Category Archives: beer tour

IRISH EXPLORATIONS: 7 FAVOURITE BEERS FROM THE EMERALD ISLAND

Last month, I enjoyed a family vacation in Ireland. We spent two weeks roaming the island, giving me lots of time to explore friendly little pubs, tour breweries, and sample a lot of great beer. Here are my favourites from the trip. You’ll have to be pretty lucky to find most of them in Canada but if you ever visit Ireland, seek them out. Irish craft beers in general are fantastic and these are some of the best I’ve had.
Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale by McGargles Irish Family Brewers in Celbridge, Ireland

About 90 minutes after my feet touched Irish soil, we discovered the Patriots Inn, which instantly became our Dublin base of operations. It required a little negotiation to make the bartender understand that Guinness isn’t mandatory for tourists. Once we got that sorted, she poured this textbook APA: hoppy, crisp, quaffable—just the beer to start our explorations. Older versions of this got brutal online reviews; either McGargles has improved its game, or those reviewers need to chill.

 

Bay Ale by Galway Bay Brewery in Galway, Ireland

I ordered this beer because it was the only thing in the restaurant that wasn’t a Heineken product, and I cringed when it turned out to be a copper ale—a style that I usually dislike. Imagine my delight when it turned out to be aggressively hopped, vigorously carbonated, and surprisingly tasty.

 

Yannaroddy by Kinnegar Brewing in Rathmullan, Ireland

At 4.8% ABV, this coconut porter is an easy sipper. Light but velvety, it’s faintly sweet but not cloying, with a nice dark-malt balance. Well rounded and smooth; beautifully crafted, in an unshowy way. Pairs nicely with a big ol’ pub steak.

 

Maggie’s Leap by Whitewater Brewery in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland

There are so many India Session Ales in the world, and so many of them are thin, fizzy, and tasteless. This one, on the other hand, was hugely hopped, offering a floral nose and big citrus-zest punch in the taste buds. Combines the drinkability of a session ale with the big flavours of a double IPA.

 

Tom Crean’s Irish Lager by Dingle Brewing Company in Dingle, Ireland

This is the only beer this little historic brewery makes, so I expected it to be pretty much perfect, and they didn’t let me down. Light, faintly sweet, and malt-forward. The German-style yeast gives it an unmistakably Bavarian quality. One of my favourite lagers ever.

 

The Sinner by O Brother Brewing in Kilcoole, Ireland

Even in this land of stouts and reds, one sometimes needs a classic American IPA. The Sinner satisfies the craving nicely. It’s carbonated with gusto which, combined with the predominant zesty citrus hops, made it a wonderful quencher after an afternoon of exploring Dublin.

 

Wrasslers XXXX by The Porterhouse Brewing Co. in Dublin, Ireland

Before the trip, I asked folks on Twitter to recommend a must-visit brewery, and the majority picked the Porterhouse brewpub. They didn’t steer me wrong; I tried two flights and every single beer could have made this list. Black as night, with a thick pearl head and lacing for days, this is a classic Irish stout; lip-smackingly dry with lingering black-coffee bitterness.

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Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Austrian Adventure

Last week, my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine took me to the state of Vorarlberg in western Austria. (Read this for background on why I went, and look for my reports from the trip in the magazine this fall.) As you might expect, I seized the opportunity to sample a lot of new beer. I tend to gravitate to IPAs and stouts, so this trip let me explore some styles that I don’t usually take very seriously. (You don’t see many pilsners on my best-beer lists). Read on for my four favourite Austrian brews from the journey, and one unforgettable Belgian bonus.


Mohren Pilsner by Mohrenbrauerei August Huber at the Mohren brewery tasting room in Dornbirn, Austria.
I had an ungodly number of pilsners and this one, sampled at the end of a marathon tasting session at the Mohren brewery, was the best by a wide margin. Light and surprisingly hoppy, clean and refreshing. “This is the beer for fathers to drink,” said our guide. High quality, tasty, and accessible—these sorts of beers are the future of Atlantic Canadian craft brewing.


