Knitting for turning leaves

I thought I haven't been knitting much recently until I put up the photos for this post. I've been getting a bit done it seems. I think it's the chill in the air that has given me the incentive to start knitting again. A knitter always starts to turn to wooly things once the autumn comes in.

First up I made a scarf from the supercoil yarn I spun recently. I cast on 12 stitches on comedy 15mm needles, they're huge. I knit in garter stitch until the yarn ran out. I sewed on a few matching buttons and use them to tie up the scarf. I found the large stitches stretched out a bit so the scarf isn't as wide as I thought it would be, that's ok. I have some lilac yarn which matches the yarn in this scarf so I may make matching handwarmers if I have enough yarn.

I am a firm believer that you can't have too many gloves and mittens. I love making gloves as they're really quick, useful and pretty. People sometimes tell me that I can get gloves for a euro in Penneys so why bother knitting but you can't get gloves this funky or unique anywhere. This is my handspun merino and it knit up nicely into these lacy handwarmers. The pattern is filigree (Rav Link) from Knitting New Mittens and Gloves by Robin Melanson. I've made mittens from this book before. This pattern was really easy and well written, it's a great book. I had lots of yarn left over which I wasn't expecting. I might something like calorimetry to go with these as I don't think I have enough yarn for a whole hat but this should keep my ears warm.

Work progresses well on the Montego Bay scarf. I've been knitting it on the bus and it's getting longer and longer almost without me noticing it. I'm mostly half asleep while knitting it in the morning so that may explain it. The pattern is easy to remember and the drape and colour of the yarn is stunning. I see people sneaking peaks at it while I'm knitting.

I haven't been crocheting much recently. I think me and crochet might need a bit of a break from each other after the shill shell shawl debacle (end of post). I look at crochet patterns and feel fear it will all go wrong again. Maybe if I give it time we can reconcile and get on well together again. For the meantime I'll keep knitting as it's solid, reliable and never lets me down. Maybe crochet is that flighty friend you know, the one who lets you down but when it/they come up trumps they're awesome.

SeptemberFest, Farmleigh, Dublin, September 2009

Last year I had fun at the Septemberfest festival in Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park and I planned to go back this year. This year though there was a difference Irish Craft Brewer were invited to run a stand about homebrewing. It's a great testament to the great community spirit of ICB that from a website we now have people meeting up for tastings every month, the Brew It Yourself day was run in Cork and now homebrewing is a feature of the biggest beer festival in Ireland.

This year all the Irish Craft Brewers were present again. There were lots of nice beers to be had so we tried some out in the morning before it got busier later. I had some White Gypsy Dark Lager which I liked very much, it's a slightly less full on version of their Bock. Still caramely and rich but a bit easier to get through. Also making an appearance again this year were the guys from Tig Bhric in Kerry. This time they brought their Cul Dorcha beer which I liked. A dark chocolate porter, I really like Porter and we don't get enough of it here at all. I also had a taste of Whitewater's Belfast Black, it's a new stout. I heard from someone it was a dark lager but it's a stout. I've had a few black lagers recently like Brewdog's Zeitgeist and think it's a great summer drink. I liked Belfast Black it's a solid uncomplicated stout. My favourite on the day was Carlow Brewing's Goods Store IPA, it's fantastic, really refreshing and hoppy. I think my taste buds like floral grassy hops at the moment and this really hit the spot.

I went back to the ICB stand. The place was filling up and various website members manned the stand to chat to the masses about home brewing. There was lots of interest, from the guy who had a home bar and wanted a cheap way of supplying beer to it, to English guys wanting to make the real ale they miss from home, to people who want to set up their own breweries. People liked looking at the equipment and smelling the hops and grains. Children were especially fascinated by the fermenting yeast starter Sean had set up.

Luckily I had tried the beer earlier as the sunshine drew huge crowds out. It was amazing to see long queues of people waiting to get Irish beer, such a thing is usually unheard of. Irish people queue for beer alright but usually it isn't of this quality. In the afternoon things got really insane and the queues were about 45 minutes long for beer. Many of the brewers even ran out of beer. ICB got a bit cut off by the queues in the corner. Luckily since there were a few of us people could send others out into the queue. In the photo you can see Tim who had just returned triumphant with bottles of Hophead from The Porterhouse. Hence the smiles from Grainne and Sean.

Hophead is the first run off The Porterhouse's shiny new bottling line. It's really hoppy and citrus tasting in the bottle. I like the hot pink label and the attitude on the bottles. It reminds me of Brewdog and Wychwood with their challenge to the drinker. Advertising your tradition and Irishness as a craft brewery here doesn't seem to work. You want to pitch it to those people who want something different. Make it cool then maybe the rest of the people will follow. After a days evangelizing craft beer to the nation a few of us headed off to The Bull and Castle. Many thanks to Aidan and Ronan from Galway Hooker shouted us all a round. They are great guys and they make a smashing beer as well with it.

Sunday dawned sunny and bright. Dave had promised to help out at David Llewellyn's Double L Cider stand as they had been crazily busy on saturday. Most of the brewers had restocked and brought in extra people for the day and the queues weren't as bad. Some of the ICB people changed their hats and became bar staff at various points in the day. In the morning Sean Billings one of the founders of ICB gave a talk on how to get started in brewing. I used his articles to get started and I know lots of people on ICB have too. I didn't get to hear the talk as I was still manning the stand. Grainne and I talked to many people including one very polite Russian journalist who inquired if our husbands had got us into brewing. He was very nice about it but we put him straight.  

