07 November 2011

Bar flying

In between bottling three batches of beer and brewing another, as well as giving my regular lecture at The Beer Club, I managed to fit in a fair bit of pub time over the long weekend. In a life consumed by beer it's important not to lose sight of the important things, dontcherknow. As I mentioned at the time, it was national Farmhouse Cheese and Craft Beer weekend so of course I nipped in to the Bull & Castle to give their tasting platter a go. Wherever Geoff had been buying his Cooleeney it was far superior to the one from my tasting, with none of the waxy harshness. The match with Buckley's hop-forward golden ale was excellent, and the Hegarty's cheddar fitted wonderfully with all four beers, though in different ways.

Before heading off I snaffled a bottle of Rothaus Tannenzäpfle, on special offer at the moment. This is another pils from the cult Black Forest brewery, robust at 5.1% ABV and heavily laden with the nettley German hop flavour I usually struggle with. Here, however, there's just enough of a malt profile to hold it in check, keeping both the beer and this drinker appropriately sweet. Enjoyable in small doses, but 33cl was enough for me. (Edit: I'm reliably informed by Barry in the comments that this is the same beer as the Pils, reviewed here.)

Down the hill in Temple Bar I dropped in to Farrington's, a hitherto quite plain and unremarkable Dublin boozer (formerly The Norseman, to any ex-pat Dubs who don't know where I'm talking about -- they used to have really nice runic lettering on the sign). Farrington's has, for want of a better term, gone craft. The usual macro keg fonts still line the two sides of the bar, but they're interspliced with those from Galway Hooker, Carlow Brewing, Metalman and the like. There's also an extensive bottled range -- local and import -- at least according to the blackboards.

What dragged me in was the promise of some Sink the Bismarck! and on Sunday evening a bottle from Farrington's cellars was procured, opened and offered round. I have two contradictory opinions on this 41% ABV freeze-distilled IPA: a) it's quite nice, and b) it tastes like an eastern European aperitif. The concentrated hop bitterness comes through as a sort of herbal, fennel flavour, which sits assertively atop the unctuous cough mixture body. Despite the super-dense texture there's a very faint fizz to it, and that helps soothe any intense alcohol burning, warming the insides rather than scorching them. I thought it worked great as a pre-dinner sipper. Nice beer; shame about the name.

Our hosts also had a bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin on the go. It still tastes like cheap sherry mixed with lighter fuel. Nice name; shame about the beer.

Onwards across the Liffey and upstream, to dinner and the antipodean delight of a pie floater at L. Mulligan. Grocer. The main draw here was a one-off cask of Trouble Brewing Pumpkin Ór. As far as I know this is Ireland's first and only pumpkin beer, and a one-off cask at that, pending a larger batch next year. It could have stood to be a degree or two cooler on serving, especially since the pub was heaving in the run-up to the Sunday night quiz, but it was still nicely smooth and perfectly drinkable. There's no fruit as such -- there rarely is with pumpkin beer in my experience -- but the blend of spices works beautifully, adding gentle warming cinnamon notes and a background hint of almond. I reckon solid, simple Ór makes quite a good base for throwing in interesting ingredients and I definitely look forward to seeing this spiced pumpkin version more widespread next year.

Irish homebrewers who fancy mucking about with their own interesting beer ingredients may be interested in entering Trouble's Trouble Maker competition. This time round they've asked specifically for unusual recipes. Reinheitsgebotniks need not apply.

A weekend well-spent there, I think. Hurrah for pubs!


  1. Anonymous11:41 am

    I am so jealous you got to try Sink the Bismarck! (and, indeed, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, though my local offie has a bottle of that I've been debating buying. €70 is a lot for something that I might not like though ;) )

  2. It's worth keeping an eye on Farrington's on the social media in case they do it again.

  3. "cheap sherry mixed with lighter fuel"... brilliant.


  4. Anonymous5:47 am

    I will be staying in Dublin for a couple of days in November and was wondering if you had any brewpub/craft beer pubs to recommend? I have previously been to the Porterhouse and Messrs Maguire.
    Great blog BTW!

    Tom Young, Oslo

  5. Well, Messrs Maguire is the only brewpub left in town (though the Porterhouse pubs are still there). However the top-flight beer pubs are now The Bull & Castle, L. Mulligan Grocer and Against the Grain. The likes of The Palace and Bowe's, both on Fleet Street, are worth a look as classic Dublin pubs which now serve decent beer.

    There's more on BeerMapping.

  6. Anonymous10:43 am

    Thanks! I will see how much time I get, but will definately check out The Bull & Castle which I saw a Swedish beer blogger recommend.

  7. Biertourist3:02 pm

    I was very happily surprised to see a pumpkin ale on offer at Mulligans.

    I'd love to try it again without ginger being in the spice blend, though. (Make it taste as much like American or Dutch apple pie as pumpkin pie, IMO.)

    If Trouble makes a full batch of this next year it would be great it Thom would go crazy and include actual pumpkins in it. (They've got that grill just outside the brewery already, anyway; just chuck a pumpkin, or a squash, or even a bunch of sweet potatoes in there for a while and drop em in the mash.)

    -It was a little taste of home for me anyway and I REALLY hop to see it back next year pumpkins or no pumpkins.


  8. It did have actual pumpkins in it. It's just pumpkins don't taste of anything, at least not after the yeast has been at them.

    AFAIK Thom hasn't been brewing at Trouble for most of this year. It's all Paul's work these days.

  9. I was wondering if you'd notice that the Tannenzäpfle is the same beer as the Rothaus Pils you had a short while ago. They simply stick zäpfle on the small bottles (like the Märzen Export in 500ml becomes Eis Zäpfle in it's 330ml incarnation, which confused the hell out of me when I first tried it). I guess you can manage more than 330 ml after all! :D

    The StB sounds lovely, but you know my thougts on the name.

  10. Baws! Thanks for that, Barry.