Last Friday I found myself wandering the great, blue sky bathed, City of Dublin. I was in Town for a concert and with a few hours to spare before the doors of the venue opened, I was dandering along O’Connell Street in search of an attractive watering hole. I wasn’t alone on my travels, yet had been left to my own devices by my better half, who on arriving in the City had decided that although I was keen to visit St James Gate, the Jameson Factory or even Temple Bar, we should in fact head to the City Centre.
That’s where Penny’s department store is located and the lure of cheap clothes and even cheaper underwear, a 1 euro bra anyone?, was too great to pass up.
‘The full Boar crew’ brut dry IPA at 6.2% from Hillstown Brewery in Randalstown, N Ireland
IPA was the first style of craft beer I ever tried, back when I considered anything with the word Ale to be the drink of choice for old codgers in the North of England.
With age comes wisdom & IPA as my gateway to the world of craft is still a favourite of mine.
Hillstown latest bottled beer (been available on draught since Sept 18) is brewed in the dry champagne style for which it shares the name, Brut
It’s an IPA that has such strength & depth of flavour that it would take 3/4 similar IPA’s from lesser craft producers to compare to the mouth feel of this one. In fact it tastes like you may have already had a few of these after draining only half the pint. That is of course a compliment, not so much a result of the strength but the generous Hop count
Although the super dry style is on trend, which is a term expected from the hipsters, my personal preference means I remain a Squealing Pig fan.
Full Boar is a full beer & I’m off in search of a second opinion, by that I mean a pint on draught
The beer sampled was provided courtesy of Hillstown Brewery. No reward, financial or otherwise was offered for review
Sour beer, oh dear!
It always strikes me as being more of an acquired taste than even that famous Irish porter ever was, to me at least. I have tried maybe three didn’t flavours from three different breweries and I’m not a fan, even in the slightest
Dilemma is, I’m a fan of Hillstown Breweries other beers. So when I was offered the opportunity to sample this new release I was keen to be involved and conscious of my New Year resolution from 1997, ‘try new things’
That’s how I find myself staring at a pint of The Blueberry Badger Parade
1st sip - I don’t like this
2nd sip - see above..
3-24 - internal battle
And then it was done
By the end of the glass there is something strangely moreish about this sour, the tartness which i found almost overpowering at the beginning has somewhat mellowed to be more of a side effect on the palate as the blueberry begins to burst through.
I’m beginning to think sours may have a place on my bar, possibly as an intro beer before introducing something a little easier to sustain over a session. That may seem dismissive to some, but it’s a major leap from my previous stance on this type of beer
Weighing in at 3.5% this is a lower ABV sour but that shouldn’t be misread as weak, it certainly isn’t. The blueberry & gin soaked juniper berries ensure It has a full vibrant flavour
Well done Hillstown! You may have just converted me.
*my bottle of beer was kindly provided by Hillstown Brewery! No reward, financial or otherwise was offered or implied for a favourable review*
*if I thought it was shit, I would have said so
My 28 booze free days ended on March 17th, not only St Patrick’s day but the day I got bottle of Botonique dropped through the letterbox. It’s the last of my featured non Alcoholic beverages, a drink to drink when you are not drinking.. Here is some Marketing Blurb
Botonique, a unique non-alcoholic botanical drink, which can deliver the perfect, bubbly glass of fizz for those who love wine, but don’t want to, or can no longer, drink alcohol. The lucky recipient of a bottle of Botonique will be looked after in more ways than one with the refreshing taste as well as some exclusive health benef......
Ok, let’s stop it right there, that’s quite enough, once you bring Health benefits into the mix then I’m off thinking about other things, mainly a fish Supper and a pint of Ale..
My thoughts on this will be short, frank & very unapologetic. It smelt like some sort of Liquorice plant and tasted like the Garden with just a hint of health freak thrown in. I hated it!
Now, I thought I would be fair and source a second opinion.. yep ground breaking stuff, I am about to give a hoot what someone else thinks, history making.
So I passed the bottle to a colleague who would be fairly knowledgable with wine, not so much the grape or region, but definitely the quaffibility (a new word) of all wine. She was able to pour herself a glass in the office, which I’m told was one of her many fantasies realised, don’t really want to know anymore.
In stark contrast to me she seemed inspired by the aroma and even gave a little squeal of delight when she realised the calorie content. That’s a winner with the ladies I see..
After taking a few sips she gave herself some time to ponder and collect her thoughts as I looked on bracing myself for the negatively surprised reaction...
But it didn’t pan out like that, she actually liked it, phrases like, it was fresh, light and incredibly refreshing we’re heard, another little squeal for the low calorie content briefly interrupted the session before she topped up her glass and made short work of the rest!
so who would have seen that coming, the same product viewed completely differently by two people with vastly different tastes in Alcohol.
