Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kind of a Blah End to the Trip...

I was feeling a bit off on Monday. I took the DART (commuter rail) down to Blackrock to visit the new J.D. Wetherspoon's pub and then met a local friend at the second Wetherspoon's in nearby Dun Laoghaire.

Both pubs had mostly English and American beers on cask and keg plus the usual international swill.  The only Irish beers were bottled. Prices were amazing -- my first half pint of a cask Stout from Bath Ales was €1.25! Full pints -- cask or keg -- where €2.50 about half of what I had been paying.  I can see why the pub operators associations are fighting tooth and nail to keep Wetherspoon's out if Ireland.

Anyway, I though maybe I was coming down with a cold. After dinner and a couple of beers at the Brew Dock I called it an early-ish night.

Turns out I had some kind of stomach bug and hardly left the hotel room for the next two days. Not a pleasant time. My flight home was actually schedule for Wednesday but was canceled because of the bad weather in the Northeast US. That ended up being a bit of a blessing as it gave me an extra day to recover.

Anyway, I back home, OK and recovering from the jet lag. Kind of bummed that I didn't get to make a last visit of my favorite places, but there is always next year.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three New Places and Nine New Beers

Started off in Ranelagh at the Taphouse for a bowl of soup and a beer.

The first beer was Trouble Brewing Sabotage IPA (not a new one for me). A solid Irish IPA, lower in alcohol than a US counterpart but every bit as flavorful.

Followed by a Kinnegar Limeburner (new). After the IPA this was little on the bland side but no flaws and would have been a good first beer.

Then it was back on the bus to Alfie Byrnes, the Galway Bay pub in the Dublin Conrad Hotel. I got off the bus and said, "Hmm, which way do I go" then turned around...

Great marketing. The pub is in the same build as the hotel but has its own entrance by the fountain, down one level.

As you'd think being in a 5 star hotel, it is a bit fancier than the usual Galway Bay pub but not too fancy. I started off with a Blacks of Kinsale KPA (or Kinsale Pale Ale) Aggressively hopped and quite good. I remember this one from last year (or was it the year before) and I wasn't disappointed.

As I write this I realize all three beer I had at Alfies look alike. They were different, though. Next up was a new brewery for me Black Donkey Brewing and the beer, Pilot House Amber Ale. The hops were not a sharp as in the KPA but still a well made, drinkable beer. Looking forward to others from this brewery.

Finally, I had an 8 Degrees Amber Ella. This was fairly new on my last visit and was one of my favorite new beers. Still as great as ever.

It was starting to think about dinner and wanted to move on. I am writing an Android App version of the website and one cool feature I've added is click on a bus route and see which other pubs are near that bus. It turns out the 37 bus goes from Alfie Byrnes to L. Mulligan Grocer. It was fate.

So I hopped on the next 37 bus and soon was at LMG. Almost too many beera to choose from 26 taps, and 6 hand pumps. I started with the Brown Paper Bag Project Lupe Garou Fresh Hopped Ale.

The Brown Paper Bag Project is an endeavor by the people behind L. Mulligan Grocer.  They don't (or at least they didn't) have their own brewery but have come up with some outstanding beers over the years. This one didn't disappoint.

Next up was Wicklow Wolf Brewing Kentucky Common. This is a style I don't think I've seen outside of home-brew competitions (and probably the state of Kentucky) I'm not that familiar with the details but it was a tasty beer. I drink Irish Stouts brewed in the US so why not a Kentucky Common brewed in Ireland?

With my herb crusted haddock I had a White Gypsy Emerald. I don't think I've had this one before and it went very well with the fish.

Next I strayed from he straight and narrow and ordered a non-Irish beer -- an IPA from the Italian brewery Birra Del Borgo. A friend from London had just spent a week in Rome drinking Italian beers and I ordered this is solidarity. It had a bit different yeast characteristic but was good. We don't get too many craft Italian beers in Los Angeles, so I'm happy to try them when I can. I hear an Italian only pub will be opening in London soon -- looking forward to that on my next visit there.

Time to start winding down. There was a Trouble Brewing Chocolate Cherry Stout on one of the hand pumps so I took a gamble -- sometimes they can be too candy-like -- I like my beers to taste like beer,

This one hit the right balance, the cherry and chocolate were there but it still was a stout. Good job!

For the final beer chose the Dungarvan Coffee Oatmeal Stout, also on cask. I guess it's more a breakfast beer but it was a nice finisher. Strong but not overpowering coffee notes.

