22 March 2012

Loaded at the docks

Finally, the event space down at George's Dock in Dublin's financial quarter has been given a use worthy of its potential. I've reported before on the so-so Oktoberfest that happens down here, and last weekend Irish beer got a look-in for the first time as the Carlow Brewing Company put together the first St Patrick's Craft Beer Festival.

Most of the independent Irish breweries were represented at the long festival bar, with a mix of regular and seasonal beers. I was along on Thursday, Friday and Sunday with my hit-list, as well as to represent Beoir and talk to punters about Irish brewing history whether they wanted to learn about it or not.

First and foremost we had the welcome return of Porterhouse Chocolate Truffle Stout after a two-year absence. And it's in superb form: bursting at the seams with smooth real chocolate sweetness, tempered by just the right level of dry stoutiness. I'll be having plenty more of this before it runs out, and earnestly hoping we won't have to wait as long for it again.

Knockmealdown Porter
This was also the first I'd seen of Eight Degrees Knockmealdown Porter on draught. With low-to-no nitrogenation it was every bit as good as the bottle. All of the liquorice bitterness, sticky burnt molasses and the tangy hop bite were present and correct, made all the better for coming in a grown-up serving size. (There's now a tap at the spanking new WJ Kavanagh's on Dorset Street: get down there).

Other familiar favourites included the all-too-rare cask editions of O'Hara's Leann Folláin and Curim Gold, plus the dark amber hop epic that is Messrs Maguire American Pale Ale. The latter was badged anonymously as "Seasonal Special", which hopefully kept the riff-raff away from it and ensured it was available all weekend.

MM APA's moment in the sun is fading, I believe, and they also had its replacement lined up: the new version of Messrs Maguire Porter is a decent and quite dry effort, but not terribly exciting. It probably warrants some closer analysis when it eventually shows up in its home pub.

The hosts made much fuss about their new ale, billed as a "dark IPA" and named, following a public competition, "Perfect Storm". This is an experimental blend of Leann Folláin and O'Hara's IPA (how very Mikkeller!) and it's a battle that the stout is winning: a big sweet chocolate hit dominates the taste with only a mild fruitiness backing it up. For the next iteration I'd suggest seriously ramping up the IPA levels in the blend, and then dry-hopping in the cask (but I would say that).

It was great to see Hilden's Twisted Hop making one of its first appearances south of the border -- it was also on at The Black Sheep where I snapped its picture on Friday night. This pale ale started out as a special but has become a regular, the way good specials often do. It's a golden-coloured pale 'n' 'oppy affair, offering a light white pepper piquancy rather than a full-on alpha-acid burn, as well as some gentle peachiness in both the aroma and flavour. Very sessionable, all-in-all, and I hope we'll be seeing more of it.

Warning: may start spraffing
about Manders Brewery
Irish accents seemed a bit thin on the ground when I was at the festival, and I met a fair few serious beer geeks from the US, the UK, Italy and Sweden. Having an event like this to show the diversity of Irish beer to the visitors who have come to Dublin for our National Day is not just nice: it's important. I really hope this becomes a permanent feature despite the seemingly endless red tape the authorities appear to have put in its way.

And the festival calendar rolls on, with little over a fortnight to the Easter festival at the Franciscan Well. If you're planning a visit to Ireland this spring, it'll be worth your while to fit that one in. No-one will even try to talk brewing history to you.

12 comments:

  1. Wish I was here for the Easter one

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    1. There's always next year. Or September in Dublin, of course.

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  2. Anonymous10:07 a.m.

    It's great to see but the entry price was a bit steep. A few of us excitedly turned up on Thursday night but walked away at the 10 euro entry price with nothing included.

    Love the beers and love supporting Irish but it hasn't been 2006 for a while now lads.

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    1. Honestly it would never occur to me to show up to a beer festival after 7pm. There was free entry every day except Saturday and on the later days if you did pay in you got a voucher for a pint. I guess 2006 ended some time around Friday.

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  3. Anonymous2:35 p.m.

    Have to agree, entry price was a joke. I got there well before 7pm to avoid paying it anyway, but if I did pay it I would be really disappointed with what I got from that. Plastic cups?! Yes, yes I know they wanted glasses which were prohibited on account of the venue but honestly it just doesn't look very good.

    The level of the bar was quite low and it was a real struggle trying to catch a glimpse of the taps over punters in front of you. That would be forgivable had there been something a bit better than a black board with a faintly scrawled list of beers! I did have a few nice pints but it became a little bit unbearable and the utterly horrendous O'Hara's smoked ale was the straw that broke the camels back. It tasted about an hour old! Went straight to the black sheep where happiness was restored. I realise this might sound a bit cynical but you have to be honest about these things. We've come a really long way so to see that hindered by something like organisation is a real shame. I hope for better next year. Cheers!

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    1. There's a contact form on the festival website here, and they've asked for feedback through it. Comments would be more usefully posted there.

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    2. Anonymous3:37 p.m.

      I have given them my comments. Given that your entry is about the festival I would have also thought they were useful here too!

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  4. Anonymous8:36 p.m.

    Please don't hyphenate no one.

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  5. I think I've set a new record for anonymous comments.

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  6. At least the regular pedants normally sign their names!

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  7. Sure they do, "Taf" :P

    See you Saturday?

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    Replies
    1. Yes indeed. It's pretty much incorporated into my unofficial annual calendar now, along with the cask fest. I need to get a few other must go to events with the GBBF looking like a likely candidate as well.

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