Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 4

Pretzel and the broad, majestic ShannonWelcome back to the fourth and final part of a very wordy annual review.

I know, Oktoberfest should be in September, but the one in Dead Centre happened in early October, and good fun it was, too. Fellow Beer Lady Katie and I made the trip to Athlone, where we recorded an interview with the lovely Liam and Petra for the podcast, and we had some excellent locally-brewed lagers…and a few other things, like the High IQ Moron Radler.

Also – pretzels.

But there was also excitement on tap when another of my podcast co-hosts, Christina, and I attended the Irish Food Writers Awards; we were both (rather mysteriously) nominated for Best Beer Blog – it was a lovely surprise and I’ll need to work a bit harder next year (next week?) to see if I can pull together something a bit more worthy for the next go-round, though John was a well-deserved winner, and we got him on the podcast to chat about it shortly after.

And so, with Spooky Season in high gear, it was time to switch over to Things Autumnal, with Smaller Child’s birthday (a Halloween-themed day out at Leopardstown Race Course – no money won) and a fun crossover podcast episode with Wide Atlantic Weird – I then guested over there to share my Patience Worth nerdery. I enjoyed some lunchtime theatre with a bit of MR James at Bewley’s Café Theatre’s excellent production of Lost Hearts, and made sure to pick up some Trouble Brewing Pumpkin Brew – it was especially tasty on tap at L Mulligan Grocer, where we returned to paint pumpkins, having very much enjoyed the event the previous year.

Borealis at Dublin CastleI dressed up for my Halloween Parkrun and enjoyed a few Bram Stoker Festival events – Borealis at Dublin Castle was especially atmospheric. The cat, however, did not enjoy dressing up, perhaps because she had grown so much from when I’d purchased her special outfit – and our previous kitties never got to be so long!

After a massive candy haul during trick-or-treating, we hopped on a plane (again!) to York (well, a plane to Manchester Airport and a train to York, which was fine in one direction but rather less so heading back). We had not been to York since well before Child Two was born, and while it was a return for Youth One, he seemed to remember very little from his previous visit, so it was all practically brand-new for him, too. There was much excellent cask (and keg) ale consumed, and all manner of spooky activities: a visit to the York Ghost Merchants was required, as we’ve been collecting their wares for a few years, but this was our first in-person visit (protip: follow my lead and get there about 45 minutes before they open, enjoy a tea in the queue); it was excellent. We also enjoyed the newly-opened Society of Alchemists, where we bought insane quantities of soap.

Beer standouts in York were the Big Eagle IPA at Brew York, whose Asian street food was excellent, and Lord Marples at The Market Cat, because you can’t go wrong with cask Thornbridge and the pizza was tasty. They also had Kelham Island’s Pale Rider on, and as it was only recently ‘rescued‘ at that point, it was especially good to see (and drink). A return to The House of Trembling Madness for delicious cheese and some Marble beers was also very much enjoyed. The York Tap was a nice distraction from the train chaos, too – so much good cask!

The UnderdogA high point back in Dublin was the return of The Underdog in new surroundings – the cask isn’t back there yet, but it’s coming, and it’s really wonderful to see its rebirth. It’s impossible to go there and not run into someone you know, and the beer lineup has been uniformly excellent, as one would expect. While there are always a few pubs with a couple of local and/or other craft taps around, there had not been a true all-purpose craft beer bar since The Underdog’s previous incarnation on Dame Street, and its absence was keenly felt here – again, a welcome return. I managed to pay my first visit upon my return from York, and have been going back regularly ever since.

At The Water Rats in a 25 year old t-shirtBut also almost immediately after getting back from York, I returned to the Neighbouring Island for another special music treat: David Devant and his Spirit Wife, playing a 25th anniversary concert for their Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous album at The Water Rats. It was Old Home Week for me as I’d been at the original series of launch concerts and lived just up the road as a grad student, back in the day. I managed to see a few friends, did a ride in the Peloton studio there (I KNOW – though on balance, it’s a lot nicer than NYC), hit up all my favourite occult bookstores and had some great beers. There’s never a bad time to visit the Euston Tap, so that was on the list, too. I also saw David Tennant in Good (no, I never go to London or NYC without a theatre plan – and that brings my ‘Doctors Who seen on stage’ count to – er – one) and I had a really pleasant wander around Coal Drops Yard…none of that existed when I lived there, though, to be fair, it was a lot more affordable then, so it was quite a change to some otherwise-familiar surroundings.

Back home, a little bit more sneaky music, with a not-gig at a local pub for some folksters, and some more great Beer Ladies Podcast fun. We went back on the Tea Bus to see Santa again, and are now finishing up the year where we started it, back in Pennsylvania – and yes, I have had my required Yards Brawler.

Stay tuned for one more post before the end of 2022, though I promise that will be much, much shorter – and I’m looking forward to an exciting 2023.

Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 3

Welcome back to Part 3 of what would be an even-more-unnecessarily-long post than usual. You are in luck – this part has cats.

We kicked off July with the arrival of our new kitten, Ruby (the object of my side trip to Salisbury from last time) – and she brought the heat with her. It was incredibly hot in Dublin, and just in time for my first beer festival since 2019 – Fidelity, organised by the team at Whiplash. I’d bought tickets for the festival some two years before, and while I was thrilled it was finally happening, the heat was…intense. Nine times out of ten it would make sense that you’d prefer to have your Dublin beer festival indoors, and while the Round Room at the Mansion House is a great venue, it was VERY WARM.

The heat may have been something of a blessing in disguise, though – at least for me, it meant I went out of my way to stay hydrated, and the water stations were always available and tidy; not something I can say about every festival I’ve ever attended. And the beers were of a very high standard all around, but I still ended up with favourites: DEYA Steady Rolling Man, a hazy pale ale, and Wylam Keepers Ale, an old ale brewed with input from Newcastle Castle – so, apparently, something good is going on on the Neighbouring Island, beer-wise, despite the recent glut of bad news there around brewery closures. But back to Fidelity – while the beer was great, the other high point was seeing so many friends in person; it was really lovely.

