Murphy’s – Another great Irish stout!

This week, I thought I’d indulge in a bit of nostalgia and write about a beer which takes me back to my days as a student. For my masters’ degree, I moved to Ireland’s second largest city, Cork, which is situated right in the south of the country. Cork is a fantastically vibrant city with a great range of traditional pubs,  historic food markets and a plethora of festivals throughout the year.

Cork is also home to one of the country’s oldest universities, University College Cork, better known as ‘UCC’. It was during my years as a history student at UCC, that I first discovered and developed a lasting love for Murphy’s stout.

‘Less bitter’
When you think Ireland and stout, the first thing to come to mind is probably going to be Guinness right? Murphy’s doesn’t have nearly the same level of international brand recognition as its long-time competitor, but anyone who’s had a couple of pints of Cork’s own ‘black stuff’ will tell you that it has a distinctive flavour which puts it in league with the very best of stouts.

Noticeably less bitter than Guinness, Murphy’s is smooth with a nutty, roasted flavour and an aftertaste which has hints of coffee and caramel. Like any good beer, the pour is all important and if done by a bartender who knows his craft, you’ll get a thick, creamy, bubble-free white head which will last most of the way down the glass.

Murphy's (SMALL)

You will find Murphy’s on tap in any truly authentic Cork pub, as well as in plenty of others outside of the city. A personal favourite of mine from my student days was Tom Barry’s on Barrack Street. It’s a bit out of the way if you’re only visiting the city centre, but during my university days, this pub was a favourite haunt for students and lecturers alike.

I’ve struggled to find Murphy’s stout on sale anywhere outside of Ireland. Last week however, I was delighted to see it on sale in my local Asda and so I decided to pick up a few cans for old times’ sake!

Murphys (3 cans)

Murphy’s stout – on sale at Asda!

 

UCC campus

University College Cork (UCC) – my old alma matter

UCC (bridge)

UCC campus

Bath Ales: Gem Amber Ale

The first thing to grab me about this beer was the aroma. Allowing my nose to linger for a few seconds, I was reminded of freshly made toffee or even candy floss. After it settles in the glass, the colour is deep rusty red.

The mouthfeel is quite smooth, medium bodied and moderately carbonated. After the first sip, Gem Amber Ale is quite bready and smokey, with again that hint of toffee coming through.  The taste is to some extent similar to that of a Belgian brown ale; a beer to be sipped and enjoyed slowly rather than a session beer.

The finish was mildly bitter and hoppy.

Bath Ale Gem (SMALL)

Bath Ales: Gem Amber Ale

Bath Ales produces a good selection of other beers from bitters to porters to stouts. Looking forward to giving some of these a try soon!


Cheers!

 

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

I’ve always associated stout with winter. There’s nothing quite like sipping a creamy pint of stout sitting in front of a roaring fire with a gale howling outside the window.

However, my good friend Peter picked up this particular number for me during his recent holiday in Yorkshire and I was curious to brake it open and give it a go. Stouts are not everyone’s beer of choice. Fortunately, I do enjoy a stout; might have something to do with being Irish?

The first thing that will strike you about Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is the aroma. When I closed my eyes and allowed my nose to hover for a few seconds, the first thing that came to mind was hot chocolate or a rich flavoured coffee. After it settles in the glass, the colour is deep dark and the head is frothy and brown like the sea foam you’ll find washed up on a beach in rough stormy weather.

The mouthfeel is smooth and silky and the taste is quite biscuity and sweet; you can definitely taste that oatmeal coming through. The aftertaste is mildly bitter, with a hint of coffee and even a mild note of whiskey. All in all, this is a well-rounded and tasty stout and definitely worth a go.

Cheers!

Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout (SMALL)

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

International Beer Day!

Friday  was International Beer Day.  Being the curious sort that I am, I consulted Google and was intrigued to learn that this auspicious occasion was first celebrated in 2008, almost ten years ago. As of 2017, International Beer Day is now marked annually on the first Friday of August in over 200 cities around the globe.  Never one to miss an important occasion – particularly one which involves beer – I decided to celebrate International Beer Day with a selection of brews from around Europe.

