EBBC14 Dublin: The beers and post-conference thoughts: Part 1

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.


European Beer Bloggers Conference – Dublin 2014

It’s just over a week until the European Beer Bloggers Conference kicks off on Fri 27th June (with a pub crawl the night before showcasing the best craft bars Dublin has to offer). Although there will be seasoned beer bloggers with thousands of followers who have done hundreds of posts over years, I’m glad I can be invited into the conference as a blogger despite my few posts (only 12 so far) and tentative steps in doing this sort of thing. It’s the first time I’ve been and I’m certainly looking forward to some of the blogging sessions and taking away some ideas to push this blog forward.

I tried some video beer reviewing a couple of years and uploaded around 50 or so reviews, but ditched the idea as I realised it was rather boring for some folk watching someone waffling on about some beer for 7 or 8 minutes.  Blogging seems a better idea as the reader can just scan the article in a few seconds and decide whether it’s worth bothering with – but blogging for me takes a lot more effort than yapping into a web cam for a few minutes and drinking beer, then doing some minor video editing afterwards (although my production standards were very minimal!)

Most of my beer ‘writing’ is adding reviews on rateBeer of which I aim to hit the 2000th one during the conference….it’s certainly going to be a good couple of days for beer ticking/reviewing. However, it’s really just writing tasting notes which follow the same format, with the same old snippets being constantly recycled. It’s a useful resource, despite it flaws, and I certainly encourage more beer folk to contribute to the site, especially in Ireland.

Anyway, back to the blogger’s conference…..I’ve downloaded the WordPress apps on to my iPad and Galaxy S3 phone and I’ll be ‘attempting'(!) to live blog it over the 2 days of the conference (apart from the pre-conference pub crawl)….hope the Wi-fi will be working! I’ll be rateBeerating the beers too so I’ll add some observations from there to the blog.

It’ll be great to meet fellow beer bloggers, brewers and enthusiasts contributing to this rapidly blossoming Irish craft beer scene, meet the real people behind twitter handles,  have a few beers and generally have a good time.


Porterhouse The Devil’s Half Acre 13.5%

It’s been too long since my last post back in December – @AdamShafi (an excellent blogger who writes about beery walks in locations mainly in Scotland –walkingandcrawling.blogspot.co.uk ) asked for some new Irish Craft Beer blog posts. I’ve been lazy tbh – so here goes with the strongest beer in Ireland (please correct me if it isn’t but I’m 99% sure)……

This is a barrel aged Black IPA, brewed with roast barley, pale, crystal, chocolate and wheat malts. Hops are Galena, Nugget, East Goldings and Liberty ( http://www.porterhousebrewco.com/beers-devils.php ).


The beer poured like pitch black oil and had an impressive light tan head that slowly dissipated away. I was expecting a fair amount of alcohol on the nose for the abv, but it was fairly well hidden. It had mainly a quite rich fairly sweet dark malt aroma, some wisps of the whiskey barrel-aging (done for 6 months), a dab of dark chocolate in there and certainly some hops in there which had a soft dull citrus nose.

The flavour was much the same, plenty of dark malts, quite a rich flavour, the alcohol was certainly noticeable here and not particularly well hidden. I’m not a fan of beers with too much hot alcohol but it seemed to work fine in this. There was sweet dark fruits and raisin, fairly bitter hops and some slight floral notes. I liked it that the barrel-aging was fairly subtle – often I’ve found this, if done aggressively, can mess up beers. It had a rich body with soft carbonation and was quite sweet and smooth. The finish had a lot of warming booze – it did cross my mind that maybe the beer might have been better balanced brewed at a lower ABV.

An interesting flavoured beer, however, it didn’t come across as a Black IPA, but a beer hard to classify — maybe more as a rich ‘dark’ barley wine/impy stout hybrid (??…I know it makes no sense!) as it wasn’t overly hoppy and the malts weren’t very deep and rich – I usually expect a lot of e.g. massive citrus zest, tropical fruit hops, pine etc. over rich dark malts for a beer to be considered an ‘Impy BIPA’ . Anyone, forget stylistic classification and judge the beer on it’s own merits – it was decent beer, with it’s own unusual characteristics and certainly worth getting a bottle if you do come across it.