Then it was off to catch the bus back to my hotel. I am getting to know the bus system but I don't always get the right stop. This time I went one too far and ended up walking by another place on my list, Cassidy's.

This is a sister pub to P.Macs and Blackbird. The above picture was taken when they were closed but at 10pm on a Saturday night they were hopping. I went in to check out their beers and ordered a Trouble Brewing VietNow IPA. I understand this was a beer brewed for them by Trouble and it was a quite nice IPA but at this point I couldn't really tell you how it was different than the Sabotage I started the day with. In any case, I quickly drank it and left -- I'm sure if I was 20 or 30 years younger I would have loved the place, but the crowd and the loud music were just too much for this old fart.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kind of an Off Day in Dublin

Probably over did it Thursday for a first day in country. No probably about it.

So Friday was a slow start. I walked over to the other side of Trinity College to check out a place called Kennedy's. It looked to be a nice pub but as it was lunch time it was packed and I couldn't find a seat. There were some craft beers on tap but nothing I wanted to wait for, so I headed on.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I walked over to the Ginger Man. I hadn't been here is years. It never had that great a selection but I think now it is even less. Those beers they did have were Franciscan Well and since I've now learned they may be brewed in England I'm less interested. Oh well.

So I walked over the Porterhouse Central for a bowl a soup and some beers. They had their Hop Head on cask so went with that.

Porterhouse Hop Head

After that I had another beer, but since I've already posted a photo I didn't bother. You can probably figure out which one.

Next I hopped a bus headed towards the Guinness factory. On a corner on Thomas Street is Arthur's Pub.

Arthur's Pub

A very cozy and friendly looking pub. They had a mixture of beers, the usual range if Industrial Beers and 6 or so craft beers. One the taps said Metalman Windjammer so I ordered that. Later I received a tweet from the brewery that they haven't brewed with Windjammer in a year a or so, so the beer was probably just the Pale Ale. It was tastily, nevertheless.

Metal man Pale Ale (probably)

Then a couple of things happened -- my camera started acting flaky and so did my stomach (though not it the way you think -- but I'll spare you the details). So I decided to hop a bus back to the hotel. There I got things squared away but that short nap before going for dinner turned into 12 hours of sleep. I guess I was behind the curve.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Three New Pubs, Eight New Beers

First stop was The 108 -- the latest (number 6) Galway Bay Brewery pub in Dublin.

I started off with their Stormy Port Porter, a solid porter but not spectacular.

The 108 has a much cozier atmosphere than their other Dublin pubs (which tend to the sparse side).

I should have checked the taps more closely -- they had the Via Maris, which they call a "Table Beer." It s 3.5% and reported to be quite tasty. I can confirm that. It was hoppy enough I think you could call it a "Half IPA."

Next I tried their experimental sour beer -- Heathen. It is only 3% and I was surprised that it was quite dark. I chickened out and only ordered a half pint.

It was quite nice -- not mouth puckering sour but enough to make your tastebuds sit up and take notice.

It was probably time to move along but I decide to try one more beer -- Goodbye Monday Blues. They call it an Oatmeal IPA (thanks Beer Nut for reminding me of that).

The Oatmeal gives it a very interesting malt profile. Very, very drinkable.

I went and hopped on the bus at got off at the next place on my list -- Blackbird. They were supposed to open at 4pm but when I tried to go in they told me they would be an hour late today. So back on the bus to the next place on my list, Anseo.

This was described to me as a "dive bar" and it certainly fits the bill, in a good way. The taps were mixed, which about a fire being craft beers and the rest industrial beers. In addition, a fairly large bottle selection.

I started off with a O'Haras (Carlow Brewing Co) Dunkelweizen.

This was probably one style I never expected to see brewed in Ireland but they did a very good job of it. A nice German wheat beer character with dark malt notes.

They had a beer I remember from last years trip, Kinnegar Scraggy Bay IPA, so I ordered one. Every bit as nice as I remembered.

I decided to give Blackbird another try and hopped back on the bus...

It was only about 6pm but the place was packed. I managed to find a seat at the end of the bar. I ordered the 8 Degrees Hurricane IPA and wasn't disappointed.

There were only a couple of beers on their tap list I hadn't tried yet, so I asked the bartender for a recommendation. He suggested the Rascals Ginger Porter. I generally shy a way from spice beers but he offered a sample and it tasted good so I ordered one.

The ginger was not overpowering. It was sort of like drinking a dark ginger snap cookie. I dithered about ordering a half pint -- sometimes the spice flavors really build up and after a while you just can't take anymore but that wasn't the case here. A very drinkable beer.