In other news, Child Two got to see her first published work in the form of a book review, which was very exciting for her, and she also began taking part in Junior Parkruns during the summer – a lot of activity for a 7 year old.

And there was yet another beer festival: Hagstravaganza, hosted by The White Hag. At the best of times, Ireland-beyond-Dublin can be difficult to navigate via public transit, but the festival was timed to coincide with trains from and back to Dublin, and a special train was also on for those staying locally to stay over. Again, the weather was hot by local standards, though not unbearable, but I was glad I’d brought along sunscreen to top-up all day. Standout beers included Bier, a Helles from California’s Green Cheek Beer Company, Pils Taiheke from The Kernel, and, rather unexpectedly, Caribbean White Chocolate Pancake Stack from Siren.

The train back was very, very merry.

Mr Tatyo is watching youLater in the summer, we went to Tayto Park, mostly to be able to say we’d been when it was still ruled by its benevolent dictator, Mr Tayto. There’s less of a reason to go without him, but I did enjoy some of the exotic wildlife in the park, which included raccoons. Fancy trash pandas!

We also finally made it up to Belfast – something we have long had intended to do, but at last, the timing worked out. I’ve written about the trip in more detail, but The Deer’s Head really stands out in retrospect, both for its beautiful surroundings and fantastic beer. Immediately after returning from Belfast, I headed to another Craic Beer Community event at Rascals – a great meetup with some delightful beers.

There was another run in August: The Frank Duffy 10-Miler through the Phoenix Park. This one wasn’t a PB – the park is hillier than it is in my head – but it was a fun event. I went back to Odense for another work trip shortly thereafter, and enjoyed some more very tasty Albani beers – and there’s nothing wrong with a Carlsberg 1883.

But it was time for more music – as promised, there as more Neil Hannon-ing. I flew back to London for a quick trip to see one of the Divine Comedy 30th anniversary concerts I’d originally bought tickets to years before, and while I couldn’t stay for the full series of concerts, it was wonderful to meet up with so many other long-time (in some cases, decades) online friends in real life at the Barbican. Another side note: I only got lost in the maze of walkways once! Riding the Elizabeth Line was a thrill, because TRAINS, and Neil was in great voice, as always.

Several of us made our way to the only after-hours venue we could find (c’mon, London! We’re *really* still closing most pubs at 11?), Gibney’s, where it was mostly local-to-me Rye River beer – not a bad thing, by any means. Alas, I cannot say the same for my airport ‘Spoons beer, which was not at its best – but that’s a minor point on such a great whirlwind trip.

But then, back to real life, back to Parkrun…well, almost.

First, there was a trip back to New York – one more work conference, and one more theatre-binge opportunity. I am thrilled that I got to see Into the Woods and A Strange Loop, I did another live class in the Peloton studio after a break of 3 years (I KNOW), and I finally got my hands on some Heady Topper, though I think my favourites in town were Arbor Lodge Alt by Logsdon Farmhouse Ales at Beer Culture, a regular standby when I’m in the city, and Konstantin, a märzen from Schilling Beer Co., at As Is, a new-to-me bar on 10th Avenue.

I also consumed something approaching my body weight in soft pretzels – something that I would love to see in more Dublin pubs – but I regret nothing.

And speaking of pretzels…

Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 1

Black IPA joy!At long last, it’s time for the annual beer-y wrap-up, this time with some actual context thrown in for the casual reader. Out of consideration for your valuable time (and, let’s be real, because I haven’t had time to edit everything properly in one go), it will be broken up into multiple entries.

We moved to Ireland in early 2020, just before lockdowns everywhere, and so the holiday season of 2021 was our first opportunity to travel back to the US – specifically, the best beer state in the country, Pennsylvania, I said what I said – since the move. As a result, I got to ring in 2022 with some old favourites: Bell’s Two-Hearted and Victory Prima Pils. Once we were back in Dublin, I spent much of the early part of the year waiting for my updated immigration permissions, which would let me work for anyone, and not just the dumpster fire of a company than had originally brought me over, but at least I had a few standout local beers while waiting: Only Swerving, a Dark Mild from Whiplash, and Craic’d Black Pepper Saison from Hope, specially brewed for a Craic Beer Community event (still at that time very much online). But, lest we forget, the end of January also saw the return of the ability to GO TO THE PUB AND SIT AT THE BAR without also ordering a ‘substantial meal’ and/or relying on table service, and I celebrated with a quick pint in the Black Sheep. And any time the weather cooperated on Saturdays (and often when it did not), I made my way to my local Parkrun, where I seem to have established a habit of finishing at the third woman.

Later in February, I got to meet up with several friends IN PERSON at Rascals, for their Rude Boy/Rude Girl release party; as a fan of both ska and a Black IPA (in the form of the feminine beer), it was a standout evening out. There was also a trip to Dead Centre in Athlone shortly thereafter for an IN PERSON (yes, still in all-caps) Craic Beer Community event, which included a lovely bitter, Six Decades, and the joy of Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown on cask.

Bigfoot Goes Beer Shopping

Also around this time, all my documentation and approvals came through, and I could leave a wildly toxic work situation for my current role, not only restoring my mental health, but also opening up new opportunities for travel and exciting career challenges. While I work primarily at home in Dublin, my company is based in Denmark, so, in March, I got to fly out to meet my new colleagues in person.

And so to Odense, where I am now old friends with beers from Anarkist/Theodor Schiotz Brewing as well as their mothership, Albani. Ironically, I have yet to get back to Copenhagen properly, though I can absolutely tell you where to eat and drink in the airport (looking at you, Airport Mikkeller). All told, I now have a good handle on Odense’s various offerings. Some other standout Danish beers I enjoyed at this time of year were Christian Bale Ale by Dry and Bitter Brewing Company and Familien olgaard from Fairbar/HumlepraXis. I also drank a Danish Bigfoot-themed beer because I am a sucker for this kind of thing; please feel free to judge.

