Brown Is the Colo(u)r…

The most recent Irish Beer Snob podcast, featuring Brian from Craic Beer Community, included not just a shout-out to our little podcast (cheers, lads! – obviously, ‘lads’ is gender-neutral here – Janice is very much a part of this picture), but also a discussion about how they’re Quite Serious about wanting to see more brown ales out and about in the world. I am also very much in this camp, and while I’m thrilled we have two great options here in Ireland, even more would be delightful.  I got to thinking about my favo(u)rites in this style, and came up with the following list:

Ballykilcavan Brewing Bambrick’s Brown Ale – 5.8%
Happy to have this in my fridge year-round; it goes with everything and it is the perfect antidote to a session of beers that don’t always taste like ‘beer’ – you nerds all know what I mean.

Lough Gill Brewery Mac Nutty – 5.5%
You had me at macadamia nuts, but it’s also a perfectly-balanced brown ale. And speaking of macadamia nuts…

Maui Brewing Company Lahaina Town Brown – 5.1%
Hawai’ian breweries are simply great at dark beers – it’s just science. Their Coconut Hiwa Porter is fantastic as well, but this limited release beer is a little bit nutty with just the right amount of roast. Obviously, I won’t be able to get it here in Ireland, but perhaps there will be travel again, some day.

Waikiki Brewing  Company English Brown Ale – 5.14%
It’s so good I bought the t-shirt. I don’t wear the Churchillian-dog-themed t-shirt as much now around town, but what a delightful beer – lots of notes of chocolate that made it a perfect dessert beer in the glorious Hawai’i sun.

Burke-Gilman Brewing Company LoBro London Brown – 3.6%
One of our old local breweries in Seattle – this low-ABV charmer is based on a century-old recipe with the usual necessary tweaks – it’s got a lot of body and great flavo(u)r for its strength. We have a beautiful stainless steel growler from Burke-Gilman; someday, post-lockown, I’ll need to show it off to people so they. can see how different an American ‘growler’ is from its Irish counterpart.

Naked City Brewery Betsy’s Mountain Brown – 5.4%
Pour one out for Naked City – we used to go here annually to take photos with (Beer) Santa, but they closed back when we still lived in Seattle. Although they regularly brewed a wide variety of styles, this was always my go-to. Ah well.

Populuxe Brewing Beer Snob Brown – 5.1%
Alas, like its semi-neighbor Naked City, Populuxe is gone forever…but this was an outstanding beer from a wonderful little brewery. I loved it and loved Populuxe – they were an underrated stop in the Ballard Brewery District (as I believe we are calling it now); very laid-back, lovely space, fun video games and pinball…but, sadly, no more.

Victory Brewing Company D-Town Brown Ale – 5.4%
Because (most) people on Untappd don’t understand brown ales that aren’t adulterated with bourbon/marshmallows/etc, it gets a ‘meh’ rating, but it’s far from a ‘meh’ beer – you won’t get it outside the Philly area, and it’s something of a rarity even at the OG Downingtown brewery, but well worth seeking out.

The Kernel Brown Ale – 5.6%
We’ve been getting beers from The Kernel for a few months now here in Ireland; I may not be able to get to London, but at least they can come to us.  If we could get some Anspach & Hobday too, this lockdown wouldn’t be so bad…and on the subject of British breweries, now that The Brewery of St Mars of the Desert has revived Jack D’Or, which I adored when it was still Pretty Things, perhaps it’s not too much to hope that St Botolph’s Town Brown Ale could also make a comeback? Pretty please? (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)

So, there you have it – a very quick rundown of top-flight brown ales – let’s have more!

 

A Little Psychogeography for Flagship February

Flagship FebruaryCome for the pretentious title, stay for the opportunity to praise some fantastic – and thoroughly unpretentious – Irish beers.

It’s our second February in Ireland, and we’ve now been around long enough to determine some favourite local breweries (all without leaving leaving the house). I know I sound like a broken record, but I am continually surprised by just how high the quality is with breweries that are only a few years old; their flagship beers are not just relatively new to me, but often still new to most everyone else, too, at least beyond the nerdiest of beer nerds (e.g., My People). That said, many of them have a firmly-established sense of place, and, especially in a time when travel is not possible, there’s something about that local hook that can make the story behind those beers resonate even more. I love to see this storytelling element in beer – thank goodness we’ve moved beyond the ‘x was a wild homebrewer, had a brainwave and now he’s the master brewer here’ origin story. These locals are each doing a bang-up job of tying local lore and ‘feeling’ to fantastic beer.

Hope Hop-on, Session IPA, 4.3%
First, and most importantly, it’s simply a great go-to beer – an all-around, friendly-with-food session IPA. But the label design and ‘backstory’ add that true local flavour: the Dart (I LOVE TRAINS) and the story of two boys who took the Dart from Howth Junction (not coincidentally, where Hope is based), eventually hopped a ferry to the UK and blagged their way onto a flight to New York – the ‘80s were a different time, and the podcast looking back on the episode is well worth a listen.  I really miss having this beer fresh on tap, but now that we’ve moved to Dublin’s Northside (for friends outside Dublin, the Northside/Southside thing is a whole mood), it feels even more like a beer ‘for us,’ thanks to the hyper-local angle.

Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown Ale, 5.8%
Beernerdia is always lamenting the imminent death of the brown ale, yet it’s very much alive and well here, thanks to Ballykilcavan – this beer is simply gorgeous. Don’t let the middling 3.8 on Untappd fool you; this may not be a 10% double IPA (though they make one of those as well), but it’s a fabulous beer. Again, Ballykilcavan’s sense-of-place game is strong; their Instagram shots of their 17th century family farm’s beautiful outbuildings, which then find their names and stories represented in the beer labels, are very much characters. It will be delightful to actually *visit* at some point in the future.

Kinnegar Scraggy Bay IPA, 5.3%
Scraggy Bay is the name of the beach near the brewery in Donegal – a place I still haven’t managed to visit – and Kinnegar’s perfect, old-school IPA really does evoke that windy, beachy feel. The can art, again, brings the sea to the consumer, and stamps the beer with the locale. Kinnegar’s mascot rabbits (hares?) are busy captaining and rolling kegs onto the ship. Kinnegar’s very name is an Anglicization of the Irish for ‘rabbit,’ so their origins are built into the beer. And going back to the beer itself, in a world of hazy/cold/milkshake IPAs, having a well-crafted, balanced IPA is a bit of a novelty.

So, there you have it – just a quick selection of Irish beers for #FlagshipFebruary that also happen to convey a strong sense of where they come from – and I can’t wait to raise a few glasses with the Craic Beer Community at the next (virtual) meetup!

Beers for a Tenner

While I don’t do new year’s resolutions, I did have grand plans to get back to blogging much more regularly when we moved to Ireland in early 2020. Circumstances (waves hands around at…everything) did not support those plans, but I’m hoping to do better in 2021. In support of that goal, here’s a quick post to that ties to this week’s Beer Ladies Podcast, where we discussed beers on a budget and hangover cures, both real (?) and spurious. The brief for the cheap(er) beer was to see what we could find for under €10. Given the current lockdown restrictions, I took the challenge to my local Centra, rather than roaming further afield to a higher-end off-license, and managed to pick up the following for about €9.50:

While I knew the Rascals beer well already (and am a big fan), I’d never tried the other two. I had to dive down a Google rabbit hole to find out more about the Journeyman, as a top-level ‘official’ page is nowhere in the first few pages of search results – in fact, The Beer Nut has the first useful report on the beer (and back to that in a moment). This quick bit of research revealed (to me) that the brewery of record on the bottle, Station Works, is now part of the Pearse Lyons family, so it’s essentially a ‘sibling’ of Foxes Rock Session IPA from Pearse Lyons Brewing and a ‘cousin’ to Lexington Brewing Company’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, also part of the Pearse Lyons/Alltech portfolio in the US. It still strikes me as very odd that there does not seem to be a findable website for the brewing arm in Ireland – the distillery website is easily found, and, given what I’ve had from both the distillery and the brewery, I would have to assume that the distillery is very much the priority. The other beers I’ve had from Pearse Lyons, both in Ireland and in the US, have ranged from underwhelming to aggressively mediocre (looking at you, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale) – but I’ve liked the whiskey, so…

However, I note that The Beer Nut review of Journeyman from 2018 was, on the whole, positive…which makes me wonder whether the particular bottle I picked up was, perhaps, close to that ‘vintage.’ Everything about it tasted more than a little old and stale, but it seemed to be much more the result of having sat on several pallets and in storerooms much longer than it should have, rather than there being an issue with the actual recipe and brewing in this instance. I’d happily give it another shot if I could guarantee freshness, but, in this case, even for something in the neighb(u)orhood of €2.50, it was a partial drain-pour. While it was by no means the worst thing I’ve had recently, I still had ‘better’ options for the calories involved.

And so, on to the Archway Lager, which was a very pleasant surprise indeed. The can seemed to be fresh, and it was a clean, crisp lager. Nothing fancy, but also something that would be more than a match for a sunny afternoon, ideally with some soccer involved. It was slightly pricier than Carlsberg, which is also one of my go-to soccer beers when I can’t find a low-key local craft option. I know that Franciscan Well is owned by the macros these days, but still hope to get to their brewpub at some point post-COVID, as I hear their pizza is amazing (and, in my experience, even when the ‘original’ has been purchased by one of the big ones, the local brewpub often still gets to make some interesting one-offs), so…

And pizza is a perfect segue to the Rascals, as I do believe their pizza is the best in Dublin, and a perfect complement to their excellent range of beers. Not being able to actually *go* there is not great, but the Fruitropolis, Wunderbar and Happy Days beers are all fantastic go-tos I’m happy to have in my fridge on the regular. It will be very exciting to get back to the brewpub in person and have some of their other creations – hopefully we all get those shots soon.

Of course, it wasn’t just me on this week’s podcast – go have a listen to hear what Bean and Joanne thought about budget beers!

Annual Beer-y Roundup, 2020 Edition: Highlights

You’ve skipped the longer 2020 summary narrative (fair enough) or arrived here after slogging through it, so well done. And, really, well done in any case for making it through 2020. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favo(u)rite beer and whiskey discoveries of the year.

The Breweries
Hope Beer
I love everything about Hope – quality all around, something for everyone in the standard lineup, and fantastic seasonal releases. Bonus points for being not only train-accessible, but train-celebratory: their Hop-on Session IPA features the Dart train. I LOVE TRAINS. And great beer.

