As I am one of the very few Irish adults who do not own any kind of motorised vehicle, and Irish public transport being what it is, I spend quite a bit of my time walking. My mp3 player is something of a life line for me, taking the monotony out of the journey as I plod though the same rainy Dublin streets day after day to get to/from work, shops, pubs, etc. As I am always looking for a way to extend my obsession with beer and brewing into new areas of my life, brewcasting might as well be tailor made for me.
“But what is brewcasting?” I hear you cry. Well, brewcasting is quite simply podcasting about brewing. Little downloadable radio programmes that you can put on your mp3 player so you can listen to other beer geeks talk about beer and brewing techniques while you walk down O’Connell Street.
One morning I found a pile of slugs having an orgy where my marigolds used to be. I considered humane ways to get rid of them. But then I read this:
"A commonly seen practice among many slugs is apophallation. The penis of these species is curled like a cork-screw and often becomes entangled in their mate's genitalia in the process of exchanging sperm. When all else fails, apophallation allows the slugs to separate themselves by one or both of the slugs chewing off the other's penis".
If they were willing to eat my flowers then do that in the remains they deserved to be tempted into drinking suicidal amounts of booze. If this pest control method resembles a scene from Hell's Ironic Punishment Department, the invertebrates brought it on themselves! My last attempt at beer science had people unable to tell the difference between different beers made me wonder if slugs might do a better job? If they show a distinct preference for some beers over others can we say slugs are better at beer tasting than humans?
Having been brewing basic kits for a while I had been thinking it was time to move on to dry malt extract. So when Séan kindly offered a dry malt extract kit it seemed like as good a time as ever to start, with a California Common Beer.
Compared to most kits we are used to here it provides incredibly in-depth instructions and lots of useful tips for the less experienced brewer (the last kit I did said something along the lines of: open tin, pour contents into bucket, add boiling water and 1kg sugar, leave for a week, bottle then drink). Obviously with a kit there is less control over the overall outcome but this one was definitely a great way of learning more and making the step from the basic kits to using DME in a gentle manner.
Following a post on the forums from a member of ICB asking about old breweries, it occurred to me that given my career path -- firstly as a land surveyor working in an archaeological research institution, to developing Geographic Information Systems for organisations such as Ordnance Survey Ireland and the Department of the Environment -- I have had maps and documents pass through my hands that provided a rich foundation for finding out more about where our native breweries were at a time when there were certainly far more than there are now, and when the surveyors recorded the finest detail about their surroundings: the early 19th Century. Armed with an online copy of A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis from 1837, I set out to find all references he made to breweries in the places he describes, and to put them on a map for all to see.
I would imagine there are very few craft beer enthusiasts in Ireland who haven't heard of The Porterhouse. Not only did the Dublin microbrewery start a revolution in Irish beer, but it hasn't been slow to build upon its success. As well as owning five pubs in two countries, its beers are a regular fixture at events around Ireland, including the Franciscan Well Easter Festival and the Great Irish Beer Festival in Galway.
The company was founded by two brewing enthusiasts, Oliver Hughes and Liam LaHart. They had previously run an unsuccessful microbrewery in Blessington in the 1980s, before buying a pub in Bray, renaming it The Porter House, and beginning their expansion plans. The beer came next, with a brewing plant installed in their second pub, on Parliament Street in Dublin's Temple Bar. London then beckoned, and by this stage -- in 2000 -- the brewpub kit was no longer up to the job of keeping the bars supplied with beer. A new standalone brewery was established in Dublin's industrial belt, and it was to this facility that an ICB delegation was invited last Wednesday to field test the latest seasonal beer from the brewery: a pale ale called Hop Head.