Irish Craft Beer in the Wild

I don't usually write beer reviews on here as well I'm just not much use at them. I always run out of adjectives. I'm hoping that might change after christmas as Randy Mosher's new book Tasting Beer arrived for me yesterday. It has been hidden away until the big day though. Radical Brewing is my favourite beer and brewing book. I was allowed a flick through and it seems to be much more than just a tasting book with lots of asides and interesting beer facts.

I shall have to soldier on without Mosher's help on this one. Everyone knows Aldi the German supermarket for cheap treats. I like their Specially Selected range for good value chutney and sauces and now their Specially Selected range includes Irish craft beer. Tipped off by the ever vigilant folks at Irish craft brewer I heard they had something described as an Irish traditional ale for sale for €5.99 for a pack of four 330ml bottles. It's brewed by Carlow Brewing Company so hopefully this turns into some good exposure for them. The Red one was dispatched to get some. Now that I've danced around the issue with some preamble I suppose I better attempt some tasting notes.

It's a garnet brown colour with tints of red and a nice foamy head that dies down. It's got a sweet malty nose on it. It's a balanced beer with lots of caramely malty flavours, I tend to like beers where you can taste the malt so this gets an instant thumbs up. It has a great dry roasty finish with some nice spices to knock out the full flavour. It's a really nice beer, it's complex but not too much. Some beers go crazy on the complexity and then you can only have one of them. This is like some sort of spicy less intimidating version of Clotworthy Dobbin. You could kick back with this and enjoy a few of them.

Carlow are making some very tasty beers recently which are given much better reviews than I can by The Beer Nut. The stand out being Goods Store IPA. This new traditional ale is a very solid, good value, pleasant beer to drink for an evening.

Crafty donations and a mysterious crocheted tache

It's been busy around here recently. I've been doing a lot of study for college and I'm still crafting away but the blog has been neglected. Progress is going well on my owls jumper. I've finished the main body and one sleeve and I've got about halfway through the other sleeve. I finally figured out how to do a make one properly with this project. I'm finding the sleeves hard going but I'm sure I'll start knitting much faster when those owls start to appear on the yoke. It's a very clever pattern as just when you're beginning to get sick of it along comes the yoke with a nice cable pattern with owls. I love how it looks so far. I''m also almost finished my Montego Bay scarf, I need to have it finished so I can wear it in Jamaica for christmas.

I've also been collecting free crafty stuff in the last few weeks. Has anyone noticed that when you do a craft people who used to do said craft decide to unload stuff they don't use on you? I've had yarn donated to me before and it usually doesn't work out. I tend to end up with a load of yarn I don't know what to do with and it sits there making me feel guilty about not using it. However this past two weeks I've had some donations of a crafty nature that were really wanted and useful.

A friend of mine mentioned to a friend of hers (in a complicated chain that always brings random stuff) that I was into spinning and she said she had a load of fleece and spinning equipment that she didn't want anymore. So I called to my friends and found a bag with some old fleece that I had to throw out as it looked past its best. There can be problems with old fleece if it hasn't been stored well as it can contain moths. Moths plus fiber equals bad. They lay eggs in the fiber destroying it. Ick! So I wasn't taking that chance. But the rest of the stuff was great. I bagged a lazy kate with two bobbins, a set of hand carders and a niddy noddy. What on earth is a niddy noddy I hear you ask.

A niddy noddy apart from sounding cool is a nifty device for making a skein of yarn. You wrap the yarn around the niddy noddy and because the ends are perpendicular to each other it makes it easy to wrap the yarn and to take it off. Much easier than using the back of a chair. The yarn I have wrapped is a silk merino blend that I left as a singles yarn. I'm really happy with it, its consistent and not over twisted even though it isn't plied.

The lazy kate and bobbins baffled me a bit at first. I have a lazy kate for my wheel and the bobbins from this one wouldn't fit my wheel, so what to do with them? Then it dawned on me, I could use it for my spindle spun yarn. I've been spinning this falkland top on my spindle for months now. I'm getting a bit bored of it at this stage and I wanted to spin something else on it. So I unwound it all onto the bobbin. I used a shoe box to make a support for the spindle to make it easy to wind the yarn off. I'm chuffed with it as it's incredibly thin and even. I might be good enough at this spindling lark to go treat myself to a shiny new spindle.

It gets a bit boring spinning top that is all one colour so I decided to dye the rest of the falkland top. Now this would have been a problem if it wasn't for the other crafty donation of the past two weeks. The rather wonderful Wyvernfriend mentioned she was getting rid of some pots that were no longer suitable for her new cooker. So I asked could I take them to use for dyeing. I called over and picked up the pots and a had a great chat with a fellow knitter. Much more fun than buying pots.