Four Provinces Brew Co
MILD JOY. Gob Fluich is a perfect dark mild – absolutely the ideal ‘school night’ beer, and one that goes with everything from pizza to chocolate (so, essentially, all the key food groups of lockdown). But again, the whole lineup is delightful – a very more-ish lager and a fantastic session IPA, among other tasty beers. Very much looking forward to their pub re-opening since 1) I’ve never been and; 2) they will have a beer engine. Cask of all sorts is hard to find in Ireland, but I can’t wait to have the mild on cask. Additional plus for being a good entry point for the new learners of Irish – their bilingual approach is a handy excuse to get studying.

Whiplash Beer
Wonderful beer, friendly people and top-class branding – Whiplash cans are instantly recognisable and always a sign of good times to come. I’m not, on the whole, a fan of hazy beers, but a hazy IPA from Whiplash is always welcome. There are some wonderful stouts and grisettes in the mix, too, and I cannot wait for their Fidelity Festival in 2021 (vaccines permitting). We had a great time interviewing Lynsey, Whiplash’s lead cellar brewer, on the Beer Ladies Podcast, and learned some fascinating inside information – give it a listen!

Ballykilcavan  Brewery
Who doesn’t love a good brown ale? While the style may currently be too thin on the ground for my liking, Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown is outstanding, another ideal go-to beer with nearly everything. Once again, the year-round beers are great, and all named after features on their beautifully-photographed family farm (truly a strong Instagram game). The seasonal and one-off specials are all worth a try as well – some lovely surprises in the mix.

And on to the honourable mentions: I have thoroughly enjoyed a number of beers from Lineman, Kinnegar, Trouble, Rascals, Heaney and Yellowbelly – all Irish breweries doing a lovely job, and I look forward to more from each one in 2021.

whiskey tastings at home!

Distilleries
Tipperary
I’m still very much learning the basics when it comes to whiskey, but have been very impressed with the various bits I’ve been lucky enough to sample from Tipperary, and love their approach to mixing technology and tradition – you can scan the QR code on the bottle to find out about the barley used in the whiskey, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Their own-barley single cask whiskey is amazing.

Currach
The whiskey is matured in seaweed-charred barrels. It sounds weird. It is weird. But it’s good weird. They also feature great art direction and beautiful bottles, but it’s very much backed up by the product inside. Another pleasant way to wind down after a day of not leaving the house.

Shops
I’ve only had the good fortune to discover all these brands through the thoughtful sourcing and speedy delivery from a number of amazing local Irish businesses – many of which had to develop an e-commerce function overnight. So, massive shoutouts to: L. Mulligan Whiskey Shop, Craft Central, Beer Cloud, The Beer Club, Martin’s Off-License and Craft Geek Merchandise – you’ve each had a hand in introducing me to a new beer or whiskey and/or kept my wardrobe up to date with appropriately-themed merch.

Here’s to a better 2021 for all.

Annual Beer-y Roundup, 2020 Edition: Preamble

Our first night out in DublinIt would probably be more accurate to include ‘whiskey’ somewhere in the title as well, since the various lockdowns here in Ireland have had the useful side effect of introducing me to many interesting whiskeys as well as beer through numerous virtual tastings. But before we dive in to an (almost) entirely non-hierarchical ‘favo(u)rites of the year,’ it’s probably worth noting that A Few Big Things Happened in 2020:

In January, we moved from Seattle to Dublin. Although my role is technically Dublin-affiliated, my colleagues are largely based in Basel. I spent our first few weeks ‘in’ Ireland mostly shuttling between New Jersey and Switzerland for midweek meetings. I do not recommend this approach for settling in to a new city and country, especially when attempting to find schools and housing. During a brief stint of my not traveling just before the Irish election, our teen went out to see Neil Hannon, my forever-favo(u)rite artist, play a few songs on Grafton Street; I had a meeting, but assumed I would have plenty of similar opportunities, now that we were living in the same country, so decided not to skip the call. I should have skipped the call.

In March, we got in just under the wire to obtain our IRP cards – the residence permits that let us funny foreigners live officially in Ireland – before everything locked down in response to COVID. While my at-home workdays became much longer, the abrupt cessation of travel was, for me, quite welcome. Our smaller child had perhaps 3 weeks in school (and our teen would not have *any* in-person contact with ‘people who are not us’ until September), but the pivot to Home School Hub on television helped her continue to adapt – and to get a lot of her videos screened for the nation. We spent the next several months being horrified at what was happening in our home country (even more than usual) and feeling extremely fortunate not to be there.

Careful now.Throughout the first lockdown, virtual meetups and tastings were the key to some kind of normal life, though we spent several of those first few months without real furniture. All our worldly goods had arrived via sea from America, but they were quarantined at the port. We were sleeping on inflatable beds and had only a rapidly-deflating couch in the living room throughout that time. We had managed to get some cheap plates and silverware, but knowing that our books, PELOTON and actual, solid furniture were within our 2KM radius but could not come to us was frustrating (not to mention not great for one’s back). Nevertheless, the Beer Ladies kept us sane through weekend Zooms.

Toward the end of the first lockdown, we were finally reunited with our ‘stuff’ – and working at home became much more comfortable as I was no longer simply sitting on the floor with my laptop (and I could actually work out again – my knees can only take so much running). And, as previously detailed, when the lockdown lifted, I got to see my virtual friends in person. We had a few drinks and started a podcast, but more on that in a moment. We had the opportunity to visit Galway and Kilkenny – so far, still the only places outside of Dublin I’ve been able to visit since moving to Ireland.