BBNo 14|04 – Tripel
British German flag (small)OK, this one sounds a bit more like a Star Wars droid than a beer. R2-D2’s second cousin maybe?

The cryptic name is apparently down to a very logical numbering system instituted by the brewer (Brews by Numbers), in which the first number denotes the style, whilst the second denotes the recipe. Makes sense I suppose.

I’ve not come across anything from Brews by Numbers (BBN) before now, but I discovered this one last week in an excellent little shop called Royal Mile Whiskies in Bloomsbury St. in central London.

BBNo 14|04 is an abbey style beer brewed in London with a delicate flavour which is, according to the brewer, down to the addition of the German hop Hallertau Blanc. After pouring it carefully into the glass, allow your nose to hover for a moment or two and you’ll detect a strikingly refreshing fruity aroma. In terms of appearance, BBNo 14|04 very much looks the part of an abbey beer with a decent frothy head and a deep, hazy, golden colour.

The flavour is slightly malty and bready, with hints of various different fruits and herbs; there’s plenty going on here to tantalise your taste buds. It has a slightly bitter, citrus aftertaste. All in all, this is a solid take on an abbey ale. I’d certainly have it again and I’m eager to try its sister brews.

14-04 Tripple (small pic)

BBNo 14|04

R2D2 and beer

R2-D2 approves of this beer

 

To Øl Blossom
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Skål (cheers)! In the same shop in Bloomsbury St, I came across a Danish wheat ale called To Øl Blossom. True to its name, this beer has an unmistakably floral taste and aroma.

It is crisp and refreshing with a slightly metallic, bitter aftertaste. It has a hazy amber colour and keeps a frothy white head right to the end of the glass.

To Ol (small)

To Øl Blossom –  if florists did beer…..

 

Cheers!

Brews in Brittany!

I’ve just returned from a week’s holidays in Brittany on the west coast of France where I was staying with my fiancée and her family. It was not my first visit to France’s famous Celtic region, but on this occasion, I thought I’d recount some of my experiences of the marvellous array of beers, food and culture which can be found there.

Alors…….. first lets talk a bit about the beer.

Lancelot Duchesse Anne Triple
I found this beer on sale in many bars and cafes in the towns and villages around Brittany. As you might expect for a triple, Duchesse Anne is quite a full bodied beer with a deep amber colour and a rich flavour, with notes of caramel and honey. Left to linger on the tongue, you’ll also detect hints of various fruits like banana and pear. Duchesse Anne is brewed by Brasserie Lancelot which describes itself, quite modestly, as one of Brittany’s ‘premier breweries’. I only came across Duchesse Anne in bottles, but apparently you’ll also find it on tap.

Me with Duchesse Anne beer

Enjoying a Duchesse Anne triple

 

Lancelot blonde
Produced by the same brewery is Lancelot blonde (pictured below, left). Lancelot blonde is a mild, slightly sweet, slightly hoppy lager with a deep amber colour and a decent frothy head. The taste isn’t quite as pronounced as its sister beer Duchesse Anne, but it is a good quality blonde nonetheless and well worth a try.

 

 

Crêpes
Crepes are to Brittany as fries are to Belgium. You’ll find a abundance of ‘creperies’ wherever you go, each serving a wide selection of both sweet and savory crepes for about 7 or 8 Euro apiece. They are, incidentally as I discovered, a great snack to have alongside a beer. Whilst on a visit to the very picturesque port town of Concarneau, I tried the crêpe saucisse de bretagne, followed by the crêpe chocolat noir maison, both of which were very tasty!

Crepe sausage

Crêpe saucisse de bretagne

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Crêpe chocolat noir maison

 

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A typical creperie in Concarneau, Brittany

 

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Concarneau, Brittany

Yec’hed mat! (cheers!)

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Craft beer in Cambridge

Cambridge is a charming city, full of impressive architecture, green spaces and of course, the world-famous University of Cambridge. Being only an hour’s train ride from central London, it is the perfect place to escape the big city on a hot day and that’s exactly what my fiancée and I decided to do yesterday.

