The Blood Of Revolution


Legendary Brewer Rossa O’Neill Announces the Winners. Picture by @galwaybrewers


Ireland has just had its first full scale, multi category brewing competition. Organised by the National Homebrew Club, there were about 350 entries over 8 categories. I managed to enter all but the Cider/Perry category, and some of my results shall forevermore be passed over in silence (my Weiss got such a low score it must have exploded in the judges’ faces).

Nonetheless, my well hopped American Amber beer won first place in the Pale Ales and IPAs (BJCP Styles 8,10,14)! I was told it was one of the largest categories, with over 90 entries, so I’m quite delighted. I called it “The Blood of Revolution”, since it was quite red, and it reminded me of the famous quotation from Thomas Jefferson, that

“Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.”

All the organisers and stewards from the NHC did a great job, and although I had to leave just before the announcements, I’ve been told there are some goodies from Eight Degrees waiting for me, so thanks to them for sponsoring that category! Congrats to Reuben from with his silver medal winning “Dark Stranger”, I remember drinking an ancestor of it (Cloaked Stranger) many moons ago at an ICB homebrewers’ meetup. It was narrowly pipped to the Stout Gold Medal by the eventual overall winner, Belfast Brewer Chris Todd.

In any case, for those of you who are interested, here is the recipe, it’s not too busy or complicated. Using such a large proportion of crystal malt was something of an experiment, and I mashed at a middling temperature to reduce the potential heaviness. Although the IBU should theoretically be near 80, I don’t think it was, since the Green Bullet I used were a little old, and not vacuum stored. The Cascade and Galaxy were also old, but well stored so I expect they contributed less IBU than the calculations supposed. The Citra however, was straight off the bine! I dry hopped twice in the corny keg, I removed the first dry hop bag after 5 days and added the second. Obviously your water treatment is your own business, but I went for a fairly balanced chloride/sulfate addition on the calcium front.

"The Blood Of Revolution" OG 1.060  FG 1.017

Pale Ale Malt  59%
Crystal 60L    26%
Munich Malt    15%

Mash at 65C 60 mins

Green Bullet, 60 mins for 40 IBU
Galaxy, 15 mins for 35 IBU
Cascade, 2.5G/L 5 mins
Cascade  2.5G/L Steep

British Ale/Ringwood Yeast (WLP005)

Citra Dry Hop 3G/L 5 days
Citra Dry Hop 2G/L 3 days

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Antwerp is just a short railway jaunt from Brussels, where I often find myself these days, and last Saturday we headed off on a little day trip to meet the ‘Twerps (we never called them that so I’m not sure whether they find it acceptable or not). Arriving in Antwerp is pretty spectacular, it has one of the most beautiful railway stations I have been in. Walking in to the city it became apparent that it’s a pretty trendy city, there were a lot of design shops, and their

‘Twerp Choppers

city bikes are this excellent cross between a BMX and a chopper with the high handles. It’s like they have a city council stuffed with hipsters. Added to that, there were almost as many people riding fixies as there are back at home.

The main square rivals Brussels (and any in Europe I’ve been in) for beauty, plus it has a fountain in the middle which features a beheaded giant, and the water spout feature is cunningly used to recreate the blood spewing forth from his neck. Cute! The beer in Antwerp is local brew, De Koninck Belgian Pale Ale, which is a reddish coloured beer, but with enough bitterness to make it a bit of a quaffer. It seemed pretty popular, it’s always nice to see a local beer hold its own. I found it quite nicely balanced, and if I lived in Antwerp I’d have no problem with it being my everyday drinker.

Signs in the Oude Arsenaal

Beyond the workingman’s delights of De Koninck though, I checked out two speciality bars, the Oud Arsenaal, and Kulminator. Oud Arsenaal is a lovely little bar, it seemed to draw more of a local crowd than a tourist one, plus, it’s very much an afternoon bar. It opens until 22.00 on Friday, but on Saturday it closes at 19.30. On Monday and Tuesday it’s closed. It’s a relatively small bar, square, open, with the walls covered in tin beer ads. It had a couple of taps, among them Rodenbach, but I decided to go for the ‘huis’ beer (unspecified), just for fun. It turned out to be a lovely drink, it had the spicy caramel sweetness that I associate with many American beers, but, it well enough hopped as to produce a very pleasing beer, with a really rich mouthfeel, full of caramel but not cloying. We didn’t have time for another, but I asked the barman what it was before I left. He told me it was Troubadour ‘Special Belge’. Some years back, the bar asked Troubadour to brew an old recipe that used to be brewed by a now defunct brewery attached to the Oud Arsenaal. It was successful, and Troubadour released it as ‘Special Belge’. I hadn’t heard of ‘Troubadour’ before, so I took him up on the offer of a four-pack of different Troubadours for €7.50. Why not? (but more on that in another post).

