This was the first time I attended a Beer Bloggers Conference. After missing the one in Edinburgh in 2013 (which now seems ridiculous as I was living there at the time), I really had to go to this one as I’m now living in Ireland. It seemed like a great opportunity to see many people involved the Irish craft beer scene, including many Irish bloggers, brewers and many involved in Beoir (roughly equivalent to CAMRA in the UK). Also it was a chance to meet the real people behind those twitter avatars, including many folk in the UK I’ve been following for years.
I’ve been rating beers on rateBeer for around 3 years, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to pick up some new Irish scoops (rates). Arriving at the registration on Friday lunchtime, it was great to see so many samples of Irish beers being given away. I only went for the new beers I hadn’t had before – a highlight for me was:
Black Donkey Sheep Stealer: Irish Farmhouse Ale 5.5% :-
Light blonde, hazy, frothy white head. Aroma of apricot, light fruits, soft yeast esters, slightly tart. Taste of soft apricots, lemon, citrus zest, nice fruity esters, very refreshing. Smooth creamy palate, nice soft fruity pale malts, light tart finish. Overall – A really good refreshing saison, great drinkability….get this when it comes out in keg and bottle soon. (15/20)
Also, Franciscan Well were showcasing their new Chieftain IPA 5.5% on keg, a Citra hopped IPA. Dark amber slightly burnt orange malts here, with a dry hopped Citra, maybe a bit more toward the herbal bitter end than the fruity grapefruit one, but the general malt and hop combo works well and is a good addition to their current range of beers (14/20).
After a talk about the History of Beer in Ireland by Declan Moore, I got to hear that a CASK Oatmeal Stout was being poured outside in the expo hall, so I was out in an instant. It was superb, crossing into Black IPA territory and for me was the top Irish beer showcased in the conference (and there were a lot of good ones!).
N17 Oatmeal Stout 6% :-
Pitch black, tan dense rich head, good lacing. Aroma of rich dark malts, soft rich plain chocolate, nice mellow coffee, soft piney and floral hops. Taste as aroma, mellow soft roast, nice rich smooth dark malts, fairly sweet dark chocolate, piney hop, dab of floral hops, definitely a stout with Black IPA characteristics, superb flavour. Medium body, smooth, slightly lacking in condition (but it’s just a one-off small cask). Finish is smooth, dark malts, mellow chocolate roast. (17/20)
The beer tasting and dinner at the Guinness brewery mega-complex was really enjoyable. First, a tour around with hi-vis vests and googles on featuring miniature railway lines, an underground tunnel, ridiculously huge fermentation vessels, a sneak preview of their multi-million euro brewhouse with multiple gigantic mash tuns, culminating in lift ride six floors up to the main event. Instead of a sit down dinner, it was great to just wonder around, picking up various courses from stations parked around coupled with matching beers. An excellent laid back atmosphere, very pleasant and helpful staff, great food and no corporate pushing of the products. I even had a go at pouring my own pint of Guinness. Really impressed to see generous samples of Guinness Special Export (Belgian version) 8% available to try, plus a special internal staff beer, Night Porter 5.5%, which had that dark Guinness malt flavour but was sweeter with a slight hint of vanilla. I couldn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be sold on a commercial basis.
After this, we were directed onto coaches and dropped off at various pubs in small groups, for free bottles/pints of selected Irish craft beers or Pilsner Urquell (6 tokens was very generous!), close to a hotel where we eventually ended up going through two wooden casks of unfiltered, unpasteurized, hazy Pilsner Urquell Nefiltrovaný 4.4% which has much more flavour than the standard keg product (it gets 100 on rateBeer and its the No.1 Czech Pilsner), with lots of buffet treats. I’m not a big fan of lagers, but I could happily drink a few pints of this stuff – it’s excellent. And the glassware looked great. I have no idea when it ended, but after guiding @baron_orm and @christopher_r off on a detour in the wrong direction for ages (sorry!), I eventually made it back to the hotel.