We spent much of the summer looking at houses to buy (renting in Dublin is, to use a technical term, hella expensive, even by the standards of other places we’ve lived, and it’s a nightmare with pets). We finally had an offer accepted and began the incredibly slow process of moving toward actually getting the keys…which we hope to complete early in January. We very much look forward to getting out of our Celtic Tiger-era rental, which manages to be both very expensive and incredibly cheaply-built, and into an actual house.

Beer Ladies PodcastAutumn brought the return of in-person school (and a return to semi-lockdown, though again, I’ll take anything happening in Ireland over the disaster that is the US) and also saw the launch of the Beer Ladies Podcast. We’ve managed some fantastic episodes with our rotating cast, and have had some great guests; I’m particularly proud of our session with Lynsey from Whiplash, and I’m excited about what we have planned for 2021. Like and subscribe!

In summary, it’s been a lot. I miss theatre, concerts and museums, though at least we managed to get in to some of the best local ones during lighter periods of lockdown. I miss (personal) travel and seeing other people, but I’m also glad I’ve had the chance to discovery so many new-to-me beers and whiskeys.

And, given that’s probably what you came here for in the first place…on to my best discoveries of 2020…

Beer-y Anniversaries and Pandemic Musings

Halloween at L Mulligan GrocerOne year ago this week, I came to Dublin for the last time as a visitor. I’d landed my new job in August 2019, and as we knew we would be moving to Ireland for said role when all our paperwork was sorted out, so this trip was a combination of local work meetings and advance neighbourhood reconnaissance. The planets aligned in an even more fortuitous way: the Bram Stoker Festival and a meeting of The Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland were both scheduled during my brief stay. In retrospect, this very quick trip was fated to be much more impactful than I could have possibly imagined.

My previous work trips to Dublin during my tenure as an Amazonian had been much more circumscribed; I never had the time to explore beyond the city centre, and my last one was especially odd, as my then-boss insisted on constant togetherness, even over the weekend – I still have no idea whether she was aiming to keep tabs on me, or if she was just uncomfortable being on her own, so I had little chance to do my own exploration (though I had no idea at the time that I’d one day live here). This visit, then, was my first chance to really look around properly, get into some local events, and, I hoped, meet some casual acquaintances who could help give us advice as we prepared to move.

Good mate Mark GatissAs luck would have it, the events I was going to for the Bram Stoker Festival (you know, hanging out with my Good Friends Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffatt and Sue Vertue) were mostly north of the river, so I spent a good deal of time walking around Northside neighbourhoods that seemed like possible good fits for our family – something that would become a point of contention months later with several of our more peculiar relocation consultants, who insisted that ‘the likes of us’ could not possibly live in, say, Stoneybatter. (Nearly a year later, I’m still not entirely sure what she was trying to convey with that line of thinking, but I digress). I ended up at L. Mulligan Grocer, where I discovered Trouble Brewing (lads, I was first on the Ambush – then, later, the Dark Arts) and Rascals Brewing (Social Hops 2019 – see, Untappd is useful for this sort of exercise!). I also had some absolutely amazing food, and enjoyed one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever had in a pub.

And when I met up with the amazing, fierce, opinionated and thoughtful Beer Ladies (or ‘my Beer Ladies,’ as my smaller kid now describes them), I knew I’d found My People – thought I had no idea how quickly after our arrival that would be cemented. Also on that night at Piper’s Corner, I discovered Kinnegar and Four Provinces – both breweries that have become go-tos for us. Fast forward a few months, and by the time all the work permit/relocation administrivia was complete, it was late January. Our arrival week also coincided with a beer-y meetup, so although I was a bit jet-lagged (and, frankly, exhausted from taking no meaningful break from work to move countries), I prioritised meeting up with my new friends – another stroke of good luck, since the next scheduled meeting coincided with the start of Lockdown One in Ireland.

The pandemic and the move to virtual socialising have, in many ways, sped up the ‘getting to know you’ process – who knew that shared trauma would be such a great way to make close friends? What would have been monthly-ish meetings became much more frequent Zoom calls and Discord chats. We have helped each other grapple with career and relationship insanity in ways that would not have been nearly as intense under ‘normal circumstances’ – and we’re better for it. We’ve even launched a podcast. (Like! Subscribe!) L. Mulligan’s virtual whiskey tastings have also become a regular occasion on our household calendar – even if we cannot get there in person at the moment, we’re happy to be able to support them in some way. I doubt I would have sampled this many local breweries by this point if we were simply going to pubs normally – but being forced to discover fantastic businesses stocking excellent local beers has been another side benefit of this odd time.

And that accelerated process of getting acquainted applies to Dublin as a whole, too – while museums and shops may be closed (again) for Lockdown Two, our 5K walks have let us do real exploring, and our house hunting has led us back north of the river…while our current Southside rental is in a convenient location, it’s not really ‘us,’ and we’re working to buy a house in an area our relocation agent would be horrified by – hopefully, that will be a good way to kick off 2021. Funnily enough, it’s in one of the areas I explored during that trip one year ago – so it may turn out to have been something of a prophetic trip in multiple ways.

It’s wild to think I’ve only had the chance to properly get to know this city and the fantastic friends I’ve been lucky enough to make here in such a relatively short space of time – not to mention how lucky we’ve been to avoid the absolute disaster(s) continuing to unfold in our home country – but I certainly look forward to the time we can get together in person, in a pub, without a second thought.