Today I had finished my projects and a literature review so some fun dyeing was in order before I start studying for my exams. Even Westley tried to get in on the act. Maybe he harbours ambitions to dye himself. I'm now imagining a blue, green and purple Westley. I dyed the top a blue colour from a pot of landscape dye I got by mistake in an order from Wingham and I also threw in a bit of green food colouring. It seemed to work. Santa is bringing me some proper dyes for christmas so I'll do a post with a tutorial about dyeing when I get them.
When dyeing with acid dyes you have to use separate dye pots that aren't used for food. That's why I needed the donated pots.

And finally I leave you with news that Sherlock Holmes is alive and sleuthing away in London...

One of my random conversations with Ais resulted in me promising to crochet a tache for her. I think she may have been feeling left out with all this talk of movember. Or perhaps she just gets cold cycling round London. How and ever I made the tache and extracted a promise that she would send me a photo of her wearing it. It winged its way through a postal strike and I was sent this great photo. All she really needs is a pipe to complete the look.
Anyway I think that's quite enough rambling on for one evening. This is getting to be a bit teal deer.


Knitting and Stitching Show, RDS, Dublin, October 2009

Last year I had a lovely day out at the knitting and stitching show organized by Twisted Thread so I was looking forward to this years one. I was planning to go on Thursday and meet up with some ravelry friends but alas I was struck down with a cold. I recovered enough to go to the show on Sunday. It seemed to be a good idea as the crowds weren't so bad and I got to meet a friend there too. There was a corner of the show with bargain bags of wool so she dove in and got a bargain on some lovely Rowan. I'm glad I didn't pass that stall later in the day as I'm sure there were fights breaking out as ole wans fought it out over the last few bargain bags of Sirdar Crofter.  

There was much to see in the show and there were less irrelevant stalls this year. Although I'm not sure what was going on with the man who was demonstrating mops. Were they thinking it's a craft show so there will be lots of women there and they like cleaning? He wasn't getting much attention as This Is Knit's fabulous stall was across the way with plenty to distract any passing shopper from the joys of mops and cleaning. There were many Irish based shops exhibiting this year with The Yarn Room having a much bigger stand this time. Stephanie who runs this shop is such a lovely lady so I hope she did well. I convinced my friend's friend to buy a bag of merino for felting from her.  The Feltmakers Ireland stand convinced her to take up the hobby so I can't be blamed for that. Lola Rose were there with some yummy Colinette yarn, I thought the mohair was especially lovely.

One of the more interesting stands was Woolfish, they had balls of merino top which they had knit into dresses and bags. They look cool but I don't know if they're practical. Top is combed fiber, which is usually spun into yarn or felted. I'm not sure knitted up top would wear very well. When top is spun or felted it gains strength and the fibers stay together and don't fall apart. So anything made from top mightn't be able to take much wear and it might get bobbly. I couldn't help thinking that if you got one of those big balls of merino and spun it into yarn it would be much better value.    

This year I was disciplined with my limited budget and restricted myself to supplies for spinning. I have enough yarn to last me quite a long time so I don't need any more. A lot of my shopping was done at the Texere stall. They had lots of fiber and thread, dyed and undyed. The guy on their stand was very nice and helpful too. I got some glitter thread for plying and wrapping yarn, some lovely dyed silk noil fiber and some guanaco fiber. A guanaco is an alpaca relative with lovely soft hair. The bag from Texere was quite cheap so it may not be exceptional quality but hey it's worth it just to try it out.

I had an interesting conversation with another shopper at the stand who was also buying guanaco. She looked at me askance when I said I intended to spin it on a spindle. She seemed quite shocked that someone with a spinning wheel would even think of using a spindle. She also stated that as the guanaco was a short staple length fiber it would have to be blended before it was spun. I attempted to explain that I'd seen a good article about how you needed to spin really fast to draft short stuff like guanaco. Spindles are great for spinning fast and for spinning fine, even though I'm not a great spinner yet I can spin much finer on my spindle than I can on my wheel. Tahkli style spindles are always recommend for spinning cotton, cashmere and guanaco type fibers. People don't generally believe you when you say this and the lady I was talking to didn't seem to either. It's a pity really, I think lots of people have it in their head that wheels are the only way to spin and that spindles are inferior and fiddly and difficult.

That isn't true. Spindles are cool and people have been using them since we became people pretty much. Abby Franquemont has a wonderful article here about the history of spinning and why people shouldn't lose the ability to spin. When you have a small amount of a luxury fiber I think it makes more sense to spin it on a spindle. I think you'll get more value out of it as you'll learn more about spinning it and challenge yourself. Spinning these days isn't about speed and making yarn quickly because if you don't you won't have clothes. It's a hobby and done for pleasure. Wheels are great but they're not the be all and end all, there's a whole world of spindle spinning out there to master.

I suppose I better stop rambling on and get back to pretty pictures. This is a lovely dyed silk brick from Oliver Twists whose website I can't find. It was a complete bargain as it was half price. I'll spin this into something special. It could also be felted, I think it would make a fantastic shawl if you knew what you were doing. I also got some sparkly angelina fiber which I hope will liven up my yarns. I have some great plans for some blended yarns. They will have to wait until my exams are finished though. Real life is getting in the way of doing fun stuff with fiber.