Category: Irish beer & cider


Culture File: Paul McLaughlin of Kelvin Cooperage

By trade I was a cooper, lost out to redundancy Like my house that fell to progress, my trade’s a memory… The Rare Ould Times by Pete St John Our teacher wrote that song on the blackboard, the class reading aloud as his chalk moved across the grey surface. We got stuck at the word cooper so he had to pause and explain. Growing up in Ireland during the 1980s, we clearly understood redundancy, along with the demolition and despair of the next line. At a presentation by Paul McLaughlin of Kelvin Cooperage, during the recent International Craft Brewing and Distilling Convention in Dublin, that song kept running through my head as he spoke of how his trade is flourishing. I interviewed him for Lyric FM’s Culture File – producer Luke Clancy couldn’t resist adding in Roll out the Barrel! – and he told me how the boom in the craft brewing industry is facilitating this rejuvenation. I’ve had first hand experience of this. Earlier this year at the brewery, we released Kindred Spirit, a limited edition stout which had been aged in 25-year-old whiskey barrels from the Teeling Whiskey Company. Did they come all the way from the Kelvin Cooperage? I’m not sure, but...

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Fermentation, beer (and porter brownies) at the Theatre of Food

Last year, I spent August doing beer tasting and cooking demos with the Theatre of Food at the Liss Ard, Tall Ships and Electric Picnic Festivals. Do it again for Electric Picnic 2013? Once more, with feeling. And fermentation, beer,  amazake and – couldn’t deprive festival goers of some (fermented) chocolate – Knockmealdown Porter Brownies. Junko Hamilton (check her out on Ichiju Sansai), who I recently interviewed about miso, was my partner in crime and we had great fun doing our demo on the sweet side of fermentation. We had tastings of the light – Junko’s creamy, non-dairy amazake fruit shake – and the dark: the richest, most luscious, still warm and just-out-of-the-oven Knockmealdown Porter Brownies. Those were matched with both Sunburnt Irish Red and Knockmealdown Porter Hats off to the Theatre of Food crew, who managed to put together a brilliant line up of chefs and cooks and brewers and bakers and paella-makers to feed the audience with ideas and food. Loved Kevin Aherne’s talk on the 12-mile menu that he cooks at Sage in Midleton as he cooked all kinds of goat, Kevin Thornton’s take on campsite cooking (mint tea for couscous re-hydration and post-EP antioxidants) and the standing ovation...

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Epic Chocolate, Porter and Potato Cake and a story of spuds

I didn’t eat potatoes until I was 30. Not voluntarily at least. Like almost every other Irish child I was weaned on milk-and-butter-rich pandy. But it wasn’t too long before I began to assert an early and over-developed sense of self by turning up my nose at that potato purée. And so we waged a war, potatoes and I. The battle lines were drawn. On one side: the spuds, my mother and her fear that I would starve myself to death; the other, a furiously determined, curly-haired little girl. Night after night, potatoes tasted of bitterness, the stinging salt of tears, as I picked holes in the oil cloth to avoid looking at my congealing dinner plate. My mother did the washing up, my lucky potato-eating siblings already inside in front of the telly. And I had to sit there. It wasn’t a method calculated to make this stubborn child bend. For years, I avoided Ireland’s favourite vegetable; I had no interest in Kerr’s Pinks nor Golden Wonders. Homeguard and Roosters were but vague names that were invoked around the dinner table at specific times of the year. Ironically, I learned more about potato varieties while doing my Masters on the...

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Summertime beer: Sunburnt Irish Red and Elderflower Ice Pops

It had to be done. The sun – sun! – was shining all the time, the forecast was saying crazy things like “exceptionally warm, sunny period with temperatures in the high twenties”, I had carved out a corner of the freezer to make ice pops for the girls – and there was a bottle of beer staring me in the face. A Sunburnt Irish Red, to be precise. And, right next to it, was the last little bit of 2013 elderflower cordial. Who could resist?               Sunburnt Irish Red and Elderflower Ice Pops  You don’t really need a recipe for this one, just some good quality beer and elderflower cordial. Depending on the strength of the cordial, you might need a little more. Just make sure that it tastes good and strong before you freeze it as freezing dulls some of the flavour. Not the alcohol though – these ice pops are strictly for grown ups! 180mls Sunburnt Irish Red ale 25-30mls elderflower cordial Ice pop – or popsicle – moulds. Mine are a set of 4 x 50mls.  Measure beer. Pour in cordial. Mix well. Taste. Consider. Realise that it needs another tasting.  Fill...