I knew before we moved that I’d be discovering Dublin through local beer to some extent, but I could not have predicted how crucial it would come to be in helping to form friendships and in directing us as far as where to put down long-term roots.

And now, I’m off to choose some good Halloween beers…without leaving the house.

 

Back at the Pub

They're here! They're there!So, what was it like?

Irish pubs were allowed to re-open, with COVID-19 precautions in place, on 29th July – and we were very much there. I’ll confess I would not have felt comfortable going to a pub or bar in the US or UK at this point, given How Things Are Going There, but since things seem more well-controlled here in Ireland, we opted to take the family out for an early dinner. We duly made our reservation and headed back to The Merry Cobbler for the first time since early March. We chose The Merry Cobbler for a number of reasons, though it’s not our nearest pub: first, we knew it was large enough to handle meaningful social distancing inside. Secondly, the food is fantastic, and, closely coupled, the not-just-Guinness (more on that in a moment) beer selection is most welcome. Finally, we wanted to support a pub with outstanding service, and the team there delivered, just as they had prior to lockdown – in fact, it was our last port of call in The Before Times.

Beyond the obvious lack of allowed spontaneity – we made sure to arrive just before our reservation time to maximize our allotted 90 minutes of pub time – what else was new?

There are directional guides on the floor to help drive more-or-less unidirectional foot traffic, and there are dedicated entrance and exit doors. The Merry Cobbler already has a series of snugs and separate tables throughout the pub, so that likely required less rework than many spaces might have required, but we had the section we opted for entirely to ourselves. It’s table-service only, and while that’s handy whenever we’re out with the family, not being able to wander to the bar to see what else is on tap is a minor quibble. To the credit of the waitstaff, they were very much aware of their taplist, so no worries there – and, really, in 90 minutes, unless you are very, very dedicated, how many pints are you likely to get through?

Hope!Speaking of pints, having a freshly-tapped Hope Hop-on For The First Time In Forever was absolutely glorious. And it seemed churlish not to also have a Guinness, given that they’d delivered the brand-new kegs only days before, and it was perfect, especially with the wonderful brownie. While it would have been nice to linger longer, that’s not much of an option with a smaller child anyway, so we had no difficulty sticking within our 90 minutes without feeling rushed.

I don’t think I’d chance a busy, crowded pub with a non-family group at this point, but a relaxing meal, seated far from other people, worked well. Obviously this is only going to work for a subset of pubs, and there are no easy answers there, but hopefully this is a small step forward, and COVID-19 cases will continue to go down, allowing more flexibility. But until there’s a working vaccine, it seems like it’s possible, with some sensible precautions in place, to support local pubs and breweries in person from time to time.

And as much as I’ve had the opportunity to try some amazing local beers at home that I might not have come across in a pub in Normal Times, it’s hard to beat a fresh pint in its natural setting. I hope to do it again in the not-too-distant future.

The Session: Where Are We?

We had to make our own entertainment in those daysIt’s a fair question.

Even if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic (and, beyond the obvious, the archivist/historian in me gets both very excited about the level of documentation of this ‘experience,’ as well horrified the thought of what it means for digital preservation librarians of the near-future), it’s probably time for a blog update. My new job and our new country were meant to be an opportunity to have a bit more free time (HAHAHAHAHA/please come work for me) as well as the ability to spend more time together as a family than Planet Amazon allowed, but hey, at least we managed one of those things, albeit without furniture. Let’s back up – but I promise, we’ll get to the beer.

We arrived in Dublin from Seattle at the end of January; the plan was to spend about 6-8 weeks in temporary accommodation, find a long-term rental and quickly sell our house in Seattle, then enjoy weekend trips around Ireland and the odd hop over to London for theatre. We achieved only the first and second of those milestones. We have, on the whole, been fortunate: our cats arrived with no difficulties, we found a house near schools that suited both our offspring (no small achievement when you are working with a 10-year age gap and a lack of secondary school places in Dublin), and got our first set of immigration ‘stuff’ done, all while I was flying back and forth to Basel for regular business trips. Side note – there are some good breweries in Basel – Volta Bräu and Kitchen Brew – and, oddly, a very good Mexican bar/restaurant. We moved out of our (furnished) temporary accommodation into our (unfurnished) rental with the understanding that everything in our sea shipment – all our furniture, clothes, books, PELOTON, electronics – would be with us in 1-2 weeks. And it duly arrived at the port and cleared customs, and then everything shut down. We were told everything was to be moved to long-term storage with no known target date for delivery, and to ‘make do.’ Of the inflatable furniture we managed to get before the machine stopped, we’re operating at about 35% capacity…not having a sofa is not something I envisioned, but again, everyone is, so far, healthy, we are not stuck in the US, which looks horrifying right now, so…it’ll make an interesting story, down the line.

HEY LADIESWith that long preamble out of the way, on to the beer – and beer has been part of one of the biggest positives of this entire situation. I managed one rather jet-lagged in-person meetup with the Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland the week we arrived (I’d made a previous visit in October, when I was in town on a pre-relocation work trip, and I knew I’d found My People), and then, as Circumstances Changed, we switched to weekly Zoom meetups. Ironically, I feel like I’ve made firmer friends faster with all the physical distancing than I might have otherwise; whether it’s commiserating over Zoom with drinks or just popping in to our Discord to chat about the weather (and what we’re drinking). We’re all going through this bizarre shared experience, and I couldn’t have found a better group of fierce, beer-loving women to bond with.