Coming up next: a busy Spring

A Belfast Beer Break

The photo everyone is required to take when visiting BelfastAfter nearly two and a half years of living in Dublin, we finally had the chance to take the train up to Belfast. We had been told that it was a magical city full of cask ale (OK, I confess, that’s a slight exaggeration – we were told we could find some without looking around too hard, and that it would be in good shape) and that there would be some interesting museums. Also: ice hockey, though we aren’t quite there yet, season-wise. But perhaps the most exciting part of the journey itself was that we were promised an actual trolley on the train, with tea and snacks – something sadly still absent from non-border-crossing Iarnród Éireann trains since Covid began. As it turns out, much of this was, indeed, true.

First, though, the train – the Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, so there were a few nods to that in the Special Waiting Area within Connolly Station. That said, it’s not in any way an especially unique or well-appointed waiting area, and the train itself was not of the latest vintage, though it was nicer than some local trains I have used – no USB charging points, but the standard plug options were working well enough. The reservation displays were broken on our carriage, so our queuing to board turned out to be a good move; it was something of a free-for-all (‘just sit anywhere!’ we were told as we boarded). That hiccup aside, the journey was speedy and pleasant, and the aforementioned trolley did appear; it shouldn’t be so exciting to buy tea and a KitKat on the train, but we felt we had to, since it’s not an option on any other service. Payments were accepted in both Euro and Sterling, although card payments were pounds-only, so it was a useful prompt to swap to a credit card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion.

We got into Belfast around lunchtime, and after dropping off our bags, headed out to find some cask get lunch. We had been recommended The Crown Liquor Saloon for cask and food by many people, and during pre-trip planning, I was excited to update my Nicholson’s Pub app so that we could order from our eventual table (especially handy when you have a hungry child in tow). Although their dining room was closed and it was a bit crowded in the bar area as a result (soooo many people looking for the perfect Instagram shot without even getting a beer), we did manage to score one of the very pleasant snugs and ordered away. There were not a huge number of cask options, but what they did have was very good and the food was an order of magnitude better than anything you’d find in the otherwise-similar Wetherspoon’s app. As an aside, my Grand Unified Theory of Everything is that the world would be a more pleasant place if we could replace all ‘Spoons with Nicholson’s pubs, but maybe I simply haven’t been in enough of the latter to have had a bad experience. At any rate, I had a cask stout from Whitewater Brewing in the form of their Belfast Black, and also got to sip on an always-welcome Timothy Taylor Landlord.

At The WoodworkersWe were recommended The Woodworkers, and after a somewhat sketchy walk – Google Maps is missing a little bit of nuance when it comes to Belfast directions – we ended up there for dinner. It was a fabulous suggestion; in some ways, it was as though a casual Brooklyn or Philadelphia bar had been teleported to Northern Ireland – there was a great selection of local beer, games and puzzles and fantastic food. There were also welcoming, inclusive signs (breastfeeding welcome, unpleasant behaviour very much not) and knowledgeable staff who really knew the beers on tap. Tasting flights and a variety of measures were available, so it was ideal from a visitor’s perspective. We especially enjoyed two beers – Our Brewery’s Modern Love and Bullhouse Brew Co’s Love – Pride, both great pale ales. We also got to sample a number of new-to-us beers from across (mostly) the north of England that we rarely see in Dublin. This was very much the kind of place we would be thrilled to have in our own neighbourhood, and will certainly become a regular place to tick off when we get back for another visit. Very impressive.

At The Deer's HeadWe only had time for a flying visit with a quick pint to the Sunflower Pub (but we did get the photo, above, that I am reasonably sure you are required to take when in Belfast – alas, the cask not up and running), but we went back several times to The Deer’s Head. While planning our visit (this is a very loose employment of the term, to be fair), we enjoyed watching Get ‘Er Brewed’s YouTube channel, with a special focus on their own Our Brewery and a wonderfully brewing-geeky walkthrough of the kit at Bell’s Brewery (no, not that one) at The Deer’s Head. Happily, the beers were all fantastic, and the pub and brewery within are beautifully appointed. The one downside is that food was not on for any of our visits (this kept happening to us – we had the same issue at The Sunflower with no pizza, which I assume is down to the currently-usual Covid-related staff shortages), and I’ve heard so many good things about their pie flight (PIE FLIGHT) – so, something for another time. But as far as the beer, I especially loved Capstan, an Australian Pale Ale, and the Berliner Lager. Also very worth your time was the Red Cow Red Ale – quite tasty indeed. They are naming beers after the disappeared pubs, brewers and spirit dealers of the local district from the 19th century, and it’s a fantastic tribute to those vanished businesses – that likely were not nearly as nice!

Game of BayeuxOutside the pubs, the Ulster Museum was very good (a thylacine! A coelacanth! A Game of Thrones Bayeux Tapestry-thing!), and the smallest member of our party was obsessed with W5, something of a combination science museum and climbing facility aimed squarely at her age group. W5 was also where we found some better tea; I must confess I found the Lyons at our hotel a little lightweight. We found even better tea at The Dock Café, a donation-box affair where you pay what you wish or can – they served Suki Teas, whose Belfast Black (so yes, we had tea and beer with the same name) was delicious. I must confess that the Titanic museum was impressive; nothing like the tacky displays that travel across the US (and, one presumes, other places), but a proper local social history museum, with a surprise dark ride thrown in the middle.

The only thing we missed (well, only thing apart from the PIE FLIGHT) was the chance to catch a Belfast Giants hockey game – something we are keen to rectify next time…along with visiting Boundary in person! And, yes, getting that pie flight…

 

London: Cask, Cake, Cabaret & Cats

The Carpenter's ArmsAs I’ve already mentioned the top-notch work stuff from my London trip, it’s on to the fun stuff – cask ale, book shopping, prehistory and theatre. Beer Twitter did not steer me wrong when it came to pubs near my hotel; although I have lived in and/or spent considerable time in much of north London, south London, the East End as well as student accommodation around otherwise-unaffordable Bloomsbury, I’ve rarely spent time around what I think of as the ‘other end’ of Oxford Street or points further west. Although it was handy for stocking up at Postcard Teas, eliminating the need for another order with a mystery import duty (at least, for a while), it was clear from strolling around that this particular part of London is…not aimed at me.

