Quick post about an Irish Times mention

I told you all about the Porterhouse award for best Irish beer in this blog post. Now you can read a professional account of the day. John Wilson is the wine correspondent with the Irish Times and his account of the day is here. I think he captured the day well and I thought it was interesting that we all concluded that the bottled versions of many of the beers were better than their draught counter parts.

I'd have to agree with his point that most Irish breweries seem to make the same range of beers and that maybe small quantities of more unusual beers would be the way forward. I think this is certainly true. When Galway Hooker's IPA came along there were was nothing else like it on the Irish micro market and it has achieved great success. Perhaps because the sorts of people who try Irish micro brewed beers are the type who try different beers anyway. So maybe the Irish micros should be more adventurous.

There are signs that this is happening. Sadly study prevented me from making the Franciscan Well beer festival this year. But reports tell me that many great beers have been launched this year including White Gypsy's oak aged imperial stout. I think that definitely qualifies as adventurous. Carlow Brewing have been releasing some cracking new beers including their tasty Easter stout that was part of the Porterhouse competition. There's also Whitewater's new Copperhead ale which was one of my favourites at the competition. The Irish micro brewing scene is definitely in great health. Two new breweries launched at the Franciscan well, Trouble Brewing and Dungarvan Brewing Company. Both are fellow Irish Craft Brewer members. I wish them both well and I hope when all my study is done that I will be able to relax and enjoy their beers over the summer.  

While flicking through the paper I noticed that 9 Bean Row also gets a mention in The Times. Hopefully this will cheer her up as she is stranded away from home due to the volcanic ash.

Surprise yarn and funky phone covers

A wonderful surprise arrived in the post for me this week. The rather wonderful Under Me Oxter ran a fun Easter treasure hunt over on her blog. I searched the blog for clues and ended finding yarny treasure. I came fifth and my prize was two skeins of Debbie Bliss Donegal tweed chunky in red and blue. There were also some yummy chocolate Easter treats in the bag, they didn't survive for very long after this picture was taken. I was secretly hoping I'd win this yarn as I thought it would make some really nice felted slippers. I've been oogling felted slipper patterns since my own slippers gave up the ghost, I think felted slippers would be much cosier. If anyone has any pattern suggestions let me know.

I got a new smartphone for my birthday recently. It's a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 running android and it's fantastic so far. Obviously a fancy phone with a nice screen needs a cover. Being a crafter I couldn't go out and buy a phone cover, I needed to make one. So I dug out these lovely bright blue and green yarns on the left from the stash and set to work.

Mobile phone covers aren't the most environmentally friendly as they're usually made from plastic. An Irish company makes the leaf cover which is biodegradable. I reckon my wooly cover is more eco friendly as not only is wool biodegradable but it's also a renewable resource as well. I happen to think wool looks cooler too. Another advantage is that a wooly cover can be used to clean the phone as well.

It's a simple pattern using single crochet and stripes. The yarn is double knitting Debbie Bliss Prima which is bamboo and merino. I sewed it all up and added a flap. I then added buttons, lots of buttons. I love how it turned out. I must remember the addition of some funky buttons can turn an ordinary project into something really funky.  


A little storm cloud

After my success at the Ravelympics with the Ishbel shawl I decided I wanted to knit another shawl. I had some gorgeous purple mohair boucle yarn from Cushendale woolen mills in my stash. I was on the look out for the perfect shawl pattern that would suit the yarn.  I decided anything too lacey wouldn't show up and I also wanted a quick enough knit.

I think I found the perfect pattern in the storm cloud shawlette. It's a semi-circular shawl that knits up really easily using an elongated garter stitch pattern. To add some interest I decided to use some of the core spun art yarn to add a bit of interest every couple of rows. It's much bigger now than it was in this picture so I should finish it soon. After that my plans for summer knitting include many more shawls.

When I finished the Ishbel shawl I promised I'd take some better pictures of it. The picture of it blocking doesn't do it justice at all what with the mad background of my blue yoga mat. So here it is looking like it's supposed to. I've worn the shawl many times now and I really love it. It's not too big and it's just perfect for keeping the wind out when I wear a coat. There's always the satisfaction of wearing something that you made yourself too.

