09/12/2014

I've Got a Teeling (Woo Woo)

 You'll have noticed fewer posts on here recently and perhaps you're missing regular whiskey reviews? Fear not as (along with this post) another two whisky tastings are coming up before Christmas. Despite living in Ireland I've tried very few Irish Whiskeys (Bushmills, Jamesons and Connemara). This is something I shall need to rectify in the next few years as there's a new wave of distillers coming online, especially if they produce anything anywhere near the standard of last night's whiskey. 

The whiskey in question is the new single malt from Teeling, a new Dublin based distiller. This particular whiskey bears no age statement but its component parts are well travelled having spent time in five different casks: Sherry, Port, Madeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and White Burgundy* and are up to 23 years old.  These have come together to produce an excellent sipping whiskey (46%, non chill-filtered) at a very reasonable price (Just under £40/ €50).
It pours an attractive pale copper, with fairly viscous alcohol legs up the sides of the glass. On the nose at first fruity oaky some butterscotch up front with an underlying Turkish delight and peppery notes.

On warming it starts to gain some melon and banoffee pie hints, its a complex beast! The same is true in the mouth really full bodied, with sweet sultanas, meaty sherry like umami notes, sandalwood, caramel, butter, a growing saffron spiciness and of course vanilla notes from the wood. Its fairly fiery and warming, but as your palate acclimatises blueberry becomes the overwhelming note, with underlying mango. This multifaceted character helps to keep the whiskey interesting from first to last sip. Don't bother adding water to this one, it just dumbs it all down to blandness, its great as it is!
 
Thanks to Steve as always for organising and Stephen Teeling for the sample. If you're down in Dublin there's a Teeling Tasting in the Norseman on Friday. The distillery should be open to the public from Mid-April next year, I for one am looking forward to visiting to see those shiny new copper stills! Cheers All and Slainte!
 *I'd love to try those constituent parts Stephen if you're reading!

07/12/2014

Wow, that was fast!

On Friday I wrote about a hopeful new brewery start up in Belfast. Well that dream begun 18 months ago has almost become a reality! Boundary have hit the £70,000 target in just six days (currently £75,000) with around 300 of us (mostly Northern Ireland dwellers) joining with the board to make the vision a reality. Funding will stay open until £100,000, the closer to the stretch goal, the more fermenters and thus the more frequent the collaborations and specials that can be produced.

Their blog yesterday also hinted at the purchase of multiple wine barrels via contacts with the excellent OX Belfast for ageing beers in. Matthew intends to brew the first (intentionally!) soured beer in Northern Ireland in the Flemish Red style which will be the inaugral brew on the new kit. This will then be aged in those barrels along with various monster Imperial Stouts to slumber  away and be brought out on special occasions. It appears us members will be given first refusal on these special brews...it seems we will continue drinking our own investment for a long time to come.

After the keys have been obtained it will take around a fortnight to refurbish the building and install the brew kit, with the hope to be mashing in the first brew in late January. After that it'll take around 90 cases/ month to break even on overheads and after that any profits will be reinvested into the business. Matthew hopes that they'll be able to take on their first paid employee towards the end of 2016. Beers should sell in offlicences around the same price point as Kernel and Siren (as long as the "craft tax" isn't set too high), and going for 330ml bottles should really set them us apart from the competition.

The fantastic response from everyone will mean that Matthew should even be able to afford a week off for Christmas before the hard work begins in earnest in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has helped the dream become a reality and there's still a wee bit of time left to get involved if you haven't already; you've probably got a few days at most!

Follow Boundary on Twitter to keep up to date with other new developments.

05/12/2014

Pushing boundaries

Its a heady time for beer up here in the North, 15 breweries and counting now. Some of the newer ones are even producing beers I'd happily drink regularly and the old guard are continually upping their game. I may even be able to recommend a few NI brews in my next top beers post!

Despite the quality and variation in beer styles improving we still lag a way behind the mainland, and indeed the rest of Ireland, with a lot of brewers sticking to the tried and true holy trinity of Red, Blonde and Stout. A new start-up on the scene is looking to change this launching with an IPA, session pale ale and export stout. But that's not the only thing they're doing differently...


I first met Matthew at Hilden Beer Festival in 2011 where he kindly smuggled me in a few bottles of home-brew in his Son's pram. I was pretty impressed with them, all influenced by Belgian style and could sense the passion in him to go on to bigger things. Fast forward a few years and a sizeable length of bear later and he's finally ready to take the plunge with a full size kit after working for Brewbot for the last few years as well as running the hugely successful Beer Clubs in Belfast's Hudson Bar. Watch this space for a probable contribution from yours truly next year.