And what have we been drinking?  How much? How often? I will say that the inability to go to pubs has, in an odd way, fast-tracked our discovery of the Dublin beer scene. We were able to happily wander to The Old Spot or The Merry Cobbler, I’d most likely only be trying whichever local brewery happened to be featured that week; while I did get in one run with the Mikkeller Run Club chapter here and thoroughly enjoyed hanging out at The Underdog afterward, that would be only a monthly opportunity to sample their (excellent) taplist. With the lockdown, breweries and off-licenses quickly mobilized to offer delivery, and getting a weekly mixed box from Craft Central, Martin’s Off-license and Beer Cloud has made discovering new (well, new-to-us) beers The Thing We Do At Home (it’s also been our chief solution to our lack of furniture – the boxes are very handy). I don’t think we’ve been drinking more per se, but I have had the odd after-work whiskey more often than I would under normal circumstances, though again, this may simply be down to working 12-hour days without any breaks and the availability of Really Good Local Whiskey and/or Gin.

I already have some favo(u)rite local beers: Hope Beer’s Handsome Jack IPA, Pass If You Can Pale Ale and Hop-On Session are all wonderful, and Ballykilcavan’s Bambrick’s Brown is delightful. Eight Degrees Hill of the Serpent is one of the best Black IPAs around, and Mescan’s Belgian-inspired beers have really impressed. I’m trying the new mild (NEW MILD JOY) from Four Provinces tonight…for people who can’t leave the house, we’re spoiled for choice.

While I can’t wait to see everyone in person over a fresh pint in a pub, we’re firmly in the ‘can’t complain too much’ category; let’s hope it stays that way.

A Tardy Decade Wrap-up of Travel, Beer, Running, Etc.

As ever, I’m very much late to the party, but I did finally get around to looking back at my last 10 years of beer and travel. Apparently, I drink a lot of pale ales, porters and black IPAs when left to my own devices. And weirdly, as a runner, I keep getting faster and faster.

This was a thing back them2009
Travel: USA – Seattle, for soccer, little expecting we would eventually move there; Kentucky, for friends and horses, Rehoboth Beach
Running: My second Dogfish Dash – and first 10K; second Valley Forge Revolutionary Run
Beer: Nodding Head Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse,  Yards Brawler, Victory Uncle Teddy’s Bitter
Achievements Unlocked: Seeing Rachel Alexandra win the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward in person; blogging about it a lot
Other Notes: I miss Berliner Weisses served with syrup on the side, and not (usually) weirdly pre-flavored

2010
Travel: USA – Washington, DC, for the Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear, Rehoboth Beach
Running: Third Dogfish Dash, briefly lost then-5 yo at that year’s Revolutionary Run
Beer: Victory Yakima Glory, Yards Brawler
Achievements Unlocked: Getting an MLS team, having previously only had a supporters’ group with no team
Other Notes: You can see the back of my head in certain shots of the Sons of Ben documentary

With the Hammer O'Glory2011
Travel:
USA – NYC – yay, theatre! St. Louis – depressing family stuff, Rehoboth Beach
Running:
WHYY12K, another Dogfish Dash, first half-marathon
Beer:
Russian River Pliny the Elder/Younger; Urban Chestnut Zwickelbier; Pretty Things Saint Botolph’s Town
Achievements Unlocked:
Taking our Brooklyn-born kid to his first Broadway show (How to Succeed in Business…)
Other Notes:
This was a great Philly Beer Week year; also enjoyed meeting up with my favorite all-women beer clubs, In Pursuit of Ale and West Chester Beer Ladies

2012
Travel:
England – London, Avebury, Bath, York; Wales – Cardiff; USA – Rehoboth Beach
Running:
Another WHYY12K, another Dogfish Dash, second half-marathon, Broad Street Run
Beer:
Pretty Things Once Upon A Time X Ale – November 22nd, 1838; Troegs Scratch 68 – Zwickel Licker (Lew) &  Scratch 63 – Danny’s IPA; Westvleteren 8
Achievements Unlocked:
Visited the Doctor Who Experience before it closed; got a 7 yo to happily stand throughout all of Henry V at the Globe
Other Notes:
Tired Hands opened!  We certainly appreciated having the best brewery in the country (fight me!) a short walk away from our house, and we still miss it now. Tired Hands OoeyGooey, Zombie and Goblin were early favorites.

Carlsberg Brewery2013
Travel:
Denmark – Copenhagen, Aarhus, Billund, USA – Rehoboth Beach
Running:
Another WHYY12K, (yet) another Dogfish Dash, just missed an age-group placing for Get Your Rear in Gear 10K, another half-marathon
Beer:
Dogfish Head Nordicthern Europe & Birra Etrusca Bronze; Tired Hands Ancient Knovvledge, LiverPool; Barren Hill Tavern West Coast Oats & Burton IPA
Achievements Unlocked:
Thoroughly enjoyed the Carlsberg brewery tour & Danish beer in general
Other Notes:
Loved the Barren Hill Tavern, which had replaced the General Lafayette Inn with vastly better food and beer; still worry we killed Seamus Heaney, whose Beowulf translation is our favorite, by visiting Sagnlandet Lejre,
the likely inspiration for Heorot in Beowulf; his death was announced during our visit. Jerry Orbach died the day after I bought a rare autographed record, so there’s precedent here

2014
Travel:
USA – NYC, Colonial Williamsburg, St. Louis for more depressing family things
Running:
Navy Yard 5K (super-slow, very pregnant pace)
Beer:
Yards Brawler, Urban Chestnut Oachkatzlschwoaf
Achievements Unlocked:
Produced child, despite weirdness with Kell antibodies and being An Old, hence a short beer list for the majority of the year; got to take an entire 13 weeks of maternity leave and earned a lot of street cred at the office by doing my last few pre-leave conference calls while being induced
Other Notes: Made it back to Tired Hands and Barren Hill ASAP, post-birth; still did not see any ghosts; prior to that, saw Cabaret back on Broadway with Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams, as well as the OBC of Fun Home.

