Word arrived via the Beoir forum recently (cheers Cathal!) that a pub in the northern Dublin suburb of Swords had set up a brewery in its basement and that the first beer was now available. As it happened I had some spare time at the end of my extended Christmas holiday so ventured up last Friday afternoon for a looksee.
The Old Schoolhouse is one of those organic, rambling country-style pubs, nestling into an embankment just outside Swords village and covering multiple levels, inside and out. The normal mainstream beers are available on tap, as well as a couple from Rye River. Behind the main bar, however, is another set of taps, one of which bore the legend Scholar Black Stout. This is the first beer from the basement nanobrewery which they've named "Ravenbrew".
Sadly the brewery is not on display and is out of bounds so the details will have to wait until a visit can be arranged. By then there should be a pale ale available too, meaning there's definitely a reason to go back. For the moment, I contented myself with a pint of the stout.
Scholar Black is a very straightforward take on Irish nitrokeg stout and has plainly been designed as a direct substitute for the big industrial brands. Don't expect any unorthodox complexities or high intensity flavours. Instead you get a super-smooth creamy pint with just enough chocolate to prevent it from being bland and a very nice dry and slightly bitter tang on the finish to keep it in line with the Irish dry stout style spec. I doubt I'd be crossing the city again to get another pint of it, but if it was on tap in my local, especially at just €4 a pint, I could see it being a go-to beer.
Flavour aside, what I really love about the whole thing is a pub simply setting up to brew its own beer on-site. We don't have nearly enough of that kind of thing in Ireland, and for no good reason I can see. I hope the Old Schoolhouse becomes a beacon for publicans who want to get into the production game. It has certainly set an example of how to do simple decent quality beer well.
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