That said, the recommendation of The Carpenter’s Arms was spot on for great cask ale – which makes sense, as it’s the HQ for CAMRA’s London branch. Alas, there was no food on, so I had to have a ‘meal’ of (fortunately) low-ABV ales and very expensive gourmet crisps, though that’s no complaint. I enjoyed an always-reliable/always-welcome Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter, but the new-to-me standout was Wantsum Brewery’s 1381, a session IPA. I was already very much here for a Peasants’ Revolt-themed beer, and the fact that it was also good was a nice bonus. This Kent-based brewery names its beers after local people and history – rather like our own Hope Beer here in Dublin – so that was pleasant to see.

I also got in a lot of book shopping, hitting up some old favourites like Treadwell’s and Skoob, and I am thrilled to report that both the book selection and cakes at the London Review of Books Cakeshop/Bookshop are still fantastic. My real reason for wandering around Bloomsbury, beyond getting some pictures of the now-very-tidy-looking-despite-construction UCL Student Union and Institute of Archaeology buildings (not how I remember them if, indeed, ‘remember’ is the most correct word to employ here), was to see the World of Stonehenge exhibit at the British Museum, and it is outstanding. I wish it were running longer, as I would love to get back to see it again, and to bring the family with me, but I’m thrilled I got a chance to see it. While I ‘know’ many of the pieces from the National Museum of Ireland and the British Museum quite well already, I was very, very excited about getting to see the Nebra Sky Disc, and it did not disappoint. On a side note, did I buy all possible tea towels and wallets emblazoned with said disc? I did indeed. I’m pretty sure that counts as using my archaeology degrees.  And while I always feel I *should* try something new, when nearish the British Museum, I always seem to end up at The Lamb – can’t miss their mix of Victorian snob screens, cask ales (a lovely Young’s London Original) and an excellent burger. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped off at The Euston Tap, which was excellent as always – and the Anspach & Hobday Mild and Redemption Hopspur Bitter were perfect refreshers for the hot weather.

Here, life is beautiful...And so, on to the theatre…

My last visit to London was a flying one, pre-pandemic: a weekend trip from Seattle to see Company in the West End. Was that worth the flight and jet lag? Absolutely. This was much easier, general chaotic state of Dublin Airport notwithstanding. As soon as it was announced that Fra Fee would be taking over as the Emcee in the new production of Cabaret, I was sold. I’ve seen Cabaret many times, both with and without Alan Cumming (among others), but this version is in a league of its own. The entire cast is outstanding – I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cabaret directed/acted in a way that made me care about Cliff before – and the first time we see and hear ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’ is stunning and terrifying. I am now a fully-paid-up Fra Fee fangirl; he was simply phenomenal. There is a minor beer note here too: as it’s an immersive production where you enter the Kit Kat Club and watch a talented cast perform all around the lobbies and bars beforehand, there’s also Germany-appropriate food and drink on offer. The pretzel was top-notch, and it was paired with Radeberger Pils; I’ll take it.

o hai, james masonI was also fortunate enough to see 2:22 – A Ghost Story, and I made sure to stop off at The Harp beforehand; the Dark Star Hophead was beautifully kept. I will not give away any of the secrets, but I will say that fellow fans of Danny Robin’s podcasts Haunted, The Battersea Poltergeist and Uncanny will not be disappointed. Again, it’s a great cast, and I got to tick off seeing another Doctor Who companion onstage with Mandip Gill; it’s been a long while since I saw Arthur Darvill in Once on Broadway.

But where are the ghosts?Finally, I had a quick side trip to Salisbury for Good But Complicated Cat-related Reasons, but luckily, this trip was planned on a day when the trains were not on strike, so all went well. I stopped in at the HAUNTED (per the sign outside) Haunch of Venison for a quick pint, and was rewarded with a absolutely gorgeous Butcombe Bitter; I very much wish we had some similar options here. I will confess that I did come across two pints that I had to entirely abandon because they were clearly infected – not, I hasten to add, at any pub listed in this summary – but I suppose it does demonstrate that bad cask is, well, bad, and perhaps one of the reasons we don’t have it here is just that difficulty; finding experienced people to look after it properly and a clientele who will consistently finish off casks while they are in good shape is tricky. But let’s also give some demerits to the ‘Spoons at Gatwick; not for the high crime of ‘being a Wetherspoons,’ but rather, for having something like 15 hand pumps with some truly mouth-watering options displayed, but only *actually* having Doom Bar. Nope.

But to finish on a high note (see what I did there?) I am sorely tempted to go back for another flying visit just to see Cabaret again – I do have a few micro-trips planned to see The Divine Comedy and David Devant and his Spirit Wife over the coming months – but I may well need to extend one of those before it closes…

Out & About in Odense

A perfect pilsner(Occasional) business travel is BACK – at least, for me – and with it, a little bit of beer travel on the side.

I am fortunate enough to have not just an exciting new role, but one that’s based in one of my favourite countries to visit: Denmark. While I primarily work at home in Dublin, I recently went out to meet the team in person (something that didn’t happen more than a few times in my old position, partially due to Covid and partially due to garbage politics, but I digress). My company is based in Odense, which was a new-to-me destination. I’ve previously blogged about thoroughly enjoying Copenhagen as a beer destination, and while Odense – the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, which you will not be allowed to forget as you stroll about town – is not nearly as large, it does have some unique beer spots well worth seeking out.

I confess I didn’t do much research before heading out on my first night in town – my priority was finding something that was near my hotel, open, still serving food and that had at least one or two decent taps. With that in mind, I made a beeline to Anarkist Beer & Food Lab, although by the time I arrived, they were nearly out of the latter; I did manage to snag the last burger, and got a tasting flight of fair-to-fine beers, although nothing outstanding. The atmosphere was very much ‘taproom full of people with questionable music taste on a stag night’ and so I did not linger – but, despite the first impression, more on this brewery later.