Answering the phone pretty hoarsely and apologising about coming down with a cold (he's been working too hard I told him!) we chat for an hour or so about his motivations and future plans.  Matthew decided about 18 months ago that the time was right to break out from brewing for just himself and a few friends to supplying the whole of the North and likely down South too. The question was how to go about doing it? He'd liked what Brewdog did with Equity for Punks and wanted something similar but in a truly equitable way but wasn't quite sure of the best way forward. Meeting Matt through a mutual acquaintance and getting chatting about beer (as you do) the suggestion of a co-operative came up. After Googling it to find out what the hell a co-operative was Matthew knew this was the way forward and a plan was hatched by the two of them (Matthew as secretary and Matt as CEO).

A year or so later, they have a premises lined up with keys almost in hand, brew kit sourced from the Isle of Man's Hooded Ram brewery (via a tip off by Marble's Matt) and deposit paid. A 2600 square foot there's more than sufficient space for expansion and indeed their plans are ambitious. Most importantly that all important co-operative registration has been obtained. For those of you who don't know about them, co-operatives are mutual organisations, where every member has an equal vote regardless of the number of shares ). They aim to be a part of their local community (their site is in the middle of a new "East Belfast Partnership" which will eventually have craft Butchers, Bakers (not sure about candlestick makers), cheese makers and a bar and events space: ideal then for a new brewery.

So What's the story behind the name? "I was inspired by a quote from Gustave Flaubert [French author of Madame Bovary], 'Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work'.'" Matthew liked the idea of creating a definitive boundary between home life and the brewery, so he can concentrate all of his creative energies on innovations in beer. His wife is looking forward to gaining some space back in the house!

The logo designed by Ali Sisk

Matthew will start off going it alone, brewing 2 or three times a week with a hand from other board members for bottling but its likely they'll have at least one paid employee by the end of next year. Beer wise his plans are pretty big. They'll be hitting the market in 330ml bottles aiming for that shelf space in bar and off licences which is finally becoming available. Alongside the core range which Matthew reckons will be 2:1:1 Session:IPA:stout there will be regular seasonals and specials, member collaborations and of course collaborations with other brewers from across the UK, Ireland* and the world. Taking inspiration from Belgian and American brewing leaves Matthew plenty to play with and there has been talk of a barrel ageing program (a potential source of wine barrels in France...) and as a fellow sour head he also hopes to make sour and wild beers (especially after an epiphany moment via LoverBeer at IndyManBeerCon) but that's all stuff for the future...

*The first of these has been announced with Chris of Galway bay, brewing a southern sour and a northern Fruit infused IPA - can't wait!

For now then, what about those all important core beers? The malt is coming via Simpsons which Matthew is really chuffed about "we're  a pretty small account for them but they actually rang me and they're among the best in the business. I asked about the yeast: "its the one thing I haven't quite settled on yet, the simplest thing would be to use [Safale, dried yeast] US-05, but this can give an apricot flavour leading to all beers having a similar flavour". Ideally of course Boundary would have  house strain but all of the associated equipment for maintaining one doesn't come cheap, so that's something for further down the line.

Matthew loves American C-hops (especially Columbus and centennial) and they'll take centre stage in the session pale, coming in at a truly sessionable 3.5%. "Light, refreshing, sessionable and absolutely packed with hops"

The IPA is actually a scaled back double IPA which Matthew describes as "cakey but still hopped up the wazzoo". Think a Pliny malt bill minus the sugar and you're just about there. At 7% it will certainly be the strongest regularly produced beer in Northern Ireland. Matthew's hoping for Simcoe but its hard to get hold of due to a certain big Scottish brewery buying most of it!
The Export Stout is based on a historic Truman's recipe via Ron Pattinson's blog, with a bit of input via Kernel. 100% Fuggles hopped with pale, brown and black malt and a modern tweak of some crystal and pale chocolate the export stout should be a properly decadent cocoa and coffee affair, also weighing in at 7%, perfect for the depth of winter when Boundary are hoping to launch.

Labels designed by John Robinson
And that's where you guys come in. As a co-operative membership is open to everyone who agrees to abide by the constitution and are happy with the by-laws. Shares are sold at a nominal £1 with a minimum investment of £100. Those who have a bit more to invest and can afford more than £250 will achieve supporter status and be able to run for the board of directors at the first AGM (which has to be held before August!). Share value cannot go up in a co-operative (it can go down!) but after year 3 if the membership agrees dividends and interest could be paid. Check out the website (a professional and accomplished design from Jonny Campbell) for more details. As of writing they're well over halfway at £40,000 £50,000 to their goal of £70,000 taking in 10,000 a day in the first four days with over 150 members already on board, with the maximum they can raise pegged at £100,000 you need to act fast if you want to get involved!

