A Thursday tasting with BrewDog

BrewDog’s European Business Development Manager Jonny Reid made a quick stopover in Dublin recently. Four Corners distribute their beers in Ireland and got Jonny to host a tasting in Probus Wines. The brewery has an ardent following (and I’m not counting those in the Equity for Punks scheme) and over 50 showed up for this Thursday night tasting.

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Jonny gave the history of the company and talked us through the remarkable growth the brewery has had in its 7 year history. He may not brew the beers himself but he represents the other part of the company, which is a key part of their success. They not only wanted to put out good beers but also for people to know who they are and what they stand for. For the craft beer industry, it can be difficult to attract attention but for BrewDog, they combine good beers with a healthy dose of “he who shouts loudest” to attract attention in the crowded market-place.

BrewDog's Jonny Reid in full flight
BrewDog’s Jonny Reid in full flight
Attendees glued to Jonny
Attendees glued to Jonny

So on the night four beers from their core range were sampled. These were Nanny State, 5am Saint, Hoppy Christmas, Hardcore IPA. However, the tasting wasn’t quite finished yet. There was a surprise beer to be tasted that many haven’t had before (usually sells out quickly when it’s available on these shores) Tokyo*, which has been dubbed an “Intergalactic Stout”. Due to the number in attendance this beer had sadly to be rationed, which is perhaps no bad thing as it weighs in at 16.5% abv.

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Cheers to Jonny (who had to host the tasting standing on top of a stool) and the Four Corners crew and Probus’ Paul Fogarty for putting this on. BrewDog have put out the following tasting notes and information on these beers in their core range. image  image

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Five Lamps and a lantern

Do you know the Five Lamps? This is the earliest slogan of the Five Lamps Brewery and the correct answer at the time was Amiens Street. However, as friends were to discover the brewery has moved from its base on the North Strand to a fully-fledged brewing facility in the Liberties. The famous street light of the same name remains in Dublin 1. Confused? So were they!

William & Brian proudly showing off the new brewery I’m Dublin 8, not Dublin 1

The Probus beer club had the opportunity to visit Five Lamps recently and as luck would have it, the tour was to take place on Halloween night. Paul had chosen “Tarts and Vicars” as the theme so Brian Fagan (Chief of the Five Lamps) and William Harvey (Brewer) were slightly bemused by a handful of visitors turning up in costume (I went as a son-in-law of a preacher man). Most people reserved the right not to dress up and as someone said left a handful of us looking slightly awkward á la Bridget Jones.

William and his brews (& a lantern for good measure)

The Five Lamp brewery first came to prominence a little over a year ago through well designed branding appearing at several prominent pubs in the City Centre, namely McDaids and The Duke before spreading out to other well known pubs. It was interesting to see a craft beer focussing on what could be dubbed “non-specialist” beer pubs (I hope I’m not offending anyone and I know Carrig Lager had been available in The Duke since the early days). The lager itself was a departure for fans of highly carbonated and slightly bitter variations. It was definitely malt forward and has been refined over the past year. It is reminiscent for me of some of the Bavarian lagers, with a rich biscuity flavour. As a distinctly Dublin-branded beer, it was amusing to think that it was only until recently contract-brewed by Eight Degrees down in Co. Cork.

Got to love their branding

Brewing is now taking place in Dublin but in Dublin 8, which has caused problems for their identity because their next brew was named in honour of their new home – Liberties Ale. This was debuted at this year’s Irish Craft Beer & Cider Festival and is a pleasant pint indeed. It has a certain dryness to it with the slightest hop bite. Both the lager and ale were able to be sampled on the night.

Where better to enjoy a pint of Liberties Ale than at its source

Unfortunately, we were too early to try their latest release Honor Bright Red Ale, which was conditioning away in the bright tank. It was bottled this week and should be in shops over the coming days (as I was writing this, the first batch was delivered to Probus). Bottling is done manually and takes approximately seven and a half hours to complete (when I heard that I wonder why they would even bother and opt solely for kegs).

