The recent surge in craft brewing and specialist pubs in London means that the Borough of Southwark is perhaps not the standalone beer mecca it once was. That said, it remains home to such luminaries as The Rake, Brew Wharf, The Market Porter and The Dean Swift, as well as more understated beery excellence down at Harvey's Royal Oak.
The modern visitor supping his Kernel IPA in The Rake may not be aware, however, that Southwark's beeriness stretches far back into history. Borough High Street was the thoroughfare along which Kent's precious hop harvest was transported north each year and the old Hop Exchange building is still standing in the area. One of London's most famous breweries was also based in Southwark: Thrale's, later Barclay Perkins, later yet Courage. The first Russian Imperial Stout was brewed here on the south bank of the Thames. The stories of London and its beer are bound up together in Southwark and it's this history that Pete Brown explores in Shakespeare's Local: Six Centuries of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub.
Now that the days are beginning to get longer it's time to look forward to some of the beer festivals coming your way over the next few months.
Cask and Winter Ales Festival, Cork, 15-17 February
At the opening event of the 2013 Irish beer calendar, The Franciscan Well will be hosting a celebration of cask-conditioned Irish beer, as well as strong and warming winter ales. Beoir members can avail of a couple of free drinks at the Friday evening session by showing a membership card at the bar.
Irish Craft Beer Village, Dublin, 14-18 March
A five-day spectacular in the Dublin docklands as part of the overall St. Patrick's Day festivities. Featuring live music, artisan food and a wide range of beers from the independent Irish breweries.
Easter Beer Festival, Cork, 30-31 March
One of Ireland's longest running beer festivals and always well attended by the breweries. Expect a mix of old favourites from around the country as well as new release beers and festival specials. Hosted by the Franciscan Well, it opens at 2pm on both days and admission is free.
Kildare-based microbrewery Trouble Brewing have just launched the third beer in their regular line-up: Sabotage IPA. This is a 5.5% ABV India Pale Ale which makes extensive use of Galaxy hops, a variety prized for its tropical fruit flavours.
Trouble was founded in 2009, originally in Allenwood, Co. Kildare. 2013 will see the brewery move to a bigger premises closer to Dublin, in the village of Kill.
The new beer joins Ór golden ale and Dark Arts porter in the Trouble line-up and will initially be available in keg and cask formats, with a bottled version to follow later in the year.
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"Give me one year" asks Shane Long, co-founder of The Franciscan Well. As the news officially broke last week regarding the Molson Coors buyout of the Well, speculation and opinion has been rife regarding what this means not only for the Well but also for Irish Craft Brewing.
Shane has been in the business longer than most. "It"s been 14 years" he says "I still remember the early days, sleeping in the back of my van before doing the deliveries up in Dublin or on floors of friends apartments." And Shane is deeply passionate about beer as anyone who knows him would agree. So why the sale to Molson Coors? "I needed to expand and I couldn't do it alone. I had demand for our beers that I couldn't fulfill."
Shane's need to expand came earlier in the year when he was given a very viable opportunity to increase his sales by exporting to America. "They [the new customer] came here last March because of the awards we had won and once they tasted the beer they brought me to New York to arrange an import agreement."