So if you want to support a local business run and owned by local people for local people then invest. If you enjoy flavourful craft beer and want to be able to buy it where you are then get involved- I know I certainly am!*

If you have any questions then drop Matthew an email or Tweet @Boundarybrewing. Find more details on Facebook. Please do help to spread the word about this exciting new Brewery!
Thanks to Matthew for taking the time out of his hectic schedule to chat to me, I hope to come to visit in the New Year!

*I'm contributing this post towards this month's #TheSession about how you contribute to your local beer scene. This along with writing a blog and buying local beers are a few examples!

07/11/2014

#TheSession #93 Why we travel

This month the session is hosted by the Roaming Pint. Brian asks:

"why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?"

Its a great topic for session, like most people I enjoy travelling. In fact I think I enjoy travelling even more than trying new beers. Of course since getting into beer on a more active level, most trips inevitably have a beer involvement to a greater or lesser degree, as Daisy would be quick to point out! I don't tend to arrange trips solely for beer* but whilst I'm in the area - it would be a shame to miss out wouldn't it?!

Great Leap Brewing - Beijing
Drinking gueuze in Lembeek after a tour of the Boon brewery and fresh tmavé at U Flekku should be on everyone's beer bucket list. There's still plenty of places for me to visit (Düsseldorf, Cologne and Bamberg next perhaps?) but with beer now becoming big all over the globe I know I'll find somewhere decent to drink wherever I'm visiting.

I love to see the bar culture in other countries (even if I do feel awkward not being able to order in the lingua Franca) and also the inevitable "craftbeerisation" of beer scenes all over the world (think stripped back walls, keg taps stuck into the wall, moody lighting etc). Even better its great to get a feel for how beers are brewed all around the world: whilst most breweries are similar its the odd balls that perhaps make regional styles that are often most informative. As always, any chance to chat with the brewer about how they make their beer (and why) is always seized upon.

Pipework at St James Gate
And yes of course, you can't beat fresh beer at source. Beer served as intended, unhampered by being
transported half way around the world and (usually) much more keenly priced. Until you have the opportunity to try a beer served as intended you may not fully be able to appreciate it (bottled vs draught koelsch and alt being good examples). You also often come across beers that are draught only or not exported; so you need to go to source to try them. These days there are plenty of sources to  help out in finding the places, but before the advent of the Internet books such as the CAMRA guides were a godsend.

So if you haven't travelled to where your favourite beers are made, where your favourite styles originated, then why not?!

*Except to beer festivals and the beer bloggers conference of course!

05/09/2014

#session91 Diving into Belgophilia

 I'm sat at East Midlands airport with very little to do; so it's high time I give myself a kick up the arse and start blogging again. There's no better place to start than with the current session topic, hosted this month by Breandán at Belgian Smaak. He asks us to talk about our first Belgian beer. I unfortunately have no recollection of which it was, sampled in my hazy student days almost 9 years ago. It is guaranteed to have been something good however as it was sourced from the ever excellent bitter virtue in Southampton. It was probably Chris, perhaps Ann who led me around the groaning shelves tempting me to part with my student loan in exchange for beery libations to sup at the local punk house whilst watching awesome acoustic bands and sometimes full blown drum laden metal bands with beach dinghy crowd surfing...

Anyway I digress, the point is it could have been any number of excellent beers for which Belgium is rightly famed (though I have a sneaky suspicion it was the fruity balsamic punchy duchesse de Bourgogne). Instead I'll have to dredge through the ancient (3years old) rate beer reviews to settle on my first rated Belgian... De Struisse Pannepot. Not a bad first rate eh?!

Pannepot is a 10% Belgian strong ale which cunningly hides its strength away until you stand up at which point you promptly fall over. I may have made that last part up but it sure wears its strength well. Even in my early rating days I appreciated this scoring the beer a massive 4.5, sitting comfortably in the top 1% of my beers to date.


Here's what I thought:
A richly dark reddish brown beer which pours with a thin head that disappears almost immediately. Molasses and orange peel on the nose. First taste gives a lot of sweetness and some umami with a heavy alcohol presence and quite an abrupt finish, neither malty nor hoppy. Not unlike a bourbon in that it hints at vanilla. Very easy to drink which belies its 10%ABV. (2009 vintage 33cl)
That beer was 2 years old, I've since tried other vintages but 2 years has yet to be surpassed or perhaps 2009 was just an excellent year...more rigorous research is required.

 Struisse certainly make some excellent beers with the black Albert beers being particular stand outs,though for me pannepot is the pinnacle of a distinguished line up and should be on your beer bucket list to be dispatched in short shrift.

Breandán has been speedy with the write up, you can find it here, cheers for hosting! Next month's Session is being hosted by Jeremy short and is all about home brewing...find the topic here.

26/06/2014

What's on during #EBBC14?

Following on from Tuesday's post about the bars and beers in Dublin I'll focus in on the conference proper. The pub crawl is tonight and the content starts at 2pm tomorrow, preceded by the usual trade show. Hoping there's something there to rival Hall and Woodhouse's excellent pork pies and fudge!