My bottle of Botonique was very kindly provided without charge.
Botonique retails at just £6.99 for a 750ml bottle or £39 for a case of 6, Botonique is currently stocked by Tabl.com as well as Ocado.com, and is due to appear on the shelves of several other major retailers in the coming months.
It’s over, 4 weeks of being completely booze free..
On St Patrick’s Day, I celebrated Ireland’s Sporting successes, of which I include my dry month, with a few pints, well more than a few, of Magners Irish Cider
The last time I took a month off Booze I struggled to make it.. I’m not sure if you realise but there are 31 days in October! Every single October.... even in a leap year, that’s the longest a month gets..
Back In October 2016, I undertook the Sober for October challenge. During this I had two beer days, which was allowed under the rules (for a £15 donation each time). Now as permissible as this was it clearly takes away from being Booze free for a month, so despite being a Sober hero, for which I received a badge of confirmation, I wanted to prove to myself that I was able to give up alcohol whenever I wanted.
This time around it was booze free or bust.. Complete cold turkey. I had been thinking of taking a Booze break for a while and although I didn’t have a specific reasoning in mind, the Sober October challenge was at the back of my mind. I knew that I could do it and in this occasion I was also interested in the many reported health benefits.
Less than a week after awarding the Gold Medal of AF Beers to Brewdog’s Nanny State, I get a message from Karen at Belfast’s Premium Specialist Off license, The Vineyard.
After starting my 28 day Break from Booze I had been reading about a few craft beer breweries who specialise in low alcohol products and amongst others, Big Drop Brewing Co. had spiked my interest.
The guys at the Vineyard had gone out of their way to source some Big Drop beers but it seemed that cost was going to be a little prohibitive for me & I had given up on including this brewer in my beer chart.
Amazingly Karen remembered that I had enquired about this brewery and when some arrived In store she was quick to hook me up! So, finally the wait was over and on the penultimate booze free evening of the year, Big Drop Brewing Company Pale Ale had a lot to live up to.
Pouring a rich amber colour with light carbonation and a thin, quickly dispersing head, the aroma of this Pale Ale is quite simply amazing. If a beer sniff test was a thing To t could easily hide amongst any Pale Ale, with its big and bold hoppy scent
Then we come to the taste. As good as AF beer gets, it always lack bite. That of course is caused by the lack of Alcohol. Big Drip Brewing Co have found a way around this. While that watery weakness that zero alcohol provides is evident if you really search your palate for it, the intense Pale Ale flavours that fill your mouth more than cover up for that.
So does this change the AF Beer Chart? Absolutely, Big Drop Brewing Co Pale Ale now take the top 5 places all to itself, BrewDog is 6th and Erdinger 7th.... forget the rest.
This really is a special AF Beer, easy to sub in for the full ABV counterpart. Taste and aroma, it’s has it all.
I got my Big Drop Brewing Company Pale Ale at the Vineyard Off License on Belfast’s Ormeau Road. £1.89 for a 330ml bottle.
Ok Bar flies gather round, put the pee encrusted nuts down and hold off on the drunken yet to be regretted text your typing... It’s time to learn something.
In just a few short days Rivers will flow green, beer will pour green and millions of fetching green T Shirts will be adorned by wannabe Irish folk the World over..
That’s a lot of green. It can only mean St Patrick’s Day is almost here, so let’s have a condensed history of our modern celebrations
A few facts about Patrick the Saint...
Born in the latter part of the 5th Century
Spent the early part of his life living in Roman Britain
Captured by Irish Pirates and enslaved for some six years in Ireland where he tended livestock
Escaped & returned to Britain where he felt a calling to deliver Christianity to the people of Ireland so made his way back
Returned to Ireland and spread the word of Christianity
He drove out all the snakes we never had to begin with
Started an early mail order business in garish green shirts and party hats!
The Paddy’s Day parades & festivities we see in Ireland every year are still very much a modern celebration of the Feast of St Patrick.
It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that Irish Pubs we’re even allowed to open on the big day. The Irish Government at the time had this crazy notion that if the pubs opened people would drink and St Patrick’s Day would go from a religious celebration to a big old boozy Party!!
As it turned out Irish people are much too respectful of their religious holidays to allow such things to happen, Irish Americans it transpired however have no such decorum & it’s the second & third generation Irish immigrants who should be blamed for the gigantic piss up party that Paddy’s Day has become.
Although he never set foot in what would eventually become North America, St Patrick has been hijacked by the Yanks! Well the Yanks from Ireland who made the Country their home to be specific.