Last Barren Hill visit2015
Travel:
USA – Rehoboth Beach, Seattle
Running:
Navy Yard 5K (new 5K PR), another Revolutionary Run, Philly 10K, another ODDyssey half marathon, (my) final Dogfish Dash
Beer:
Conshohocken Brewing Company Puddlers Row ESB, Machine House Dark Mild
Achievements Unlocked:
Successfully endured marathon Amazon interviews after getting a call out of the blue
Other Notes:
Alas, Barren Hill closed not long after we moved away, though we made the most of our last visit

2016
Travel:
USA – NYC; England – Manchester, Liverpool; Canada – Victoria, Vancouver;  Ireland – Dublin – liked it a lot, but, once again, had no idea we’d be moving there
Running:
Hot Chocolate 15K, Brooks Trailhead 10K (first age-group placing!), Lake Union 10K, Beat the Bridge 8K, Beat the Blerch 10K
Beer:
Machine House Cambridge Bitter, Cloudburst Chocofloxx, Spinnakers Mitchell’s Extra Special Bitter
Achievements Unlocked:
Took 11 yo to NYC to see Hamilton with the full original Broadway cast; then took the family on a long weekend trip from Seattle to the north of England to see The Divine Comedy in Liverpool, semi-rhyming a trip I’d done previously from Northern California to Bristol for the same reason
Other Notes:
Kid in question became Neil Hannon-obsessed a mere two years after his first live experience, so my work here is done – as of this writing, he is doing the heavy lifting to indoctrinate the smaller child

Thor 10K2017
Travel:
USA – Los Angeles, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Portland, Philadelphia; Canada – Vancouver; England – London
Running:
Star Wars Rebel Challenge (10K & half marathon), Tenacious Ten, Beat the Blerch half marathon, Avengers 10K
Beer:
Karl Strauss Mosaic Session IPA; Ex Novo Cactus Wins the Lottery
Achievements Unlocked:
Became runDisney, and Disneyland in general, obsessed; discovered that Portland beer and food lived up to the hype; saw the OLC of Hamilton
Other Notes:
Had an excellent time at Gallifrey One

2018
Travel:
USA – Los Angeles, Anaheim, Honolulu, Ko Olina, Astoria, San Diego; Canada – Victoria
Running:
Tenacious Ten, Women of Wonder 10K, Goodlife Fitness Victoria half marathon (new PR – finally under 2 hours!)
Beer:
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Fig Mtn Light, Three Weavers The Messenger, Maui Brewing Puelo Pale Ale, Half Door Brewing Father Ted
Achievements Unlocked:
Aulani! Conference speaking! Surviving another year at Amazon, just; met Ron Pattinson IRL!
Other Notes:
Finally made it to Hawai’i and San Diego; still not sure why there is a better European beer selection in the middle of the Pacific vs in the Pacific Northwest

Yub Nub2019
Travel: USA – Los Angeles, Anaheim, Ko Olina, Philadelphia, NYC; England – London; Canada – Victoria; Germany – Munich; Ireland – Dublin; Switzerland – Basel, Zurich
Running:
Tenacious Ten (new 10 mile PR!), Lake Union 10K (new 10K PR!), Tunnel to Viaduct 8K (new 8K PR!)
Beer:
Noble Ale Works Nose Candy, Wild Card Table Beer, Maui Brewing Pineapple Mana Wheat, Vancouver Island Brewing Nanaimo Bar Porter, Gamorrean Ale at Oga’s Cantina
Achievements Unlocked:
Flew to London for a long weekend just to see Company in the West End; rage-quit Amazon; CO-PILOTED THE MILLENNIUM FALCON, saw Hadestown and Beetlejuice on Broadway (twice)
Other Notes:
I have been on a lot of planes this year

So, what’s next? Well, we’re off to Dublin in January for my new-ish job, so I expect to be spending a lot of time with the Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland, who have already provided a warm welcome; and – perhaps – I’ll start beer writing for pay again, something I didn’t have time to do while trapped on Planet Amazon. I’ll also hope to connect with the Dublin Mikkeller Running Club, as I loved the Philly group, and checking out the Disneyland Paris runDisney runs is also on the agenda (as is taking advantage of affordable European travel for theatre and opera).

See you soon, Europe!

2019’s Completely Subjective Favorite Beers List

another airport loungeI spent much of 2019 on planes, which was both lovely and exhausting; perhaps, in response, some of my favorite beers of 2019 were very straightforward, perfectly-brewed ‘basics’ – there’s a lot of pale ale:
 
Flying Bike Tangled Webb English Amber, 5%
Flying Bike is our local co-operative brewery, and, full disclosure, my charming and erudite spouse is on the board of directors (which sounds and is cool, but is also very much a volunteer gig with a lot of heavy lifting). They regularly brew recipes, albeit modified for scale, chosen by the members, from home-brewed beers entered by the members, though I believe this came about through the more usual ‘the brewer wanted to do it’ means. It was really a bitter, and it was great.  We’ll miss them when we move.
 