Wälder Dunkl’s by Brauerei Egg at Gasthof Adler in Krumbach, Austria.
Another happy chance to rediscover a style that I’ve never given much consideration. A beautiful deep amber pour, lively carbonation, roasty notes. Sweet and light, with lingering caramel tones. Paired beautifully with a peppery beef goulash.


Frastanzer Kellerbier Bio by Brauerei Fratanz at Montforthaus in Feldkirch, Austria.
Billed as the state’s first 100% organic beer, this unfiltered little beaut is light and zesty, with just enough sweetness to balance. The quintessential Alpine beer—I could drink it all day. A couple of these are excellent hiking fuel.


Mohren Pale Ale by Mohrenbrauerei August Huber at the Mohren brewery tasting room in Dornbirn, Austria
. After several days of lagers, pilsners, and radlers, I almost swooned when the guide handed me a hoppy APA. Rich floral nose, with a big pop of citrus—smells like a hot day on a tropical island. Dry and bitter, with subtle but persistent piney notes, quaffable but memorable. An excellent take on a style that’s rarely brewed in the region. Fine craftsmanship.


Bloemenbier by De Proefbrouwerij at Schwanen Biohotel in Bizau, Austria.
The restaurant at the Schwanen specializes in organic locally-sourced dishes, and the highlight is the seven-course Wilde Weiber wine-pairing dinner. Host Emanuel Moosbrugger is a drink-pairing wizard; when he heard I was a beer guy, he added something special to the mix. He poured this light and floral Belgian herbed ale alongside the soup course. It perfectly complemented the bright and earthy flavours of the fresh tomato, radish, and daisy soups. I didn’t so much taste the beer as just feel it tingle and explode in my mouth: light, sweet, delicious, tart, salty—and all happened at once. If you’re ever nearby, visit the Schwanen—it’s the kind of culinary experience you’ll brag about for years.

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Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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A Quebec beer adventure

You know you’re in a province with a good beer scene when the gas station has a better craft selection than your local liquor store. Recently, I took a road trip through Quebec’s Gaspé region, and had the chance to explore some of La Belle Province’s fine brews. Read on for my five favourites from the trip. Note: I’m not saying these are Quebec’s best beers; they’re my five favourite discoveries from this trip. Post a comment below to share your favourite Quebec beers.
L’Épiphanie by Brasserie Artisanale La Fabrique in Matane, Quebec. The best thing about a province with a mature and thriving craft-beer scene is that you find great beers in the most expected places. This little brewpub boasts 20+ taps, mostly pouring house-made beers. This tart, light, and refreshing sour is my favourite. Flavourful without being overpowering, and a great pair with an Oktoberfest sausage that I’m still thinking of a week later.

 

Écume by A l’abri de la Tempête in L’Étang-du-Nord, Quebec. My most common review of a pilsner is “Meh, it’s a pilsner” so I’m still amazed at how much I like this Magdalen Islands creation. Slightly grainy and roasty, with a faint briny character: especially tasty with a smoked-salmon mousse.

 

Rosé sparkling cider by Cidrerie Michel Jodoin in Rougemont, Quebec. Man, I wish I’d encountered more ciders on this trip. This rosé-style cider is a big tasty bomb of fresh-apple flavour: slight sweetness balanced with lively acidity, with tart berry and floral notes. Perfect on a summer day by the ocean.

 

La Gaspésienne Robust Porter by Microbrasserie Pit Caribou in Percé, Quebec. Belgian brewers heavily influenced this part of the world, so you don’t see a lot of porters. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make textbook porters. This beauty is dry and bitter, with complementary hints of chocolate, black coffee, and caramel.

 

Chantier Naval – La Carrick by Microbrasserie Le Naufrageur in Carleton-sur-Mer, Quebec. This isn’t just one of my favourite beers from the trip, it’s one of my favourite wee heavies ever. It starts with an explosion of chocolate and toasted nuts, which quickly gives way to smoky whisky flavours and a long warm finish. Beautifully crafted.