A lovely brown aleAfter a good night’s sleep and some wandering the next day, I stopped in for lunch at Flakhaven Gastropub, a beautifully-appointed bar – or, more accurately, series of bars, both inside and outside – right in the incredibly-tidy city centre. With Danish-only signage, I found it somewhat difficult to figure out which parts were and were not quite open as the basement bar looked to be the place they sent beer nerds, with a neon taplist of beers from across Europe on the wall, but I ended up sitting upstairs and had an excellent veggie burger with a really lovely brown ale – and you know how I am about brown ales. I was told that the brewer is British, and that he tends to brew in that direction, and the guest taps from breweries like Thornbridge made sense in that regard. For my local Irish readers, there was also a Porterhouse option as well as a Guinness, because there is always Guinness, everywhere. I would love to have tried more, but I never managed to get anyone’s attention to order a second (I presume I was in some way Doing It Wrong), so I went back out sight-seeing.

My next port of call was the one I had been told to check out in advance; a cosy bar called Carlsens Kvarter, located a bit outside the city centre, but more or less within the bounds of Nonnebakken, a largely-vanished Viking ring fortress. Housed in a 19th-century former pharmacy, the interior very much reminded me of Monk’s in Philadelphia, and I was immediately offered a comprehensive beer menu that was at least partially in English. More importantly, the very friendly bartender made a point of finding out what I liked and what I was looking for (despite my vague ‘interesting local beers’ opening), and I knew I had found ‘my place’ in Odense. Carlsens Kvarter’s outstanding house pilsner is brewed by a tiny nanobrewery called Familien Ølgaard, but I think my favourite beer of the entire trip was Christian Bale Ale, by Dry & Bitter Brewing Company – another recommendation, and one that did not disappoint, ‘quirky’ name notwithstanding.

Giraffe!And while there are plenty of Danish craft beer offerings, Odense’s skyline (if we can call it that) is dominated by the giraffe-spotted smokestack of Albani Brewery, which has been part of Royal Unibrew since 2000 for people who care about that sort of thing. Albani’s Pilsner is the local rival to Carlsberg, and it is generally available around Odense, as is their Odense Classic, a Vienna lager that was introduced in the 1990s to celebrate the brewery’s 140th anniversary. The giraffe branding is thanks to their Giraf Beer, ‘…a strong golden lager – drier than its rival Carlsberg Elephant’ to quote Michael Jackson in his Pocket Guide to Beer. It seems the brewery had long used Odense Zoo’s giraffe in their advertising, but when the incumbent died in 1962, the beer was brewed to raise funds to purchase another – the more you know. I’ve been told that the Albani Brewery tour is very good, but could not find anything useful about it in English, so had to content myself with going back to Anarkist for another round – and my impression was very different the second time around.

I’d had time to do a bit more research (for this read, ‘talking to actual locals who could tell me, an ignorant person who only speaks one language well – useful things’), and while it had been reasonably obvious that Anarkist was to Albani what Jacobsen is to Carlsberg, there were a few more brands to unpack – and a little archaeology. While Albani is the ‘mother ship’ today, the brewery that sprawls over this part of the city in a way that is not at all dissimilar to St. James’s Gate and Dublin 8, was originally founded by pharmacist Theodor Schiøtz in 1859. His name lives on today as one of the various sub-brands under the Royal Unibrew/Albani banner, along with Anarkist and Kissmeyer (the latter founded by Anders Kissmeyer, previously of Carlsberg and Nørrebro Bryghus), and all are on offer at Anarkist, which looks every inch the modern taproom on the edge of the late 19th-mid 20th century Albani brewery complex. On my second visit it was much quieter, and I had a chance to take a proper look at the taplist – and had some very good beers this time. I also had time to take a look at the merchandise and the archaeology-on-display: although my Danish is – as evidenced by this piece – atrocious, I at least got the gist of the text explaining the wooden lining of a brewery well built c. 1300 nearby. I came away with a completely revised impression of the space, and look forward to returning on future visits.

Finally, it’s impossible to visit Denmark and not see Mikkeller everywhere. As they seem to be trying to move in the ‘right’ direction (certainly compared to Brewdog, at any rate) in their employee dealings, I made a stop at their airport bar, and it was…really great? The variety of beer styles, including a few guest taps, was impressive, and the diversity of sizes was very welcome. I had an absolutely fantastic Vienna lager, and the bar staff were knowledgeable and friendly, in addition to speedy as befits an airport.

In short…I can’t wait to go back…I just need to learn more Danish first!

Annual Year-end Beer-y Round-up, Much-hyphenated 2021 Edition

Lough Gill Summoning CircleIt’s that time again – the always somewhat free-form wrap-up of my favourite(u)rite beers of the year. But rather than a properly ranked top 20, it’s going to be (sort of) grouped by brewery, as for a few of them, the hits just keep coming.

Lough Gill Brewery Five Candles, ESB, 5% 
I love a great ESB. Bitters are very, very thin on the ground here in Ireland (and elsewhere? Who knows?), but this doesn’t stand out for its relative novelty, but because it’s simply beautifully done. It was so good, I created a summoning circle for it. More, please. Also, Lough Gill now has a series of barrel-aged beers whose art direction would totally count as using my archaeology degrees. I’ll need to track those down…in 2022.

Ballykilcavan Brewery Fresh Hop Pale Ale 2021, 5.1%
Hey, we helped pick the hops for this one! But that’s not why it made the year-end round-up (WOULD I SIMPLY PROMOTE MY OWN OLD POSTS? NONSENSE) – it really is delicious, with a nice mineral-y, earthy note and a really nice balance of malt and hops. It’s not like the fresh hopped-beers one gets in the Pacific Northwest – they are really their own breed – but it’s definitely worth seeking out every year (based on my sample size of, er, two years).

