I've been going to Taste of Dublin for the last three years. It's an annual highlight on my calendar and generally involves a large group of friends and some superb food. I don't think it's just my perception that the event has been getting beerier -- appropriate, perhaps, given that the venue was once the Guinness family's back garden. As with previous years, many of the country's big importers were there, but there were some interesting new additions. The Porterhouse were sporting their new design livery, plus a bigger range of beers than before: I was very happy to be able to get a pint of the marvellous Wrassler's XXXX. They also had some very cool looking mocked-up bottles on display, a hint that we may not have to wait much longer for bottled Porterhouse beers? None of the other Irish micros had a presence, though I did meet Kay and Seamus O'Hara from Carlow Brewing, there in an unofficial capacity.
The biggest beercentric event was the Beer Naturally Academy, organised by the macrobreweries' campaign to promote beer and food matching. They had flown in beer guru Marc Stroobandt to run the half-hour seminars, and he did a pretty good job of it, especially considering the tasteless materials he had been given to work with: Carlsberg, Heineken, Paulaner, Smithwick's and Guinness, matched with cheddar, chili prawn, smoked sausage, cheese tartlet and Belgian chocolate tart, respectively. Thom gives a full run-down of the gig here. It's easy to be cynical at this sort of thing, but there's a lot to be said for driving home the message of beer and food, and the emphasis on cheese and chocolate was particularly welcome. Stroobandt knows his stuff and is well able to deliver it in an entertaining way.
I missed getting to taste the Mexican chili lager one of the stalls was enthusiastically pimping, but I'm sure I'll get round to it eventually. It looks horrible. Instead, I hot-footed it from the Jaipur stall to California Wine Imports and announced "I have curry; give me beer!" Jonathan presented me with one of his newer arrivals: Black Diamond Amber Ale. "British Inspired" it says on the label, which explains why it's not as incredibly citric as the likes of Speakeasy Prohibition, say. What the English hops lend it is a gentle, tannic, very slightly metallic bitterness, sitting on a beer that's very much malt-driven: smooth, big-bodied and well-balanced. Jonathan also gifted me a jar of Sierra Nevada Stout Mustard, something else he's bringing into Ireland. I look forward to trying that -- it sounds brilliant. He also raised the possibility of adding the Stone beers to his range. That would be nice. Very nice.
And that was Taste for another year. Thanks to Jim and Liam from the Porterhouse, Dan from Beer Naturally, and the California Wine Imports team for their generosity. The variety of beers available was truly heartwarming, and here's hoping for even more beer goodness next time round. Perhaps another Irish micro might want to take a stall?