Manual bottle filler – 2 bottles at a time

The key to their beers according to William is accessibility both in terms of alcohol and bitterness levels. They’re in the business of session beers and have a capacity to brew approximately 650 litres per week. So alond with desires to do some special brews, they’re sticking with the tried and trusted “usuals” – a lager, a red, a golden ale and a porter. Following on from their red ale, the next release will be Blackpitts Porter, which was currently fermenting away. It’s great to see brewing up close in the centre of the city and their new brewery is further proof of the craft breweries re-establishing local brewing traditions . For example, the Blackpitts Porter Company existed over on Fumbally Lane in the Liberties in the late eighteenth century.

A brand spanking new brewery

Rounding off the visit was a selection of meat and cheese, along with homemade salsa and sauces prepared by Paul Fogarty of Probus fame. This has probably to be a first. A gourmet buffet selection and pints in a brewery, with costumes!

Most of us had gotten a little bit embarrassed by our costumes by this stage

It’s great to have seen the progress that the lads have made and I’m looking forward to trying their red ale and porter upon their release. No doubt they will be ones to have during a future beer tasting. Hopefully they will be coming to a pub near me soon.

Oktoberfest better late than never

It’s great how traditions have built up over the years and Oktoberfest is one of them. Bars and breweries the world over clamour to carry out their own commemorations of the annual 16-day celebration of beer (could go on for a 17th day due to a technicality) that takes place in München. However, most are caught out by one thing, the majority of the actual Oktoberfest celebrations take place in late September. Apart from the occasional bar or two (where one was greeted by the sight of Alan & co in the Brewdock decked out in lederhousen) and the IFSC pop-up Erdinger extravaganza, it seems most bars wait until October to break out the Bauhaus.

I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the Porterhouse’s Oktoberfest earlier this month and in keeping with the Irish approach to “die Wies’n” I waited until now to blog about it. Not all the beers offered during the festival would be considered beers allowed to be served in Munich (6% beers brewed within the city limits by Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Spaten, Hofbräu or Löwenbräu). While the only “official” beer was Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Bier, the two weeks in the Porterhouse was more a festival of German brewing generally.  The always excellent bitterly and austere Jever Pilsener (shows that not all austerity emanating from Germany is bad) was available on draught, as was Weissenoher Bonator, Wieninger Helles and Schlenkerla Weizen. In bottles, there was Augustiner Helles, Tegernseer Spezial, Wieninger Guidobald Gold in bottles. I had the opportunity to do tastings of most of these beers in Probus over the course of the year thankfully because precious few were in the country over the past few weeks.

For the festival, the Porterhouse brought back its seasonal brew Hersburcker Oktoberfest. While it is based on the standard Hersbrucker Pils, it doesn’t have the same level of bitterness and the same level of floral aroma. Instead, it has become a malt-forward beer dominated by its malt bill of Vienna, Caramalt and Munich. It’s malt on the nose and in the taste. The body is golden/amber thanks to the addition of Vienna malt and perhaps is closer to the true Oktoberfestbier/Märzen style. The beer was matured in the brewery for 6 weeks prior to release. The sweet caramel flavour belies its 6% abv. For me the taste is reminiscent of a waffle cone. It has a dry, sugary flavour with the vaguest hint of gingerbread.  It is strongly reminiscent of beers from Hall & Woodhouse’s Badger range such as Tangle Foot and Fursty Ferret.

Of course no respectable Oktoberfest would be complete without out an Oompah band. There’s something fantastic about brass bands attempting to belt out popular tunes – the kitscher the better.  And every so soften for them to belt out Ein Prosit followed by “Schenkt ein, trinkt aus, schenkt ein, trinkt aus”, which gets steadily more raucous as the night wears on. There’s a great one on youtube of a band playing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. An Oompah band is really the ultimate party band (if the Saw Doctors are unavailable) so forget the DJ and the karaoke.

Prost!