The Kulmination (Boom!) of our evening in Antwerp

We made our way to legendary bar ‘Kulminator’, which appears at the top of all of the nerd-sites, for what that’s worth. I can see why, it’s a beer-nerd’s paradise. Their speciality is aged beers, such as particular vintages of Lambic beer and Trappists. But at the prices, I’d rather just wait it out. I had an Oerbier instead. While I was perusing the magnificent beer list, a Belgian teenager flicked a Westvleteren cap on to the menu in my hand. I looked up, slightly taken aback. “Very good beer” he confided. “Very expensive beer”, I returned. “Yes, but it’s my favourite”. I couldn’t resist. “Oh, do you drink it often”, I asked? Chortles from his companions. They asked me where I was from. “Dublin”, I replied. “Ah”, nodded one of them, before sagely adding, “England”. A third one apologised that his friend’s geography was not great. No, nor his politics, I thought.

Kulminator is higgledy-piggledy place, with tables strewn about, hops dangling from the roof, and crates of beer stacked everywhere. I don’t think they had any sort of food. Their selection is almost paralysis-inducing though, it’s cosy, and the proprietress was very friendly. I’ll certainly be back.


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Carbonade Flamande (food recipe)

Here is a short report of one of the nicest dishes I’ve made in a while, perfect for cold and dark evenings. My girlfriend has moved to Brussels, so I’ve been spending a lot of time here, and I was keen to cook something local.  Carbonade Flamande is a Flemish speciality (as the name suggests), and it’s basically a beef and oignon casserole, with a nice rich Belgian beer forming part of the sauce. It’s also a simple dish that uses beer very nicely. Stews are an inexact science, so it’s a little made up, but the following quantities are about right. For the beer, I have used  Westmalle, they’re cheap here but you may balk at using a bottle of that at home. Anything dark and not too bitter will work, Leffe Brune is fine, Chimay is often cheap enough, even a porter will work, and in any case something similar to this is done at home (Ireland) in a beef and stout stew.

Westmalle, It’s a cooking beer, really.

You’ll need the following ingredients

500g Stewing Beef (this is a slow cooker. Chuck, Shoulder, Blade, all sorts of cuts are used by the Belgians, and their cuts are different to ours so I’m not sure what exactly I got at the butcher). Cut into 1 inch cubes.

100g Salt Pork – Rashers will do, but preferably something thicker, it’s nice to have this in relatively large cubes (1cm). Pancetta would be good here, the key is to have something fatty to keep everything moist.

2 or 3 onions, halved and then sliced thin along the length

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

3 shallots, chopped

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp vinegar

1 tsp thyme

2 bay leaves

300g Veal stock (veal is traditional, but beef or whatever will do)

330ml dark Belgian beer

pinch of flour

knob of butter

dash of oil

2 tsp plain flour

Stale Bread


Ok here goes. First set the oven to about 160/170c.  Fry the cubes of salt pork/bacon/pancetta/whatever in a little oil until they have a bit of colour and the fat starts to go translucent. Set them aside in a bowl. Now brown the cubes of beef in a pan, and set them aside, with whatever liquid has come out of them.

Next, take a fairly heavy pot. Heat a lump of butter and a little oil, and fry the onions and shallots. When they are starting to cook, add a tsp of sugar, to help them caramelise. As they’re getting brown, add the chopped garlic. Once they are a golden brown colour, deglaze the pan with the vinegar and turn off the heat. Add the thyme and bay leaves, return all the meat to the pot (sprinkle about 2 tsp of plain flour on the meat first), add the stock, and the beer. Mix it around, and stick a lid on it, or some tin foil if you don’t have a lid. Pop it in the oven for 2.5 – 3 hours. Check it once in a while to make sure it’s not getting too dry, if it is, add a little water. With about an hour to go, taste the casserole and season with salt and pepper if needed (depending on what bacon you used it could be salty enough already). Slice the stale bread in to thick rounds, spread some mustard on each one, and sit on top of the mixture. They will soak up some of the juice, and bake on the top of the casserole, forming a delicious mustardy crust. This dish is traditionally served with potatoes, steamed, or perhaps mashed. Perfect dark-day comfort food.

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The future looks Epic (Guest Post)

*What follows is a Guest Post from my associate, here known only as Dr. K, who, taking time out from receiving the normal type of scoop, received a scoop of the journalistic kind. If you’re all nice to him he may even get off his backside and start his own blog. His views in some ways represent my own, but it wouldn’t be safe to assume so in all cases- Stoutfellow*

First off what a great honour and privilege to be offered a guest post on Ireland’s premier beer blog!! Whoop, totes amazeballs.

 Hot off the press from a source close to Luke Nicholas, Founder/Head brewer Epic Brewery, is the exciting news that at last EPIC will soon be available in Ireland. The first bottles are due to hit Redmond’s, Ranelagh. The exact date is unconfirmed but it should be soon. I am, however, slightly terrified by what the Irish list price will be.

Redmonds perhaps? 

