The ramblings of a Portrush man who loves beer...

Introducing a new blogger for Lacada, one of our co-owners Erol Bucukoglu. It charts his first discovery of Craft Beer...

Ireland, the two beer state - Guinness or Heineken?

I know that's slightly unfair, we have a number of stouts available; Guinness, Beamish and Murphys being the best known, a plethora of lagers and a few red ales. But for me, it's the stout really matters, it’s our national drink, the beer renowned around the world for being Irish.

St Patricks Day, Six Nations rugby, GAA, Summer, Winter; a pint of stout is the finest drink known to man the nectar of gods, brewed in Ireland, perfected in tiny country pubs around the Emerald Isle. Am I getting carried away here?

What makes stout so interesting to me and other stout lovers is the care and pride required to store, pour and serve the perfect pint. It's such an important aspect of the drink that people like me will travel the length and breadth of the country in search of the perfect pint of stout. Points awarded for temperature, time to settle, creamy smooth head and of course taste.

I’ve traveled to the four corners of Ireland in search of the perfect pint, a task I take on all in the name of research although I can hear the cynics now. From the giant hostelries of Dublin, the buzzing pubs of Galway, Cork & Belfast to the unassuming one room pubs of Donegal....I’ve been up mountains, across water, down valleys, well there's a slight exaggeration there but you're getting the drift...

Always in the back of my mind was this overriding desire to establish an out and out winner or at the very least some form of stout league table and whilst this will sound very strange indeed I’m pleased to announce I have achieved neither! As odd as this may sound I found a sort of comfort in my defeat, the pressure was off!

In hindsight this was an impossible task because there are far too many unquantifiable, immeasurable and intangible variables that contribute to the perfect pint. Location, the company, the time of day, the friendliness of the barman, the smell of the peat fire... I could go on and on

So the only possible winner could have ever! As cheesy as this sounds I honestly feel that in my journey to uncover the perfect stout I’ve had the great fortune to meet some lovely, friendly, interesting people who have showed me that community is still alive and kicking across the Isle and the pride locals , young and old hold in their local stout is heartwarming and a reminder that it's not just a drink, it is an embodiment of everything Irish.

Onwards & Upwards

Not one to sit still and not one to be deterred I have now turned to a new challenge. Craft Beer! As a beer lover, it’s a bandwagon I was only too delighted to jump on for the ride. A new kid is in town.

Over the last few years I’ve noticed the number of taps at the bar have slowly been increasing. The fridges behind the bar have been filling up. The colours and advertising in pubs and clubs around Ireland have been changing. Its not a lager, its not a stout or a red ale, it’s a new world order, a movement changing the face of beer.

First developed in America as microbrew in response to the English real ale movement, the craft brewer was initially defined by the American Brewers Association as “small, independent and traditional”; only to be redefined a couple of years later as undefinable. I know I’m paraphrasing but in essence, that’s the beauty of craft beer, its undefinable, just brew what you have to hand and innovate.

Ireland appears to be embracing this new world order. Rising to the challenge, creating newer and tastier beers city to city, town to town, everywhere seems to be brewing beer and it's fantastic!

So, off I go again, I have a new goal! To uncover and hopefully taste as many craft ales as is possible in Ireland in a bid to understand whether we can or even want to break away from being a two beer country and truly embrace craft beer. I know I know, I can hear you now, that man is selfless and all in the name of research.

First Stop - Cork and the monster Rising Sons Brewery; Big beer, Small Batches is their catch phrase and in the Rising Sons on Cornmarket Street you don’t just get to taste the beer but you can see it being made with huge vats capable of brewing 50 kegs of craft ale are the backdrop behind the bar. The only recognisable brand in the pub was Heineken, and the kind lady behind the bar explained that they need to stock Heineken to please the less adventurous lager drinker but in most cases their own Sunbeam Pils will turn even the most ardent Heineken fan to craft beer. A very fine pilsner it was too; crisp, dry with a lovely aftertaste.

The house stout option, Mi Daza, is described as a traditional cork stout originally brewed in the 1850s. I found the beer to be full of flavour and lighter than Guinness which meant I could drink more:-) The house IPA though was my favourite drink of the evening, Handsum IPA it’s called, bursting with hops, not too heavy but with enough body and flavour to send chills down the spine. The amber ale is called Steeple Hemp, a lovely amber colour, rich in malt and hops and again full of flavour.

The lady behind the bar was extremely friendly and so knowledgeable about beer, everything from the process to the ingredients. She could tell me where each of the hops used were grown, the type of hops used, how the flavours are created. An absolute mine of beery information and in the end gave me a couple of rising sons engraved glasses to take home. Now be honest, you don't find much of that these days, it was both impressive and refreshing.

My favourite beer so far? Handsum IPA, but it's early days and I’m going to enjoy this journey.

To be continued….