Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Polly Takes Some Beer...

My last blog post was written in response to a posting on my Facebook page by one of my cyber pals who has been lucky enough to have been nominated for the Most Beautiful Website award over at the Realex Irish Web Awards 2009. While I am personally not mad into award ceremonies and the like, no doubt I'd not refuse if offered, I do find the lists of nominees spectacularly interesting and indeed useful.

One such nominee, in several categories, is the Irish Craft Brewer. This is certainly a new website for me and one which really caught my eye. You see, in the absence of decent Guinness in the UK some twenty or so years ago I developed a keen interest in Real Ale. This is also known as Craft Ale in some circles, hence my keen eye noting the presence of the Irish Craft Brewer in several categories!

Sadly there are few craft breweries, which is what we call real ale breweries in Ireland, North or South of the border. Craft breweries are so called because they make proper old fashioned beer using old fashioned techniques and recipes. Craft Beer or Real Ale is beer produced by small craft breweries and it's lovely! Well, that is if you really like your beer...

As regular readers have probably realised by now I am fussy about certain things, chocolate, tea, coffee, perfume, wine, cheese and beer! I like to drink my Guinness at cellar temperature and not chilled to within an inch of its life, the same goes for chocolate and cheese. I also hate fizzy drinks

Perfume has to be a natural concoction bereft of all modern synthetic additives, from the old world, so has DG's aftershave cologne and my Mitchum deodorant. I've been known to give away huge bottles of expensive perfume - just to make sure no one uses them in the house (retchhhhhhhhhh!). I also use Eco-balls for doing my washing and Ecover for really grubby washing and anything else around the house and won't shop if the scent of the detergent section is noticeable!

Indian or Asian food has to be free of food colourants and preserved garlic is an absolute no-no. Archer's Peach Schnapps is a diabolical creation followed by all other false peach flavoured things, and yet I love peaches. Neurofen gives me asthma, it gives my Mum the runs and my Grandmother was allergic to the stuff. I avoid saccharine and aspartame like the plague and after decades of Weight Watchers I cannot eat low fat spread or anything remotely like it. (Well I could if I really had to, I suppose. :( )

When I'm pregnant I can abide the smell of coffee, beer or even my favourite perfumes, one of which I haven't worn for sixteen years! I crave meat, ice-cream, avocado's and of course all things laden with potential Listeriosis and vitamin A poisoning. While pregnant I eat little and often and lose weight rather than put it on (?) probably due to the incredibly healthy diet my body forces me to eat!

So, if I'm so fussy what is it I like about Real Ale then? I guess it's a number of things, from the presentation ie glass bottles or hand pumps, the fact that it's not hugely mass produced, the flavour, the fact that it is not fizzy and also that it is best served at room temperature. Unfortunately, like all beers it is fattening which is in no small part due to its high alcohol temperature.

To quote the CAMpaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)

"What is Real Ale?

Real ale is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.

Brewers use ingredients which are fresh and natural, resulting in a drink which tastes natural and full of flavour. It is literally living as it continues to ferment in the cask in your local pub, developing its flavour as it matures ready to be poured into your glass.

Real ale is also known as ‘cask-conditioned beer’, ‘real cask ale’, real beer’ and ‘naturally conditioned beer.’

The term ‘real ale’ and the above definition were coined by CAMRA in the early 1970s."

Old favourites of mine have been Tanglefoot, Speckled Hen, Bishop's Tipple, Flower's (especially nice when well kept!), London Pride (smells like bilge water - doesn't taste like it tho'), Hob Goblin, IPA, Fuller's 1845, Summer Lightening, ESB (Exra Special Bitter not Electricity Supply Board), Theakston's Old Peculiar, Marston's Bitter and the like. Occasionally I can buy one or two of them in the local Tesco's but there's not really much of a market for them.

During the intervening years, since then and now a number of breweries faced extinction, I do however remember the hue and cry at the threatened closure of Ringwood Brewery way back in the nineties, with beers like Old Thumper and Forty-Niner at threat of disappearing altogether
Sadly I've forgotten the crazy names of so many craft beers, these days I content myself with what I can get and generally on very special occasions! I haven't yet brewed my own...

For more information on this subject I would heartily recommend both The Irish Craft Brewer and CAMRA as both of these sites contain a wealth of knowledge. Meanwhile, if you would like to sample some Irish craft ales why not go along to SeptemberFest 2009 at Farmleigh, in the Phoenix Park? Sample Galway Hooker (very nice) and a handful of other worthy exhibits.

Entry is free, but I would strongly advise that you arrange transportation home and don't even think about driving. Real ale is hearty stuff and generally has a high alcohol content, sometimes as high as 8% compared with other lesser beers.

Don't forget that there are safe limits on drinking alcohol. My advice is that to avoid long term damage stick well within the recommended limits of 14 u per week for women and 21 units per week for men.

Drink Sensibly, Drink Aware!

Polly Pierce

Hand Made Irish Greeting Cards

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