the_bull_and_castle.jpgThe Bull and Castle, formerly the Castle Inn, is located on Lord Edward Street, just opposite Christ Church Cathedral in the heart of Dublin. The Castle Inn had a long history, but in taking over the old pub, FXB began trying something new in the locality; a Gastropub-style establishment with decent food, a fantastic beer selection and more recently, what may be a first for Dublin, a Beer Hall. I recently met with Geoff Carty, General Manager of The Bull and Castle, to chat about where they are going and what the ethos of this new venture is with respect to craft beers.

Where's the information? On the 14th and 15th of November Beoir will host a meeting of the European Beer Consumers Union for the first time. 30 delegates from eleven different countries across Europe will gather in Dublin for two days of debate and discussion covering a number issues of relevance to beer drinkers.

Among the topics is the current status of European Union Directive 1169/2011 concerning the information which should be made available to consumers on beer packaging. The EBCU has long deemed the current situation unsatisfactory, as producers are not obliged to list the ingredients of beer, nor the place of production. Both of these elements are essential if the consumer is to make a truly informed choice about the beer they drink.

Beoir wholeheartedly supports the EBCU's campaign to have ingredients and place of production made mandatory on beer labels, and salutes those Irish craft breweries who already have this information visible on their products.

The EBCU was founded in 1990 by three beer consumer organisations: CAMRA (UK), PINT (Netherlands) and Zythos (Belgium). It has since grown to thirteen member groups with a combined membership of over 200,000 people. Beoir is the newest member of the group, joining in 2012. Two plenary meetings of the delegates are held every year.

The Dublin meeting will be the 50th since the EBCU's foundation and delegates will be visiting two of Dublin's independent breweries: The Porterhouse and JW Sweetman. Alfie Byrne's pub and L. Mulligan Grocer will also feature in the social programme for the weekend.

More information on the aims and work of the EBCU can be found on its website at


What could that be? Dump beer down the drain.

I, like many others in Ireland, ferment in plastic. The convenient and cheap polypropylene bucket is the workhorse of amateur brewing in the UK and Ireland. We know there are drawbacks and have been told all about scratches in the seemingly smooth surface giving nasties places to hide but how serious can the risk really be? We have all tasted first class beers fermented in plastic. I have even heard of commercial microbreweries using polypropylene fermentors, so maybe the risk is a bit overstated. Well, I can now tell you, from bitter personal experience, that the risk is very real.

Poster That's it. Hand in your pipes, shave off the beards and get rid of the beer nerd t-shirts the game is up. We are all at Irish Craft Brewer a mockery of a travesty of a sham as beer tasters. It turns out a random collection of pub goers were better at guessing what stout they were getting than we were.

Colin from The Beer Cellar decided to test the public preferences for stouts in O'Neill's pub, Suffolk Street. The beers being tested were Guinness, Beamish, Murphy's, O'Hara's and Molly's Chocolate stouts.

South AfricaShould you consider flying 12 hours non-stop from Dublin to Cape Town (longer in-direct) just to try a few beers? Definitely not! This is no London, Prague, or Bruges. This is SAB Miller country and what you are going to find in 99% of establishments is stuff of the yellow p**s variety, Castle Lager, Hansa pils, Black Label (Carling), Miller, if you're lucky Pilsner Urquell.

Should you consider travel to South Africa for just about any other reason? Definitely yes. The people are hugely warm, welcoming and friendly. There is something for everyone, Mediterranean climate, fantastic beaches, stunning mountain and desert scenery, vibrant cities. Then there is of course the animal life.

It is not a country without problems. A large amount of South Africans live in terrible poverty, while others live in European style luxury. There is crime but it is unlikely to affect tourists -- should you be unlucky it is usually only petty theft. AIDS is another big difficulty causing life expectancy in some of the townships to be as low as 42 years. However, there is a feeling that the country has moved on from its disturbing history and is working together for a better future. This hopefully can be achieved especially with a little help. This is what took me there with the Niall Mellon Township trust