Boo!Ballykilcavan Brewery Clancy’s Cans #7 – Haunted Wood Dunkel, 4.7%
I’ve enjoyed most of the Clancy’s Cans series; I am always a fan of breweries having a fantastic core range and a fun experimental/one-off series outside that provide a bit of contrast. And that contrast doesn’t have to involve tossing in weird fruit/breakfast cereal/lactose/etc (though, in the right hands, those things can be good fun) – nailing a classic style is just as welcome. Now, everyone knows I love dark lagers – you’ll see a few more on this list – but I was so happy to get one that was not only tasty, but had a name that made me feel directly targeted; nothing beats a haunted wood. Boo!

Hope Beer Winter Seasonal Emmer Stout, 5%
We got the chance to preview this beer when we toured Hope in the autumn, and it was great to hear the backstory: the emmer is grown at Cornstown House in North County Dublin, so it’s not only hyper-local, it is part of a broader program of cultivating ancient grains, along with spelt and einkorn. Also, there are alpacas – this is an important side note – but back to the ancient grains. Cornstown House’s owner, Dominic Grayson, is growing crops that would have been familiar to Neolithic Ireland, including the aforementioned emmer wheat, as well as naked barley. He is also working in partnership with UCD’s School of Archaeology, so in addition to being an interesting stout with a difference, it *definitely* counts as using my archaeology degrees, so another box to tick.

Hope Beer Stroopwafel Stout, Imperial Pastry Stout, 9.9%
BuT yOu DoN’t LiKe PaStRy StOuTs, I hear you say – and usually, you are correct. But I do love a stroopwafel. And a stout (though not Island’s Edge – but that’s another story. And possibly not really a stout – but I digress). Putting them together to celebrate Hope’s 5th anniversary, as well as its Dutch connections, was genius. It could have gone badly wrong, but it didn’t – I just wish they had made more.

Hope Beer Bloom Gorse Infused Tripel, 8.8%
Another Hope anniversary beer, this time, with locally hand-picked gorse from Howth Head. The gorse lent an interesting botanical taste, and while I can be a bit unimpressed by some try-hard tripels, this was a treat. It was great fun to taste virtually along with the Hope team on YouTube – and props (again) to Craic Beer Community for keeping things going all year long. Keep an eye out for their Community Brew Project!

Hope Beer Limited Edition No. 24 – Bohemian Pilsener, 5%
I know, I know – Hope again! This was such a perfect beer for the summer (for those here in Ireland, OUTDOOR SUMMER, as we were encouraged to meet up outside in small groups); a letter-perfect Bohemian pilsener, did just what it said on the tin. I was sorry to see it go, and would not be mad at it re-appearing in the future.

Heaney Brewery The Echo Chamber Black IPA, 6%
I have been on Team Black IPA since Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous was just a one-off, back in the mid-2000s, and this glorious beer from Heaney really reminded me of Victory’s Yakima Twilight/Glory in the same style. Some Black IPAs/Cascadian Dark Ales (I’m not fussy about the names – well, not in this case) can have an unpleasant ashy flavour, but not this one. Also, Heaney has a stylish merch game…I eventually need to get up there and buy some things in person.

Heaney Brewery The Farmer Is The Man, Lemon Thyme Saison, 6%
Another banger from Heaney, this one apparently personally targeting me with its reference to the American folk song of the same name, though it considerably pre-dates its association with Pete Seeger. While I can’t claim the spicy, peppery character *specifically* reminded me of the Pete Seeger gig I was lucky enough to take my now-teenager to back in the day, I was happy to have the beer around as an excuse to remind him of it.

BRÚ Brewery Xtra Pale Ale, 5.7%
I was impressed by BRÚ’s revised core line this year, and was a bit worried that some of these excellent new beers and their associated branding would disappear when BRÚ and Galway Bay merge in 2022 – but I have been assured that the new recipes and BRÚ branding will live on. This is a delicious pale ale, beautifully balanced and perfect for an afternoon at the pub. I’m fortunate to have one of the BRÚ pubs a relatively short walk from home – and an even shorter walk from my fantastic hair salon, so a post-haircut pint is a must.

Galway Bay Brewing Tmavý Ležák Czech Dark Lager, 5%
Another dark lager – can’t have too many good ones, and with the aforementioned merger, perhaps it will make an appearance on one of the tap handles at BRÚ? I admit I have yet to make it to the newest Dublin Galway Bay location, the Beer Temple, but I have been lucky to find it on at other locations. Moreish.

Whiplash The Sup, Porter,  5%
I do love a good porter, and this is a good porter. There are the odd/expected Untappd comments about it being ‘just a porter’ which sounds rather like damning with faint praise, but I will take it as a win.

Whiplash Heaven Scent, Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale, 5.5% 
The good people at Whiplash (now joined by our own Beer Ladies Podcast co-host, Erica, in the cellar) describe this beer as ‘utterly fantastic’ – and they are not wrong. Fresh, clean and delicious.

Whiplash Midnight Dipper Pale Ale, 5.2% 
It was difficult to choose between Heaven Scent and Midnight Dipper…they were both competing for space in my fridge all summer. For someone who complains about ‘all the hazy beers’ as much as I do, I did drink a lot of this one – it’s one of those gorgeous exceptions to the rule. Or maybe I’m just wildly hypocritical. I’ll own it.

Whiplash Dark Steering, Schwarzbier, 5.2%
A Schwarzbier! From Whiplash! Yes, another Whiplash beer, but this was so tasty, I kept re-buying it every time I had the opportunity. It was a perfect beer to pair with everything from pizza to chocolate (all the best food groups) – light but ready, refreshing but ever-so-slightly chewy, and like most Whiplash cans, it had fantastic art by Sophie DeVere. I am crossing my fingers that they will release their keg-only mild somewhere I can get my hands on it…

Flora & Fauna, McHugh's, EnnisWestern Herd Flora And Fauna – Strata & Nelson Sauvin DIPA, 9.45%
Perhaps the closest thing Ireland had to a ‘whale’ beer over the last year (though perhaps some Land & Labour beers would also qualify), this DIPA – again, not typically one of my favourite styles – won me over with its solid malt backbone and clean hoppiness. It was delicious both in cans and on tap – and it tasted even better after our trek out to the brewery in County Clare.