The venue looks fantastic so very much looking forward to getting inside. Kicking things off is a discussion on historical brewing in Ireland with Declan Moore. The Moore group create fascinaing recreations of historical brews (not talking recent history here but actual medieval and megolithic!). If we're lucky there may even be samples.

Immediately after that is the dispense question, hopefully putting myths to bed with what I expect may be a blind tasting and discussion. Then some of Ireland's up and coming brewers will be discussing the resurgence in Irish brewing and what is to come in future years.

That evening is a rare opportunity to see the inner workings at St James Gate (at least I hope that's still on the cards as no mention of it now on agenda). Beer and food pairing with various Guinness expressions plus some new trial batch unreleased things. Following that is the ever popular Pilsner Urquell party with copious litres of same usually quaffed.

Next day begins bright and early 10am for what should be a great talk on the Irish beer industry from Dean McGuinness and then a more technical social media talk.
Pilsner Urquell are providing a BBQ for lunch; so lets hope for decent weather (20% chance of rain boo, hiss) which will set us up well for a few more technical sessions in the afternoon on blogging from Wordpress and using video on your blog.

Then the beery element of the day really steps up. 4pm sees Beer Ireland providing a craft beer reception which will be a fantastic chance to try some of the very newest beers including N17s spicey rye, Blacks superb hoppy numbers and brand new Black Donkey and Reel Deel releases. We then have a four course meal from Franciscan Well with plenty more beers and a keynote speech from knowledgeable and approachable founder Shane Long. To round out the evening Carlow are providing a trad music session and plenty of their beers flowing. A chance to help design a new beer may also be on the cards.

No Sunday brewery trip planned this year, but if you're still around in Dublin there's plenty to see and do and I'm hoping to organise a tasting session in the afternoon before i head back up North.

25/06/2014

Go West

I was recently contacted by West Berkshire Brewing. They're completely new to me, but as they've just resurrected Dogbolter (the infamous Firkin brew pub chain strong beer) with its creator David Bruce* I decided it would be interesting to try a few. The aforementioned wasn't yet bottled and the beers I was mostly interested in trying were out of stock; so I got a session bitter and a couple of specials.


Beers arrived in an attractive 3 bottle case - as if peeking out from under a bridge arch, though this one's certainly not in Bermondsey. Each beer is represented by a character - Mr Chubb looks scarily like a colleague (though of course he's not a sea captain) and the apiarist somewhat resembles Carrie Fisher. That aside the labels are striking in a traditional real ale sense, single colour background and plenty of information including CYCLOPS tasting notes of which I am a fan.


Up first was that creepily facaded session bitter Mr Chubbs,  at a quaffable 3.7%. Pours attractive pale brown with frothy off-white head as you can see from the picture. Looks like a freshly pulled pint, its great when breweries manage to get their conditioning correct in bottle. 
Caramel malt and herbal hops on nose its very much in the brown beer category, but that's of course no bad thing. Medium body, carbonation, excellent session bitter in the English tradition with good bitter snap in finish. 
Reminds me of Gales Butser, which was one of my favourite pints to drink until Fullers ditched it (sad face).

On to the first of the seasonals and we have Gold Star a 5.2% Honey beer. Honey beers can sometimes have a weird off-note alongside a lack of body due to adding not enough speciality malts, not an issue here however.
Pouring burnished gold with tight off-white head. Theres a dry bready nose with with the dusty note that often accompanies honey beers. Medium body, gentle carbonation, shortcake malt, dry with low residual sweetness. Well integrated honey character to make a decent golden ale with some herbal bitterness in the finish.


Maharaja is the strongest of the trio at 5.9% and again very much ploughing the traditional furrow. Its given a suitable name gleaned from the nearby Maharaja's Well. Slightly hazy mid amber with rich candy sugar and sweet citrus peel on the nose. Full bodied, moderate carbonation, rich malt, some warming alcohol, fairly high residual bitterness, burnt caramel, fairly dry pithy bitterness providing a long dry finish. This is up there with Worthington white shield as a UK IPA and deserves to be a part of the core range.



A good showing then for this brewery which will definitely prompt me to seek out more from them. I think its important that there still be breweries that provide beers of this calibre, not least as they help to ensure the viability of the British hop crop. Whilst I enjoy big bruiser imperial stouts and hop shock IPAs I'm also partial to a decent malt led beer or two and West Berkshire have now earnt a place in my circle of trust. Thank you to Caroline for sending these through to me.


*Find out more about Dogbolter in Boak & Bailey's new book Brew Britannia, which I just finished at the weekend. Its very good indeed, but if you don't want to believe me then there are plenty of other more respectable proponents who think you should too.