 

 

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Belgian Holiday

I knew it was going to be a good trip when I sat down for my first meal and asked the server to suggest a local beer. He quickly rattled off five beers with names I’d never heard of and long and elaborate pedigrees that I couldn’t follow. Then when I ordered my meal, he rescinded all those options, and told me what beer I had to have with my food.

Last week, in my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine, I visited the Flanders region of Belgium and the Arras region of France for a tour of First World War related sites. It was an amazing, moving experience (which you can read more about in the November issue of the magazine) and Europe being the civilized place it is, I tried many, many good beers. In no particular order, here are my five favourites. 

 Papegaei by Brouwerij Verstraete at Restaurant Lettenburg in Diksmuide, Belgium. Created by local gypsy brewer Adam Verstraete, this is a big boozy blonde (8% ABV) with beautifully fresh and floral hops. Verstraete uses fresh hop flowers (rather than pellets or extract) to impart the unique flavours.
 Kriek 100% Lambic by Brasserie Cantillon at Le Poechenellekelder in Brussels, Belgium. I drank so many good krieks on this trip, I could easily give you a Top 5 list featuring nothing but that style. This was the best: light body and lively carbonation, crazy cherry sourness to start, with a subtle sweet finish. Perfect after a long walking tour of Brussels.
 Page 24 Reserve Hildegarde Blonde by Brasserie Saint-Germain at L’estaminet de Lorette in Albain-Saint-Nazaire, France. I was only in France for one day, so I didn’t get to try many local beers, but I’m very grateful to the restaurateur who brought this biere de garde unbidden after seeing me wave away a waiter with Stella. Fruity nose and flavours of fresh-baked bread, with an unexpectedly sweet finish. Paired nicely with a hearty beef stew.

  

Wipers Times 14 by Brouwerij Kazematten at Het Moment in Ieper, Belgium. During the First World War, British troops in the Ypres Salient produced a magazine called The Wipers Times. In the very casements where they took shelter, a local brewery now produces this pale ale. Historical connection aside, it’s a lovely example of a Belgian PA, with floral notes, slight hops, and a nice fruity finish.

  

Liefmans Goudenband by Brouwerij Liefmans at De Fonderie in Ieper, Belgium.
Hands-down, my favourite beer from the trip. This Flanders Oud Bruin style is a beer built for aging (it spends up to a year in the cellar before even leaving the brewery). The restaurant had been aging this bottle for “three or four years.” The result? A huge hit of rhubarb and green-apple aromas, followed by a wave of mouth-puckering flavours with a bit of an oak-barrel quality. Almond and currant flavours to close. I had this with a big steak, and it was life-alteringly good.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and be our friend on Untappd.

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    Drink N Brew Hits The Road!

    IMG_1421This past weekend Matt and Trevor (along with Trevor’s wife, Tammy, as DD – have to be safe) headed out on the road to visit some of the many craft brewers and wineries in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

    The trip was fruitful with several growlers and the consumpsion many samples of fine wares. There was world class Nova Scotia hospitality at every stop along the way and some great food, too. With stops at Meander River Farm & Brewery, Sea Level Brewing, Paddy’s Pub (Wolfville), Bad Apple Brewhouse, Grand Pré Winery, and Avondale Sky Winery it was a great day that is highly recommended.

    Though no one had a bad thing to say about anywhere we visited or anything we drank, both Matt and Trevor agree that the Impresser DIPA from Bad Apple was the highlight. “My favourite beer on this tour was definitely the Impresser from Bad Apple,” says Trevor. “When I saw the high IBUs and alcohol, I was expecting a mouth-puckering hop bomb, but it was really well balanced and easy to drink — excellent craftsmanship.” And for the record that is 10.2% ABV and a whopping 300 IBU (calculated).

    The most surprising thing for Matt was the winery visits that were not even originally in the plan (thanks Tammy for “making” us go). “Both were nice, but Avondale Sky was a beautiful site in a converted church,” Matt says. “The staff there were so friendly and knowledgable. They knew we were ‘beer geeks’ and not usual wine drinkers and were able to make the experience wonderful.”

    All around it was a great day.
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