Lineman Sundrops Table Beer, 3.3% 
At the other end of the spectrum, this perfectly-crafted low-key wonder was one of my go-tos – bursting with flavour and body for its fighting weight, it’s another beer we were lucky enough to find on tap in an actual pub when we ventured to Cork and their fantastic Bierhaus. Highly recommended.

Crew Brewing Company

Crew Brewing Co. Berliner Berliner Weisse, 4.6%
I will be mildly controversial and suggest that Crew is the best independent brewery in the country – they are certainly the least-well-known in proportion to just how good their beers are. This is not a surprise, given that they were just getting started just as the first lockdown was doing the same, and the fact that they don’t meaningfully distribute their keg-only beer beyond Limerick. This outstanding Berliner Weisse was interesting on its own, but adding and mixing the freshly-made fruit syrups was something akin to a religious experience. In short, get yourself to Limerick…when it’s safe to do so.

Crew Brewing Co. Polly IPA, 6%
This beer began life simply as ‘IPA #2’ before earning a name, and it certainly deserves to be on regular rotation…it’s a perfect old-school IPA. Every single beer we had at Crew was revelatory – the fact that they haven’t yet featured in a Big Beery Thinkpiece on their amazing beer, inclusive, actively anti-racist environment and mix of fascinating backstories is, frankly, a crime. Here’s hoping Covid stops treating them – and the rest of us – so shamefully.

Dead Centre Brewing Sham Maths, American Amber, 6.2% 
Another too-often-neglected style that ticks so many boxes – lovely and rounded, malty but not *too* malty, a bit of mineral bite and balanced hoppiness. I have yet to make it out to Dead Centre in person, but hope to rectify that in 2022 – if all goes well.

Here’s hoping for a less-pandemic-y 2022 – have a safe and healthy new year!

Hop-picking at Ballykilcavan

This is very much a ‘late’ report, but only now, some weeks after the event, have I managed to scrounge any free time to write up some notes on what a delightful time we had going out to Ballykilcavan to help out with their hop picking effort. But first, some context for those outside Ireland would likely be helpful. I became an immediate fan of Ballykilcavan’s beer when we moved to Ireland, thanks to a combination of simply excellent beer and beautifully-considered branding that reflects the history of the  farm where the brewery sits; it’s been in the Walsh family since 1639, and the complex of buildings represent many eras of agricultural change. The farm’s chief crop these days is barley, and while much of that goes on to become Irish whiskey, some of the malted barley also comes back to the farm to turn into beer, made in the brewery in the former grainstore, built c. 1780.

I scrolled back in my Untappd history to determine my first Ballykilcavan beer, and was not surprised to discover that it was Bambrick’s Brown Ale, on Valentine’s Day of 2020, so, pre-lockdown, but as a brown ale nerd, very much on brand for me. In October of 2020, we attended a virtual tour of the brewery with the Ladies Craft Beer  Society of Ireland. which gave a bit of of a window into operations, and I was hooked. My interest was further piqued by a great episode of A New Brew, which offered a deep dive into the history of the farm, why it made sense to open a brewery there, and some of the challenges and opportunities still to come. And while I absolutely adore the Bambrick’s Brown – indeed, I try to always have at least a few in my fridge – I’ve also come to really enjoy the Brickyard Red, as well as last year’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale; Bin Bawn Pale Ale has also become a household staple. The one-off Clancy’s Cans series always brings something interesting and different, and the other core range beers are consistently superb.

Watercourse at BallykilcavanSo I was thrilled to get the opportunity to visit the farm, and was very grateful to my frequent Beer Ladies Podcast co-host, Bean, for giving us a lift there – rural Ireland does not have the best public transit, although it would be theoretically possibly to get a train from Dublin to Stradbally and hop in a taxi from there. We were greeted by owners Dave and Lisa Walsh-Kemmis (as well as assorted pets and children – proper working farm, after all) and had a bit of time to wander the often beautifully-restored farm buildings; I maintain that no brewery has a stronger Instagram game. We were fortified for the hop-picking effort with some good tea and biscuits, and we duly headed out to look at the hops.

HopsNow, we are not talking about acres and acres of hops, given that Irish weather is not conducive to predictable hop-growing (AS I AM SURE YOU ARE ALL AWARE FROM LISTENING TO OUR RECENT HOPS 101 PODCAST). One of the great perks of our years of living in the Pacific Northwest was the huge variety of fresh hopped beers that appeared every autumn, and there is certainly no equivalent to the (welcome) annual flood of those beers. Indeed, we only needed to harvest a relatively small area, where a mixture of Cascades, Citra, and a few other varieties were growing. But we quickly got stuck in, filling buckets by hand, and we were very fortunate with the weather – it only threatened to rain very briefly. Once picked, the hops went directly into the kettle.

gearsWe were kept well-fed and watered, too – I finally got to meet Internet Friend Kate O’Driscoll, who had crafted gorgeous meat/cheese/truffles boxes for us, and it was wonderful to have a chat, both with Kate (whose husband, Joe, is the head brewer at Ballykilcavan) as well as with so many other people I’ve only previously ‘met’ on Irish Beer Twitter. (Side note when it comes to conversations: I got some great suggestions from Lisa on shoes, as she seems to share my interest in barefoot/foot-shaped shoes and was equally annoyed a brand we had both liked in the past had declined in quality, and I should be receiving some shoes I ordered on her recommendation shortly – can’t wait. Bonus!). I naturally grabbed a few Bambrick’s Browns to take home, and once we ensured the boil was underway, we headed back to Dublin.

So, while we only played a small part in its creation, I will be keeping an extra-special eye out for this year’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale. And when Ballykilcavan’s visitor centre opens in the not-too-distant future, it will be a must-visit – a perfect excuse to go back.

