The 4th annual Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair was held in the lovely surroundings of the Dublin Convention Centre over the weekend of 5th to 7th February.
The event is partly the pet project of the Dundalk born – colourful and charismatic President of Alltech – Dr Pearse Lyons – who is currently building a whiskey distillery in James Street Dublin.
The opening Friday evening at the fair saw a new world record being set!
729 beer tasters together in the same venue got themselves into The Guinness World Records Book – a fantastic achievement!
Meanwhile I made my 2nd visit to the show on Sunday – where a few rough heads were about after all the festivities. Despite being dominated by the rise in craft beer – cider and food stalls – there was a sprinkling of spirit distillers present to make it a worthwhile event to attend.
On entering the grand atrium – there was the welcome addition of a beer garden behind the ticket stalls. I did find the lack of a suitable space for drinkers to sit and chat over their tipples a bit of a problem last year – but thankfully this has been overcome. I enjoyed a long chat with various show attendees in this area.
The Nephin Whiskey Distillery had a large stand before you entered the main hall. Unlike a lot of the new upcoming distilleries – Nephin have chosen not to go to a 3rd party supplier to release a whiskey before their own stocks have matured. To offset the financial cost this imposes – they have opened a working cooperage where you can see the skill involved in making wooden whiskey barrels by master cooper John. Barrels – casks and other wooden products can be made to order and supplied for your needs. John was on show over the weekend but sadly I missed the demonstration – I’ll maybe pay him a visit soon!
Inside the hall proper I wondered around to get my bearings. There were lots of familiar brands and faces behind the stalls – but a new one caught my attention. Jenlain from France inspired me with their enthusiasm and I couldn’t leave without a glass of Jenlain Or which was a lovely strongly flavoured ale at 8% – very nice.
But I was meant to be here for the whiskey!
Ah well – onto the next stall – Blacks of Kinsale – arch brewers of strongly hopped ales – but what was that at the front of their heavily award laden hand pumps? – a clear bottle of spirit?
Partly persuaded by the cheerful chatty staff I accepted the offer of a shot of moonshine. Yes – you heard that right – moonshine. Blacks have decided to get into the distilling game and in the process of developing a gin – which was launched at the fair – they also experimented with a corn based moonshine.
I was expecting a sharp alcohol burn up my nose on the 1st sniff – but instead got a sweet smell of well – corn. The taste was also surprisingly smooth and palatable.
Goodness! I’ve had more burn from a cheap 40% blend than this moonshine at 50%!
This drink defied all my preconceived notions – so much so that when I bumped into friends and acquaintances later in the day – I just had to drag them back to Blacks to show them.
Trouble is – it’s a limited release and going fast. I’m just glad I got the chance to sample it. So Blacks don’t just know how to make a decent pint – they also do a decent shot too!
My 1st actual whiskey of the day was provided by St Patrick’s Distillery where I was reassuringly reacquainted with the wonderfully spiced finish of their Oak Aged Irish Whiskey.
Opposite St Patrick’s was The Town Branch Whiskey Lounge where the tasty trio of Town Branch Bourbon – Town Branch Rye and Pearse Lyons Reserve from the Alltech distillery in Lexington – Kentucky – graced the shelves.
I opted for my drink of choice when it comes to American whiskey – Rye. The soft nose – complex taste and lingering spicy finish welcomed me back into it’s fold yet again. I even convinced Barry from the previous stall to try it – surprisingly smooth for a 50% expression!
Barry in turn convinced me to try out a whiskey aged cider from the Dan Kelly stall.
Now I’ve had a few whiskey aged beers in my time – Ola Dubh being my favourite – and I’ve tasted Jameson’s Caskmate beer barrel aged whiskey along with Tullamore DEW’s cider cask release – which I rated quiet highly in a blind tasting I did last year – but I’ve not had a whiskey aged cider before!
A glass was duly ordered – together with a Beef & Stout pie from Skoffs -and I made my way to the beer garden to enjoy them both with a bit of a chat with fellow drinkers.
The pie went down well – and so too did the dry apple cider. But I didn’t detect the whiskey influence. Others at the table did however – so maybe my palate had just been blasted by the shots I’d previously consumed! An interesting combination nonetheless – the more innovation and experimentation in the drinks industry to come up with new tastes and flavours the better in my book.
After my repast – I got waylaid by bumping into friends and acquaintances so didn’t get to call in on the Dingle Distillery – Ruby Blue or Muldoon stands showcasing their vodka – gin and liqueur products.
I did get drawn back to my drink of the day – Blackmoon XXX moonshine from Blacks of Kinsale. I had a couple more – along with a tasty sushi – and merrily made my way back to the train station for my journey home.
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