18 June 2009

Beer in the park

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?


  1. I went to this a good few years ago and was not impressed. Ended up spending a fortune and not getting a lot of food for it. Has that changed at all in recent years?

  2. Probably not. If you're after a good weight-of-food-per-euro ratio it's not an ideal option. I expect to spend as much at Taste as I would on an evening in any of the fine-dining restaurants exhibiting: the quality and quantity of the food being the same as you'd get on their tasting menus.

    And there's beer.

  3. I love tasting portions, I don't mind spending a few quid and I'm not looking for a value night out, but if I spend the same amount of money as I would in a decent restaurant I don't expect to leave with the desire for a bag of chips on the way home. That's what happened the last time.

    It struck me that most of the restaurants were trying to make a killing rather than using it as an opportunity to promote their business. The Indian restaurants seemed to be the notable exceptions to this.

    As I said, that was a few years ago, maybe it's not as bad now.

  4. I'd say the killing is being done by the big multinational corporation which runs the event. I doubt any of the exhibitors make any money on the day, which is always the way with these gigs.

  5. I thought it pricey if only because it cost the same as last year and I, at any rate, have seen a wedge cut from my income since then. The beer options were good this year, but I'd be surprised if we see it again next year.

  6. oh man - I saw that Sierra Nevada range of mustards on thier site and have been hankering after them since - totally jealous, right now!!

  7. I just had some on frankfurters: lovely stuff, quite tart and yeasty.