A Trip to Western Herd (and Some Lovely Horses)

The Ladies Craft Beer Society weekend fun didn’t end in Limerick, though it’s fair to say we could have all used more sleep. We were rejuvenated by a trip to the Milk Market and its great variety of food options; it deserves especially high marks for the selection of cheeses as well as baked goods, and I managed to pick up some outstanding tea. We took a quick swing past the castle, and then made our way to Ennis.

Once we had dropped off cars and bags, we hopped in taxis to visit Western Herd Brewery. The journey along narrow, winding rural Irish roads was as advertised – brewer Bridger Kelleher warned us in advance that the when we felt like surely we were lost, it would mean we were nearly there, and he was entirely correct. Western Herd is based in a small converted shed, and Bridger is a one-man brewing operation (just in case you were wondering why it was so hard to get your hands on Flora & Fauna earlier in the year – more on that in a moment). Despite being a solo operator, he made time to set up a fantastic sensory exercise for us: we got to match up different hops and malts to their ‘real world’ counterparts, for example, matching different hop varieties to pineapple or mango, or malts to coffee, chocolate and so This activity was aided by ready access to fresh Loop Head Pilsner. We had the standard look at the brewhouse – soon to be expanded, which was exciting news – and our water expert Chelsea got a good look at the well and water conditioning system, which she praised highly.

Flora and FaunaWe learned a lot about Western Herd’s process and some of the upcoming plans, and a big ‘oh, wow’ moment for me was learning that the cans for their year-round beers (e.g. Siege, the Father Ted-themed Blue Jumper, Cliff Road) all show a different relevant part of the County Clare coastline – I had never noticed! We headed back to Ennis and regrouped at McHugh’s Bar, where we chatted with Maeve Sheridan, one of Western Herd’s co-founders and owner of the bar in question, which showcases the company’s beers and delicious food. We were fortunate enough to time our trip with a fresh batch of Flora & Fauna on tap. I had not managed to get a can of the much-desired DIPA when it was previously released, so it was quite exciting to see it available, and in sensibly-sized glasses. I wouldn’t normally start the evening with the strongest beer on offer, but it was lovely to try it with a fresh palate. The other beers were in perfect condition, too, and paired well with the small plates and the excellent halloumi burger. The pub interior is also lovely – alas, we were only sitting outside (sometimes in the rain, though it was well-managed with a tent), but I hope to make a return visit.

That's mad, TedFinally, before heading back to Dublin, our car (thanks, Katie, for driving, and for being our local expert) did some touristy things – we did a bit of hiking, looked at the landscape in the Burren, visited the Poulnabrone dolmen (used my archaeology degrees – check!) and, naturally, made our way past Father Ted’s house, which had some lovely horses in the front garden. Yes, I just did that, but it’s not my fault – too excited about the just-announced Divine Comedy tour next year.

We had such a pleasant time away we entirely forgot to record a trailer for the Beer Ladies Podcast Season 2 – but, lucky for you, we’ve managed to get it live now. Join us for the journey!

We Went to Limerick! Crew Brewing Company

Crew Brewing CompanyYes, it’s true – we managed to get together for what looks like an annual Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland* long weekend Outside Dublin. We split up into two groups and made our respective ways to Limerick via car; while it’s theoretically possible to get to many places in Ireland via public transit, we had some less-accessible exploration on tap (har) as part of the plan (though for more shared grumbling on that, do follow Daily Downfall of Irish Railways on Twitter).
 

As only the more seasoned members of our little group like myself were fully vaccinated (though, fortunately, even the Younger Folk soon will be), we aimed for outdoor options as often as possible. And the Irish weather made sure that outdoor pints were something of a contact sport for our first evening, with absolutely lashing rain, but we came prepared with solid rain gear. And we could not have been better accommodated on both the tent and hospitality front by the great team at Crew Brewing Company.

 
Crew is perhaps the closest I’ve found in Ireland to a North American-style microbrewery taproom, both in terms of outstanding beer and setup, with everything being brewed on-site and an ever-changing lineup, including great guest taps from other local independent breweries. They are actively inclusive, with a much-appreciated ‘no racists, no sexists, no fascists’ sign prominently displayed. Apparently one person did see himself out after coming across it when they first opened, so no loss there. And the similarity to US and Canadian taprooms is likely no surprise – several of the team, including Emma, who was our guide throughout the evening, have worked in beer and bars in Canada, and they’ve brought some of the best methods and practices back with them.
 
So, on to the beer – and it was all absolutely top-class. Crew’s Fruited Berliner Weisse put me in mind of my late-lamented old favourite from Philly, Nodding Head’s Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse, but rather than the traditional woodruff syrup, the ‘plain’ Berliner Weisse could be enhanced with fresh strawberry, mango, peach or blueberry puree, and you could also mix those flavours for even more options (looking at you, gorgeous kiwi-strawberry, and thanks, Emma, for suggesting it). Size options meant that it was possible to sample a fair few beers without getting too silly, and pizza delivered from a neighbouring shop helped with that as well.
 
Sticking with sours, the Lemon Verbena and Raspberry Goes was also well-balanced and refreshing, but I also have high praise for the IPA, which was a perfectly ‘normal’ west-coast style IPA (as we need to be specific nowadays on these matters), and, once again, just a lovely example – I wish I could get it locally, but alas, it’s only available in and around Limerick.
 
We did also venture over to Mother Mac’s, once again, outside, though it certainly merits a longer follow-up visit to better explore their variety of local beers and whiskeys – next time!
 
All told, we packed a lot into our first night away, but we had more adventures to come, when we headed to Western Herd Brewery, and got to try more of their beers on tap at McHugh’s Bar in Ennis – and, in our next instalment, the weather cooperates a bit more
 

* For clarity, while there is considerable overlap with the Beer Ladies Podcast (back soon!), they are technically separate entities. We meant to record a new season trailer while out and about but, er, forgot.