Tuesday, November 20, 2018
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If this is the House of Porter, why can't I drink the walls?

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.

Exactly how many things can go wrong in a brew day?

Since the disastrous house infection cost me two fermentors and huge quantities of beer, I have cooked up four batches to fill those sad empty cornelius kegs. Hops Sweepings Ale, Tettnanger Blond and Cascarillo Pale Ale are all in kegs now and, with the exception of a clearing issue with Hops Sweepings Ale, everything went without a hitch. The fourth beer, a creation of wheat and rye, using the new SafBrew WB-06 wheat beer strain of yeast, resulted in one of the worst brew days I have ever had.

ICB Awards: Rated by Members 2008

Award logoFor the second year, members of Irish Craft Brewer attending the Easter Beer Festival at The Franciscan Well in Cork selected their favourites from among the Irish craft beers exhibited. (Results for 2007 are here.)

The contenders included cask beers from Carlow, Franciscan Well, Hilden, Hooker and White Gypsy (Messrs Maguire). All brought keg beers too, as did UCC Pilot Brewery and The Porterhouse. Whitewater were represented in bottled form only, and other bottled contenders included White Gypsy's Black Pearl and O'Hara's Celebration from Carlow, both stouts.

The most heartbreaking thing for a brewer to do


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.

The Niall Mellon Township Challenge (and Beer!)

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


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