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Crowds in Cambridge

If the weather is pleasant, it is well worth punting down the River Cam which meanders through the city, including past some of the main university buildings. If you’ve not encountered a punt before, it is a shallow wooden boat driven by someone holding a very large stick (see pics below).

Cambridge’s architecture is both impressive and beautifully preserved. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that it draws so very many tourists.

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Cambridge architecture

After wading through crowds of camera-clicking, selfie-stick waving tourists, it was a relief to take a pit-stop in what Google reliably informed me was one of Cambridge’s most trendy craft pubs. I wasn’t disappointed.

Cambridge Brew House & Microbrewery
The Cambridge Brew House is centrally located, only a few minutes walk from the main shopping thoroughfare of Sidney Street. The decor is what you’d expect of a microbrewery, with casks for seats and beer paraphernalia adorning the walls.

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Cambridge Brew House

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Watching the world go by

 

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Beer making the old way

Cambridge Sweet Chariot IPA
I tried one of the house brews, the ‘Sweet Chariot‘ IPA and it was just the thirst-quencher I was looking for in 28C of heat! Sweet Chariot is a well rounded IPA, with a hoppy, citrus flavour and a bitter aftertaste as you’d expect for a good IPA. The colour is a golden amber and the aroma has hints of peach and grapefruit. Well worth a try.

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Cheers!

Cheers!

 

Camden Brewery Tour (2) – Sampling the Beer

Last week I wrote about my recent tour of Camden Town Brewery. This week, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the beers they have on offer. At the end of the tour, my group was invited to sample five of the brewery’s most popular beers – Pils, Wit, Unfiltered Hells, Ink and IHL. The secret ingredient in all five is, according to our tour guide, London water!

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Camden IHL
Camden describes its IHL (Indian Hells Lager) as ‘the brewer’s beer’. The IHL is unmistakably hoppy and lacks some of the sweetness of the Pils. It keeps its head and has a distinct aftertaste with hints of lemon. Camden’s website describe the process of brewing this beer as ‘stuffing loads and loads of hop pellets into our hop tornado, which circulates them at high pressure though the beer’. Well, if you want a seriously hoppy beer that’s as spicy as a madras curry, then this is the one for you.

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Camden Ink
Stouts. The marmite of beer. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Personally, I’m quite partial to a stout, but only at the right time of day or in the right climate. For instance, there’s nothing quite like drinking a freshly poured pint of stout whilst sitting in front of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night in an old fashioned pub. The Danes would call this hygge. Whilst Camden Ink wouldn’t be my stout of choice, I think  the brewery have made a pretty decent stab at developing a stout with a personality of its own. As you’d expect, this beer is creamy and has quite a bitter taste, with hints of caramel/coffee/chocolate. A decent beer, but I’d struggle to drink more than two in a single night.

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Camden Pils
Given the huge range on the market, its oftentimes hard to make a particular brand of pils stand out. Made with American hops, Camden Pils is a pretty decent beer, with a cloudier appearance than you might expect for a typical pils and a floral aroma. It keeps its head and has a noticeably zesty aftertaste.

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Camden Unfiltered Hells
This is Camden’s take on a kellerbier (or cellar beer) i.e. a beer with the original brewing yeast left in. This brew has a noticeably smoother and more full-bodied flavour than the more commonly found Camden Hells. As you’d expect for a kellerbier, the appearance is cloudier and distinctly more hoppy. All round it is tasty and worth a try.

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Camden Gentleman’s Wit
Last but not least, the white ale. However you term it – wit, white ale or blanche – this type of beer is and always will be, a summer beer. It’s not normally my beer of choice, even in summer time, but Camden Wit is as tasty as any white ale I’ve tasted so far. Distinctly zesty and aromatic, the beer is dry and has a crisp finish. It lacks the overpowering sweetness you’ll find in some continental wheat beers and consequently is a little easier to drink.

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And that’s it…… cheers!
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