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Spiced Sweet and Savoury Popcorn: Buttered Maple and Cinnamon Popcorn; Smoked Paprika and Parmesan Popcorn

How important is ritual? I’ve come to realise that, for small people, it is essential. It’s their way of marking the weeks that pass on a calender that they don’t yet understand. In a cottage that has no time for organised religion, especially of the Catholic variety, we make our own simple rituals, often revolving around food. For the Husband and his four sisters, childhood Sunday supper was always egg-in-an-eggcup. Once discovered, this was a meal that I seized upon. Easy to scale up or down for kids of any age, with minimal preparation and washing up, part of the deal is the fact that he makes it. Plenty of sourdough toast soldiers, some cheese from Saturday’s market visit, oranges or apples to finish and it’s a wholesome antidote to any weekend of feasting. This meal, in Little Missy’s mind, has become inextricably linked with the family sitting down to Sunday night popcorn and a film. I only discovered how important this was when we were in New Zealand and I had to make sure we had a supply of corn at the ready to follow the boiled egg! Freshly from the pan and warm, popcorn is good already, but...

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Irish red ale: Spiced Chocolate Ale Cake

Every year, about this time, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing about stout. Guinness, to name a particular well-marketed brand. But you don’t just have to go for the obvious option if you’re looking for a St Patrick’s Day beverage. Red ale is another traditional Irish style and the reds being produced by microbreweries across Ireland are a little bit more interesting than the generally over-chilled black stuff on offer. This style is characterised by sweet caramel malt, given an edge with some burnt barley. Show me words like that and I think baking and cakes and chocolate and, perhaps, a little spice. I get to play with the remainder of the special Green Saffron spice blend that Arun made for A Winter’s Ale and, while I would recommend you searching out his regular mixed spice for this cake, if you can’t get your hands on that, just make sure your spices are fresh before you use them. I used Eight Degrees’ Sunburnt Irish Red for this but there are plenty of Irish reds that you can seek out and try in this recipe – check out Rebel Red, Porterhouse Red, Dungarvan’s Copper Coast and O’Hara’s Irish Red. Whether you cook with it or...

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2012: a year of Irish craft beer

2012 was the year of beer. And that year involved a hell of a lot of talking and tasting and discovering and cooking with Irish craft beer. There were beer tasting events and beer pairing dinners from Donegal to Kilkenny, at Inishfood, Savour Kilkenny and with The Supper Club Project. There were childhood food memories and Porter Cake on a big blue bus at the Dingle Food Festival. And there was the Theatre of Food which let me take my Irish craft beer baking, matching and tasting demo on the road for the Liss Ard Festival, Dublin Tall Ships and the Electric Picnic. In fact, the whole idea of free beer at EP – I was there with Eight Degrees Brewing along with Claire from the Dungarvan Brewing Company – plus the chocolatly aroma of baking brownies wafting from the Theatre of Food tent almost caused a stampede at the end of our presentation. The still-warm beer brownies, washed down with some Knockmealdown Porter, were put out on plates and hoovered up by an audience that suddenly seemed to increase three-fold. No waste. Lots of fun. And some very good beer.   On tour with the Theatre of Food – Festival Food, by...

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Snapshots: The Supper Club Project, Seasons Supper Club

Take a venue – it doesn’t have to be a restaurant, but decent kitchens make a difference – a limited time span and some nomadic chefs. What have you got? A pop-up-restaurant-tastic November with The Supper Club Project, Seasons Supper Club, the first Merrion Square Supper Club event and the Parlour Games pop-up dinner party all taking place over a few weekends. After a bit of babysitter finagling, I managed to make it to two nights – The Supper Club Project at Ariel House in Dublin on 2 November and Seasons Supper Club, which took place at Fenns Quay Restaurant in Cork on 16 November. The Supper Club Project is run by former l’Ecrivain husband and wife duo John Wyer and Sandy Sabek. On the night, John was in the kitchen, Sandy whizzing around front-of-house and John Rock of Kavanaghs was on hand to match Irish craft beer and cider with each course. I was representing Eight Degrees Brewing, Daniel Emerson was there with his Stonewell Cider and Trouble Brewing‘s Dark Arts Porter also made an appearance. One of my favourite things about this kind of meal is who you meet, especially when you turn up as a solo diner. It was a long night – kicking off...

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