16 May 2007

All Boon and no Bull

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I recently went off on one about Dublin off-licences. The same rant pretty much applies to Dublin pubs as well: that despite their international reputation the vast majority are peddling industrially-manufactured blandness to meet customer demand for same.

Dublin's two brewpubs are exceptions, as is the Bull & Castle, a new gastropub operated by the FXB restaurant chain which opened last year on the site of the Castle Inn. On my first visit I noticed that they were taking their beer seriously and had a fairly extensive and interesting list. My review of Árainn Mhór Rua was based on a bottle from their stocks. I thought little more about the place until the lads over at Irish Craft Brewer mentioned that the Bull & Castle had opened a beerhall and begun "The Beerhall Challenge" -- challengees are given a shortlist of 30 beers to drink (responsibly, without a time limit) and on completion are awarded an engraved glass kept on the premises for their personal use. Last night I signed up. There are very few beers on the list that I haven't already tried and I've already made mention here of a number of them, but any that are new to me or otherwise worthy I will be blogging about.

So, from last night's tastings came Oude Gueze Boon : one of the super-dry, golden lambics made in Brussels, spontaneously fermented by naturally-occurring yeast that lives wild in the area. The supreme champion of this style is Cantillon, made at a craft brewery which doubles as the Gueze Museum. The version Boon make isn't half bad. The nose is very similar to Cantillon -- the dry earthiness of brick-vaulted cellars. On the palate it just tips over into being sour, which I'm sure is intended, but which makes it that little bit harder to drink. You wouldn't necessarily be adding fruit syrup to it, but you can see why some people might.

I strongly urge anyone in Dublin and interested in decent beer to get up to the Bull & Castle. It has certainly opened my eyes regarding what an Irish pub can be. This the The Beer Nut's 100th post and I feel like I'm just getting started...


  1. The same comments I made on off-licences in the north applies even more to the pubs. What you say about Dublin pubs applies up here too, only without the brew pub option. Only Wetherspoons can be relied upon to buck the trend.
    Compare this situation to a recent visit to Derby where I visited 7 different pubs over two nights, and didn't duplicate a beer in any of them. Best was The Flower Pot; you could go every night for a week, have 5 different beers each night and still not have sampled them all by week's end.

  2. At the risk of making this sound like Monty Python's Yorkshiremen sketch, you lot are lucky because you have a branch of CAMRA, so no sympathy.

  3. Congratulations on reaching 100 posts! Your blog is a great read. That 6% Rua sounds brilliant, by the way.

    It's a shame that Ireland has become so dominated by a few brewers - more power to the micros, and more power to you, my man.


  4. Aww shucks...

    Árainn Mhór also make a blonde beer called Bán, which I'm gagging to try. Watch this space.

  5. hear hear re bland domination of the big boring breweries. it would not be so hard for those offering a good range of draughts to also offer 3 beer flights with three appropriate foods. also prices of intersting beers need not be so high.
    I do not agree re the irish microbreweries,particularly for lagers and reds which are mostly like bad seventies homebrew.