Well it had been a long day and I was ready to head back to my room. Unfortunately the bus dropped me off pretty much in front of The Brew Dock, another Galway Bay pub that is near my hotel. It would be rude to just walk by so I went in for a nightcap.

They had the Galway Bay Mare Incognito Saison -- a beer I hand't tried -- so I ordered one. I probably would have appreciated it more earlier in the day but I found it quite enjoyable.

I resisted the impulse to order another beer and went home, satisfied with three new places and eight new beers.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Arrived in Dublin...

...after a bit of a hard flight. That was mostly my fault, though. I had a three and half hour layover in JFK and near the gate was an outpost of the famous BBQ restaurant Blue Smoke. They also had a decent number of local craft beers. So I had one with dinner -- and one before and one after dinner.

So I arrived in Dublin jet lagged and slightly hung over.

After dropping my bags at my hotel, I went for a walk and ended up at the Norseman Pub, formerly known as The Farrington.

They have 28 taps, which is an increase over last year. About 2/3 of them are Irish Craft beers, the rest being industrial beers. It is Temple Bar and they get lot's of tourists so I don't begrudge them that -- to much.

I wanted to start out with a Dublin brewed beer but my choice, 5 Lamps Honor Bright Red Ale was not on, so I went a Franciscan Well Chieftain IPA. It's brewed in Cork so local only in the sense it is Irish.

Franciscan Well Chieftain IPA
 The beer was very nice -- a nice malt backing and just enough hops that you can fairly call it an IPA.

My next choice was a Kinnegar Yannaroddy Porter.  I remember one of their beers, Scraggy Bay, from previous trips so little risk was involved.

Kinnegar Yannaroddy Porter
A very nice Porter it was. Some burnt, roasty notes gave it what an American home brewer might call  a Stout character but remember, in Ireland "Stout" and "Porter" are often somewhat interchangeable.

The jet lag was creeping up, so I decide to move on. The temperature outside was in high 30s/low 40s (Fahrenheit) so it was quite brisk and what I needed. Unfortunately for my jet lag but fortunately for my mouth, my walk took me right to the Porterhouse Brewing Company's Temple Bar pub (and formerly the site of their brewery).

The Porterhouse Oyster Stout is one of my favorite beers in the world. So I had a pint. Only only one, which shows how jet-lagged I was.

Porterhouse Oyster Stout

The Porterhouse also has a good selection of Guest beers.

Being winter, they have a number of stronger beers -- something to look forward to on a future visit. I had a bowl of Seafood Chowder with my Oyster and then moved on. I had had some issues with my Irish SIM card for my smartphone and went to get that squared away and by then it was time to check in at my hotel.

After a couple of hours of contemplation, I was ready for round two. I headed up to W.J. Kavanagh's

This place was originally a sister pub to L. Mulligan Grocer's when it suddenly closed in early 2014.  In late March it re-opened under new ownership (the folks who ran the Off-license next door). On my visit last year it showed great promise but had a ways to go.

They are there. They've increase the taps to 21, added two hand pumps and increased the bottle range.

I started off with Rascal's Big Hop Red.

Rascal's Big Hop Red
 The beer lived up to it's name.

Since I had good luck with my earlier Kinnegar beer, I next tried their Rustbucket Rye.

Kinnegar Rustbucket Rye
 I wasn't disappointed. Some spicy notes from the rye, and a balance of hops and malt made for a very tasty beer.

The two hand pumps had Old Rosie, a very nice English Cider and Fyne Ales (from Scotland) Superior IPA. I've had a number of beers from Fyne Ales but not this one, but I put it off until I've tried more Irish beers...

The day was catching up and I figured I had one more pint in me, so I had an 8 Degrees The Full Irish, which they describe as a "Single Malt IPA."

8 Degrees The Full Irish
I think this was my favorite new beer of the day (all were new to me except the Oyster Stout). Very hoppy but a strong malt backing. They also had this a the Porterhouse so maybe a comparison tasting is in order...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

First Beer Trip of the Year Underway...

... to Dublin (Ireland, not California).

This is "field research" for my website and it's upcoming Android app (sorry, the iPhone version won't be until mid year -- hopefully).

There were 31 new breweries opened in Ireland in 2014, and in addition the existing breweries seem to have expanded their range. So I'm hoping to try and lot of new beers (and some old favorites -- cannot pass up Porterhouse Oyster Stout -- one of my favorite beers in the world...)

So watch this space...