag for the festival. If you like a beer or brewery, take a photo and tell the world. Following a brewery that you like is a great way of finding out if they’re coming to an outlet near you.
  9. Food: Beer and food matching is a real thing. Check out if they’re food stands and use it as an opportunity to try first hand what styles of beers go with particular foods. Who knows you might be doing the food vendor a favour!
  10. Look for water stations: This is my version of the “Surgeon General’s Warning”, you can easily pass more than a couple of hours at a beer festival, so hydration will be an issue (especially as the venue heats up) as it is with drinking in general but it also helps cleanse the palate and will assist you moving from beer to beer and appreciating each one on their merits.
  11. Go to more festivals: It’s like when your holiday’s over, the advice is to start planning for the next one. It’s the same with beer festivals and there’s plenty of them out there and can be a great idea for planning a weekend break away or getting a gang of friends to come to the next one. They’re in the large part fairly chilled affairs and enjoyable experiences, you’ll be hooked. Check out sites like www.beoir.org for a list of festivals upcoming in Ireland (the next one is never that far away).


Festival goers taking advantage of the weather at the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival

Beer festivals are a great place to try beers from exciting places, in this case Revolution IPA from Spain’s Molta Birra brewery


Great British Beer Festival – One of the largest out there

Super Bowl Sunday picking a winner

This is one of those in the sporting calendar which has a lot of traditions attached to it. The FA Cup Final used to have some of it, when we’d hear about how many kettles were boiling and toilets flushing at halftime. I have never experienced “Super Bowl Sunday” first hand in the US. Most of what I associate with it comes from various TV shows which have a Super Bowl themed episode. My experience tends to come from trying to stay awake and wondering if It’s worth the trade-off in terms of having to go to work the next morning, usually tiredness wins out regardless.

One of the most intriguing aspects besides the whole concept of the “halftime show”, is the excitement generated for the big budget ads shown during the countless interruptions to the game (again something we don’t get during our coverage of the game). It was an ad break during Super Bowl XXIX that the infamous Budweiser frogs first appeared and let’s not even go near “wassup” (an ad during Monday Night Football). Needless to say YouTube will have each one available shortly after broadcast and we can see for ourselves what the creative agencies pushing the macros have come up with this year.

Today’s match up sees the Denver Broncos with the best offence facing off against the best defence in the form of the Seattle Seahawks. I toyed with the idea of doing a sort of beer Super Bowl but it was hard to get some of the great beers from Colorado that were around last summer and autumn particularly those from Odell (who could forget deconstruction), Oskar Blues and Left Hand. I could have perhaps turned to Flying Dog, which has its spiritual home in the Rockies before escaping to Maryland. Rather unfortunately we also have a distinct lack of great beers on this side of the Atlantic from Washington State. I would have had to turn to Redhook, which would have courted some controversy from beer aficionados for its “Budhook” connotations. Perhaps we could’ve hand a Redhook v Blue Moon (if we took some of the seasonal collection) shoot-out.

So with time running out, I decided to opt for one beer only and one that reflects the game for me. This year’s game has an added twist because of the weather factor. It’s being played out doors for the first time in 42 years and the venue being New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the successor to Giants Stadium which of course was home to one of the greatest days in Irish sport. So much talk during the two weeks leading up to the game was about the cold snap (polar vortex anyone?) and the potential for snow. The most interviewed person was not Peyton Manning but the NFL’s official Super Bowl weatherman. Taking all this and the fact that I’m picking Denver for no other reason but having seen more of them this season, I have opted for Accumulation from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery.

I really like this brewery and am a fan of their iconic Fat Tire (amber ale) and their black lager 1554. They can really brew and perhaps like Sierra Nevada they’ve become a little bit of a victim of their own success in that people see them as too familiar. Just wait until they try their Rodenbach-inspired La Folie and other Belgian interpretations. They haven’t called themselves New Belgium just to be clever. I hope that they will soon follow their neighbours and also family-owned brewery from Fort Collins (i.e. Odell) to this part of the world. This may be sooner that we think, they’re expanding like Sierra Nevada with a new East Coast brewery in North Carolina.

Accumulation was the brewery’s winter seasonal and it’s a white IPA. Sure why not? Apart from the classic and black IPAs, Uncle Sam would be proud we now have the red and the white and all we need now is a blue IPA (A step too far? I once worked at the International Food Expo, which had a tribute to “blue” food). Now back to Accumulation, it pours a hazy light straw colour that was topped with a vibrant creamy white head that gave way for a thick band around the rim. There’s fresh citrus and pine on the nose. Amarillo and Mosaic are the workhorses here. It is initially bitter but allows some sweetness to come through. A mild and pleasant bitterness remains in the aftertaste of this 6.2% brew.

The brewery chose Accumulation for their winter seasonal to demonstrate that not all winter beers need to be dark. It might not be too your taste or you might prefer other styles, but in many ways it reflects our approach to American Football. Regardless both are increasingly popular at this time of year.

Post-game follow-up: Well that was a surprising result, no one expected the Seahawks to completely dominate the game and for the Broncos to capitulate like they did. Another surprise was the weather apparently was a balmy 7ºC at kick-off. The ads involved at one time Arnold Schwarzenegger playing table tennis, Anna Kendrick plugging Newcastle Brown Ale (still so popular Stateside), a puppy and a clydesdale (guess who?), as well as Don Cheedle and a llama because why the hell not?

I may have gotten it wrong about the result of the game but I watch it more out of curiosity than anything else but I still think Accumulation was worth the punt.