Michael Jackson award for Irish beer at The Porterhouse

Last week I told you about the Porterhouse independent Irish beer and whiskey festival. As part of the festival the Michael Jackson award for best Irish beer would be decided by a panel of judges. For the second year I was part of the panel along with Sean of Irish Craft Beer and John Wilson, writer with The Irish Times. We settled into a window seat in the Porterhouse Central so that we could get good light much to the amusement of passing tourists, some of whom stopped to puzzle at why three people were drinking beer and writing things down. This year the line up had expanded a bit and the judging was held in two venues, first Porterhouse Central and later Porterhouse Temple Bar.

We started off with ales and tasted most of them in Porterhouse central. There were a lot of fresh hoppy golden ales on show and I really liked them. A lot of work and care has obviously been put in by the brewers recently. An advantage to blind tasting is that you have no preconceptions. If the beer is bad on the day you just mark it as you see fit. As you don't know what the beer is you can't forgive it and mark it up by saying to yourself that it usually tastes good or that it was nice last time you had it. There were one or two ales which weren't so great on the day.

Some of the specialty beers and bottled beers were also tasted in central. These were by and large excellent. One of the bottled beers in particular impressed us beyond anything we had tasted. The second bottled beer was also a cracker with an intensely bitter bite.

We moved on down to the Porterhouse Temple Bar, it was nice to have a break from the tasting to give the taste buds a chance to recover. We had a lovely sunny seat around the old copper kettle on the top floor and awaited the delivery of the next beers. The lagers were first up with only three in the category. The first lager was very tasty and was clearly ahead of the other two. Definitely more flavoursome than macro lager and perfect for a nice summer's day. A prison diet of bread and water kept the palate clean. Our waitress was completely bemused and wondered why we were sniffing the beer. Then she realised we were tasting the beer like wine. She was a great laugh actually.

Stouts were up next and as expected this was tightly contested category. Irish brewers make some fabulous stouts and it was a very close run thing in the end. After this we tasted the last of the speciality beers and finished off the bottled beers.

Our judging sheets were taken away so that the final scores could be added up. We had some excellent food and tried to recover our powers of tasting. Then I waited around for a bit for the press launch of the festival. This year the announcement of the beers of the festival took place with the opening of the festival which was a good idea. I think it makes things easier for customers who might not have tried much craft beer. They can pick out an award winning beer to try out. 


Best Ale: Copperhead by Whitewater
This is a lovely golden hoppy fresh zingy ale. Fabulous.

Best Lager: Amber by White Gypsy
A perfect lager for summer sipping with a nice flavour and bit of bite to it.

Best Speciality: 3 Kings by Franciscan Well
A smokey ale with a nice blur of spices in the background.

Best Stout: Wrasslers XXXX by The Porterhouse
The all conquering wrasslers wins again. It's just a fabulous stout with so much flavour.

Best Bottled: Oyster Stout by The Porterhouse

Overall winner of the Michael Jackson award for best Irish beer: Oyster Stout by The Porterhouse

A surprise for me as I didn't have any idea what this was when I tasted it. I was very impressed with this complex dark stout which looked perfect with a nice tint of red to it. A fabulous nose. It has a complex taste with hints of spices and it impressed us in spades.

Oyster stout in general is something I usually pass over. I really dislike fish and shellfish and I just can't eat seafood no matter how I try. So Oyster stout isn't something I go for on draught as it's quite smooth and not something to get overly excited about. It's completely different when bottled. The smoothing effect of the nitrogen is stripped away leaving you with an altogether more interesting beer. A much more complex and intense beer emerges. I'll be buying a few bottles to keep in the press.

Thanks once again to The Porterhouse for asking me to judge, it was a great day. Judging beer is harder than it seems and it's a good challenge to the palate and taste buds to judge beers against each other blind like this.

Photo courtesy of The Beer Nut.