Galway Bay Of Foam and Fury 8.5%

Well, I haven’t posted anything for nearly 3 weeks, so I’ll be doing a flurry of posts during the Christmas period. The next beer I’ll be reviewing seemed to create quite a stir when it was launched in Dublin last month. I stayed over in Galway early this month, where the Galway Bay Brewery have 4 pubs. First visit was to the Salt House – unfortunately, the beer was sold out – I was told it would be in again probably around January (grrr!). Luckily, a subsequent visit to The Cottage pub, to the east of the centre (which has excellent burgers btw!) – there was a fresh keg of their new double IPA on…..


(It’s not bottled…I was handed an empty bottle to enhance the (not great) picture)

Great looking beer, deep hazy orange, dense fluffy white head with great lacing. After a second ducking my nose into the fruity fumes this beer was giving off  – hey, this was something special – BIG tropical citrus fruits, lot of sweet fruity malts, grapefruit, pithy resinous fruity hops, lots going on here, super fresh too. All really good so far, hopefully the flavour matches the aroma (it’s so disappointing when this is not the case…).

WHAM! POWWW! Just as the aroma – big rich tropical citrus, fresh grapefruit zest, sticky pithy resiny hops, sweet fruity malts, quite a complex flavour, lots of sweetness, lots of bitterness – the balance was just right. And the booze was well hidden too. Not too fizzy, nice soft carbonation, full bodied, smooth finish with those intense bitter citrus hops tempered so well with a big sweet fruity malty backbone that isn’t overly caramelly (which I dislike, like in old imported US IPAs).

No doubt the best Irish beer I’ve had so far, and it beats many of the top beers in it’s category in the UK. Probably world class. If this is the direction ‘craft’ Irish brewing is heading there are really good times ahead. Another chink in the vast macro machine’s iron grip here in Ireland is certainly welcome.

Whitewater Clotworthy Dobbin 5%

Here is a beer from Whitewater Brewery, based in Kirkeel in County Down, which was voted as one the ‘Top 50 Beers in the World’ at the International Beer Challenge in 2007. The brewery has been going since 1996 and claims to be the largest micro-brewery in Northern Ireland. I purchased this bottle in Tesco, so let’s see what it’s like…


The beer was a vibrant ruby brown colour, very clear with a big, quite fizzy, frothy head that dissipated fairly quickly away leaving a thin layer. The aroma was rather light overall, caramel malts, quite sweet dark fruits such as raisin and some tangy red berries with a dose of toasted malts. The taste delivered as was expected from the aroma. I got some more toasted malts, touch more tangy dark fruit, raisin and soft toffee caramel malts. It had a light bitter palate.

I found it a little fizzy in the mouth which gave a slight thin mouthfeel. The finish delivered more toasted malts, a touch of coffee and a few more light bitter hops. What I couldn’t understand is that it’s sold a ‘ruby porter style beer’. The overall aroma and flavour profile is difficult to pigeonhole – I certainly wouldn’t consider it a porter – more a ‘Irish red ale – Brown bitter’ hybrid. Again, I’d like to try this cask-conditioned where I hope it will have a bit more richness, but as it bottled beer it’s no way world-class, but worth checking out as it does have its own unusual edge a little way from the norm.

Franciscan Well Rebel Red 4.3%

The Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork was founded in 1998 built on the site of a Franciscan Monastery. Recently this January, Molson Coors bought the brand and micro-brewery to join their portfolio of other breweries such as Sharp’s and beers such as Worthington’s White Shield.

I saw two Franciscan Well beers in Tesco’s, Longford – the first one for review is the Rebel Red. The label states it has 1.4 units (UK) and 1.1 units (ROI) for a 330ml bottle at 4.3% so it seems I’m allowed a bit more beer here in Ireland.

The beer pours a red amber colour, clear, with a thin off white head that dissipated to a rim around the glass.

20131121_233833The nose has soft caramel malts, light berry fruits and a slight touch of red apple. The flavour is similar to the nose with soft quite light textured sweet fruity caramel malts, some soft berry fruits with a hint of red apple skin and a little hedgerow hop bitterness. The palate is fairly sweet malty, moderate carbonation, light to medium body and the beer carries on with the main flavour with some soft fruity caramel malts in the finish.

It’s a easy going beer with soft delicate flavours and one of the best I’ve come across in the style. I actually forgot that I tried this on keg in Sligo a couple of months ago – my rating was exactly the same as for the bottle tried today.  A good example of an Irish Red Ale.