 So big deal, another foreign brewery with an expensive hoppy beer? Well yes, of course. But also, definitely, no. Epic as the name suggests strive for “big aromas, flavours and taste in the beers.” We get so many UK and American beers, and a spattering of beers from Europe, many excellent, many pretty forgettable. So far I’ve been extremely impressed by Epic’s beer. I’m sure there are many blogs out there telling you what they taste like if you’re into other people’s tasting notes, knock yourself out. Or, even better, wait and try it for yourself and make up your own mind!

All the beers I’ve tried from Epic have been well thought out and executed perfectly. With that in mind it’s probably no surprise that Kelly Ryan joined Epic when he returned home to New Zealand, or that Sam Calagione has collaborated with Nicholas (Portamarillo).

 I’m also pleased to see Epic arrive here because (in my mind) I hope it will be a spur to some of our burgeoning Irish micros to not be afraid to make a properly tasty beer and push the boundaries for Irish beer; And I don’t mean copying Diogenes, making a [Galway] Hooker clone or another stout. Please, a distinctive, clean, well crafted consistent beer with bags of flavour. But that’s another issue and the soon to be Dr. Stoutfellow will have to redact this if I’m not careful.

So rejoice more super beer hitting the shelves soon! Whoop whoop!


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Ikea trial jar!


Homebrewers! Jazz up your homebrewery with this stunning trial jar* from Ikea! Made from hand blown glass!

*for some reason they market it as a ‘vase’, but it is a trial jar, rest assured.


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Yeast Slants

Slant City

This bank holiday evening I finally got around to slanting some yeast that had I sat aside in the fridge. My normal practice when I get a new yeast vial is to pitch all but a few ml, that’s all I need to create a few slants. Tonight I slanted yeast for Wit, Saison, Belgian Abbey, California Ale,  ‘Denny’s Favourite 50’ and Czech Budojevice Lager.  Let’s hope they all take!

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Recipes: Wit and Saison

Saison Label

Here are two of my recent brews, two excellent summer styles, both of which turned out really well, and just as I had hoped. First a Belgian style Wit (white), and also another Belgian style, a Saison.

When I was developing both of these I took inspiration from two excellent books: Stan Hieronymous’ Brewing with Wheat  for the Wit, and Phil Marowski’s Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition for the Saison.

First up, the Wit. Wits are white beers, the most common one around is Hoegaarden. They are white because they’re very pale, and cloudy. This is mostly due to the use of raw wheat, unlike German wheat beers, which tend to use malted wheat. I think the raw wheat makes Wits a little sharp, and less bready than their German cousins. somewhere around 40% wheat or even more is normal for this style, the rest is generally a pale type of malt. I used Bairds Lager malt. For the wheat I used simple rolled wheat flakes which are used in baking, and you can probably get them in a health food shop. I also added some oats, for a bit of body and head, it was recommended in the book. This style tends to have very little hop character, so I bittered to only about 14 ibu with Marynka, the Polish Saaz related hop.

36L     ‘Infantile Wit’    OG 1.042  85% efficiency    4.3% abv

Grain: 3 KG Lager Malt, 1.5 KG Flaked Wheat, 1 KG Wheat Malt, 250G Porridge Oats

Hops Etc: 25G Marynka  60 mins, 7G Fresh Orange Zest 5 mins, 15 Chamomile Flowers 5 mins.

Yeast: White Labs ‘Belgian Wit’ (WLP400)

Other: Water treated with Acid Malt (in mash) (150G) to acidify, and 15G Calcium Chloride (in mash), 5G Gypsum (in water).

This beer has turned out very refreshing, dry, (it finished just below 1.010), though I would add a little more chamomile next time as it is barely perceptible, this may change after bottle conditioning for a few weeks.

My second beer is a Saison. The beer is supposed to be dry and refreshing, and not too strong, though nowadays some examples are reasonably strong. It was made on farms in Belgium and used to quench the thirst of the seasonal workers, which is the origin of the name. I modelled mine on Dupont’s saison, which is something of a classic in the style. The name is a nod to Brasserie à Vapeur’s Saison de Pipaix  , another favourite. I used the Slovakian hop ‘Dana’, since it is a variant of Styrian Goldings, which are a classic for this style. I used a yeast that is supposedly originally from the Dupont brewery.

34L  ‘Saison de Richaix’  OG 1.057   90% efficiency, 6.5% abv

Grains: 7KG Pilsner Malt

Hops: 20G Dana 60 mins, 25G Dana 30 mins, 40G Dana 5 mins

Yeast: White Labs ‘Belgian Saison I’ (WLP565)

Other notes: I mashed low, at 65c, so this beer would dry out. The mash was treated with 5g each calcium chloride and gypsum. I added 150g acid malt to the mash to adjust the ph. I fermented extremely high, at temperatures well in excess of 30c, in fact, at 33c for the first 24 hrs. FG reached 1.008

Unlike other yeasts, 565 thrives at these temperatures. It feels wrong, but you have to try it. The beer is neither hot nor estery as you might imagine, rather it is full of lemon and spice, complimented by the lemony/herb flavour that I have found Dana tends to provide. Tasty summer beers, now all we need is a sunny spell!

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