If I see a Matchless can or beer on the taplist, I automatically order it – they are wildly consistent, and while sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s far from it; their beers are fantastic, whether they are great pale ales, like this one, or excellent bitters, milds, porters – they are one of the few breweries whose hazy IPAs still taste like beer. Alas, we never made it to the brewery in Tumwater, WA, but they are very much available around Seattle, so they have become a constant in our beer fridge – in the best way.
 
Maui Brewing Company Puelo Pale Ale, 5.6%
While this beer is great in cans, which is how I usually find it, having it fresh on tap, in Hawai’i, with the scents, sounds and feel of the islands around you, takes it to another level. It’s an absolutely outstanding, perfectly-crafted pale ale, and enjoying it in a bar that’s open to the sea on one side and a television showing surfing competitions, something about which I have zero understanding but find oddly soothing, on the other, is bliss. I need to make it to their main location on Maui some day…
 
WIZARDRYPhillips Brewing Black Magic, 5.3%
I’d somewhat overlooked this beer on previous visits to Victoria, but having having it on tap at the taproom, once again, fresh from a properly-cleaned tap line, I’m convinced this may be one of the best beers in Canada. They leave its description somewhat ambiguous – it’s just a ‘dark ale’ – but I’d put it firmly in my ‘excellent dark mild’ category. Also, the taproom has an amazing little printer that outputs your custom flight, complete with descriptions. This hit me in all the metadata and structured-content feels.
 
Wild Card Brewery Table Beer, 2.7%
Many, many years ago, I lived briefly in Walthamstow, back when that part of London was far from approaching gentrification; I even had a creepy landlord who would let himself in, unannounced, to check that the mostly-female house-sharers ‘didn’t have boyfriends around’ – I later moved further out to East Ham, where I still had a tiny bedsit, but had normal landlords and easy access to The Who Shop, which has long since moved – but I digress. I made a quick weekend trip to London to see Company, and, having heard good things about Wild Card and being curious about what Walthamstow was like now, made the trek out to see it. Brewer Jaega Wise was on hand and was incredibly welcoming, as was everyone on the staff. I think I made it through most of their offerings at the time, and it was all wonderful, but I especially loved the flavor and freshness they managed to get out of such a low-key beer. Highly recommended.
 
Flying Bike Zwickel Especial Mexican Lager, 5.5%
Yes, another from Flying Bike – I did spend a lot of time there when not flying elsewhere – and another beer that was simply delightful. Imagine a zwickelbier with a bit more of a Vienna Lager character and you’ve got it; fresh, clean, but with a bit more of a toasty take – it was absolutely glorious with the mediocre Mexican food available in Seattle. I imagine it would be even better with good food, but there you are…
 
Cloudburst Brewing Hi Bill Hiii, 4.3%
Machine House Brewery makes the best cask ales anywhere in the area, hands down, and their dark mild is fantastic. Cloudburst makes amazing IPAs and a lot of unusual things, and they are always excellent – and so, they made a dark mild, calling out Bill, Machine House’s owner/brewer, with love. I had this one at Machine House, where it was a welcome guest ale, and all was well. Delightful.
 
Kennett Brewing Company Wee Wobbly Scottish 100 Schilling, 6.3%
We made it back to Philly! This was our first visit to Kennett Brewing Company, and everything was wonderful. I’ve already written about their relevant-to-my-interests hop-skeleton branding and subterranean taproom, but this beer was at the top of my list; definitely planning to head back on future visits.
 
Matchless Brewing Old School, 5.6%
Yes, more Matchless, and yes, another pale ale – but one very much worth your time if you are ever in the area. It was brewed for a local pizza place in Olympia, WA, and while we’ve only ever driven through Olympia, I can confirm it goes well with pizza – perfect for this use case.
 
Noble Ale Works Man’s Milk Stout, 6.1%
Noble Ale Works makes fantastic IPAs, which you already know, but I had to give my ‘favorite’ crown to the milk stout. We’ll be back in Anaheim next summer for Star Wars Celebration, and I hope to pop in again to try even more. Also, there is actual good Mexican food available for delivery to the taproom. Bonus points all around.
 
Honorable Mentions
Gamorrean Ale at Oga’s Cantina, 5.8%
Yes, this again. New Belgium brews it, it’s perfectly solid, but it’s all about the atmosphere in Oga’s Cantina. I can’t wait to get back to Batuu to FLY THE MILLENNIUM FALCON again. And again. And again…
 
Stoup Equal Play Equal Pay IPA, 7%
I first saw the USWNT play live in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Megan Rapinoe (and the rest of the Seattle Reign, the local professional women’s team) all train at my erstwhile gym – I had to cancel my membership in preparation for moving – and I’ve nearly stepped on her in the sauna multiple times, because I am clumsy, but she’s always been great about it. Given the local connections and support for the team, it was only right that Stoup Brewing created a beer to go along with their call for equal pay, though anyone who has watch them play vs having to watch the USMNT play knows the women deserve far more. Drink up.
 
So, that’s the list – happy 2020, and I’ll see you in Dublin…