I did sneak away for a talk on Beer and Cheese. There was a cheese stand in the beer tent selling tasty Irish cheese taster plates. But I wanted more cheese, you can never get enough cheese! Dan Fennelly and Dean McGuinness gave the talk. A plate of cheese was handed out then we were handed the various beers which were paired with four different cheeses. I looked around at the start and there were a few embarrassed looking people who had eaten all their cheese before the guys had even started talking. Didn't they realize what a tasting was about? Or maybe they just wanted the free food.

The pairings were Durrus and Galway Hooker, Glebe Brethan and Rebel Red from Franciscan Well and also with Porterhouse Hophead, St Gall with Hilden Cathedral Quarter, Bellingham Blue with Whitewater's Clotworthy Dobbin and also with Chimay Blue. Dan Fennelly had some great information on cheese and some really nice tasting notes. I loved all the cheeses especially the Bellingham Blue, I would usually go for Cashel Blue but I'll try this one in future now too. Dean McGuinness who I knew from Movies and Booze on Newstalk talked about Irish beer and the great quality and flavour you can get out there. My favourite pairing of the day was the St. Gall with Cathedral quarter, together they were different and better than they were on their own. It was a great fun talk involving two of my favourite things.

The bars were under siege for the day and the food stalls were really busy too. I got a fabulous lamb tagine pie from the Gallic Kitchen. I paired it with a lovely fresh cold glass of Galway Hooker, thanks to Aidan for the pint! A great weekend was had by all. It was great to see so many people sitting outside having some Irish food with fresh Irish craft beer. Events like this are great in changing the image of beer and drinking. It shows it can be about sensible drinking with good food and about taste rather than quantity. I was really impressed that there were lots of women sampling the beer as well. Women are completely ignored by large beer companies and it's nice to see craft brewers don't ignore half the population. We can only hope all the people who came will go out and buy Irish beer and ask for it in their pubs. Then we'll see real changes. I'm sure Septemberfest will be back next year with even more breweries present. Looking forward to it.

Electric Picnic 2009, Crafts and a Beer Surprise

This year we headed to the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, we had been before in 2006 and 2007. This year had a pretty eclectic line up with a good few new bands.

I decided to dress up as I had in previous years. Some Penneys hacking was in order. I bought a mad dress for three euro. I then sewed a string of battery powered Led lights onto it. These were got in Dunnes last year at christmas. The dress had a pocket on the side and I used that to store the battery pack.

I pinned a pink brooch to the dress and paired the whole lot with pink wellies which were absolutely essential in the mud this year. There was an awful lot of mud, luckily I avoided falling over, I think my caving training helped there.

The hat is one I picked up in Penneys a few years ago. Hats are really easy to do up. I sewed on two strings of beads around the rim. I also sewed a feather to the hat. I think the outfit was great fun, especially when dancing in a dark tent. It was great at night as when you're all lit up people don't tend to walk into you as much.

Over the weekend I made a few visits to Stitchlily or Orla as she is more normally known. In the future will we all wear badges with our avatar names on them? She had a fantasic Sit and Stitch stall with crochet, spinning, sewing and knitting, basically all things fiber and stitch related in the Greencrafts part of the festival. It was a wonderfully chilled out little corner. On saturday morning I sat down and spun and watched the world go by. I also admired all the lovely mushrooms and lilies she had crocheted to decorate the area. More photos here.

On Sunday night in a break before The Flaming Lips we spotted some guys with what looked like a corny keg. It was Oliver and some others from The Porterhouse so we went over to say hello. They kindly offered us some Hophead. The only beers available this year at EP were Heineken, Coors Light and Paulaner which I hadn't been drinking so this was like manna from heaven. Heavenly it was indeed, fresh from the corny the beer was hoppy and citrusy and thirst quenching. Thanks Oliver! We also discovered that Hophead would be available freshly bottled at SeptemberFest in Farmleigh. But more of SeptemberFest in the next post.

I had fun this year at EP but I think this may be my last year there. It had lost a little of it's magic for me, don't get me wrong it was great but it's very expensive. I have to send a big thanks to the man with the tractor who towed my car out of the incredibly muddy car park on Sunday My musical highlights this time were Explosions in the Sky, Brian Wilson, Jape, David Kitt, Efterklang and Chris Cunningham.

Westley's Bog Bounty Heather Ale

I went hiking in Wicklow recently with Dave and a friend of ours Katie. The dog came too, he was delighted with how dirty he was at the end of the walk. The heather has started flowering coating the whole place in a purple carpet. We collected some heather flower tips, 95g in all. I decided to make my own version of Fraoch. I know Fraoch has bog myrtle in it as well, I really like the taste bog myrtle gives to a beer. We didn't get any other herbs that day so it's just heather flavouring in there.
I used some low AA hops to bitter at the start. The heather was added at the end for aroma. The base malt should make it nicely sweet like the Scottish ales.

3.5kg Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
345g Amber Malt
500g Wheat Malt
230g Crystal Malt

Hops and Heather:
60 minutes: 55g Hallertau 2.1%AA
15 minutes: 1 tsp Irish Moss and a small handful of heather flowers
At end of boil: Rest of heather flowers added to the boil.
95g of heather in total

Infusion mash at 66-67 deg C. Batch sparged.
Yeast: Safale S04

Volume: About 22-23 Litres

OG: 1.049

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Brewing usually takes up most of a day so while I brew I usually cook something nice. This time I went for something completely new involving yeast, homemade pizza. I'd never made pizza from my own dough before. It turned out really well. I'll definitely be making it again.