The Immigrant population in the United States notably Boston, Chicago & New York were the folks who really went all out to throw a party, using St Patrick’s Day to celebrate their culture and champion their Gaelic routes. So It’s Chicago not Dublin where you will find a river flowing green and it’s Boston not Belfast where the Guinness pours Green! It only ever pours black on this Island.
Back in Ireland It wasn’t until 1995 that the Tourism sector woke up to the possibilities of the occasion and began to embrace St Paddy’s day. Eventually the idea of Ireland as a tourist destination in which to celebrate the what was historically the Feast of St Patrick. So while Dublin and Belfast now play host to sizeable Parades & parties to mark Paddy and his day, they are still very much playing catch up to the well established carnival like festivities in many US Cities.
It’s even more recent times that stores in Ireland have begun to stock party supplies and decorations to compliment the Holiday. In fact a lot of this merchandise pitched at what was always an Irish celebration has made its way over from the USA, where it has been a yearly retail event much like Easter and the 4th July, for many years
However, this is Ireland so don’t worry about missing out, if you happen to be in the Emerald Isle on March 17th our legendary hospitality and craic will ensure you have a good time. The USA may do it big and bold, but Ireland will always do it best! Paddy was ours after all.
There has been some artistic license taken, but all in all that’s kinda accurate.
Every so often a product comes along that you look at and think wow. Wow, that is classy. The artistic bottle, simplistic yet intriguing. The website, slick & modern. The marketing, pitched just right. All this before you ever take a taste of the product itself.
Seedlip is one of those items. Billed as the Worlds first Non Alcoholic spirit, with a website keen to tell you how it is served in Michelin starred restaurants, the Worlds best cocktail bars and fancy hotels across the planet.
But what looks well designed, lovingly thought out and cleverly put together usually comes with a price tag to match all the effort. Seedlip is of course no different, at £28 for a 70cl bottle this is expensive, very expensive if you look at it as a soft drink. Let’s be honest, You could buy many a bottle of quality Boozy spirits for less, get a good offer & you could buy two! So this alcohol free Spirit must be something unique if it’s priced like that, right?
Well let’s find out
Currently available in two flavours, Spice 94 and Garden 108, Seedlip is the result of founder Ben Branson’s desire to have a decent alcohol free alternative. Using distilling techniques from the 1600’s he toiled over recipes until he came up with the flavours that are now stocked in The Savoy, Selfridges & on Virgin Atlantic’s transatlantic routes, to name just a very select few. Produced in England with a London HQ, Seedlip is promoted as a nature company, providing a solid alcohol free base for sour style cocktails and Martinis.
I recently got to try both flavours courtesy of the guys at Seedlip. I decided to keep it simple and went with the serves that they list on their website, with a minor tweak in that I switched out the peas for a fresh cucumber.
Both drinks are full on flavoursome, with the Spice beating out Garden 108 as my personal favourite.
Spice 94 served with Fevertree Tonic Water & Grapefruit peel over Ice
Tasting notes - A very dry bite, a dull spicy bite that lingers in the back of the throat, a hint of Christmas is detected through the inclusion of the citrus fruit
Strong rich flavour
Garden 108 served with Febertree Tonic Water & cucumber slice over ice
Tasting notes - Fresh fresh fresh... like just picked from the garden, carried in by grandma and washed under the tap fresh! With a deep earth taste that lingers in the mouth.
While my preference was for Spice over Garden, neither of Seedlip’s Non Alcoholic spirits were particularly satisfying, in fact let’s be honest, I didn’t like either.
But wait, I have a theory about exactly why....
This is a unique product in a niche market. Personally I think tonic water as a mixer is the wrong way to go. On tasting both flavours I can see why Seedlip is served in the top eateries & cocktails bars and that’s all to do with those who are serving it.
Seedlip needs to be used correctly. I can pour tonic or ginger ale or mix it’s through a cocktail twenty times, but it will never taste the same as the drink a professional barman will mix up! For me Tonic Water was a little to bland, these spirits need real quality ingredients to compliment them in a cocktail. They need to be expertly handled by someone who can fix the sort of drink you see served in the high end bars that already stick this.
Perhaps I should have taken the time to practice, but straight out of the bottle Seedlip is not a forgiving drink. Anyone can tip coke into bourbon or ginger into Whiskey & have an acceptable drink that tastes just right, Seedlip needs a little more skill and a little more prep.
So while I won’t be buying a bottle anytime soon, that’s only so I can save up for a trip to a fancy cocktail bar and taste it as it was intended.. which is something just a little beyond my mixology skills
I thinks it’s only fair that I a suspend this review until I can try a properly made Seedlip Martini or cocktail sour, until then I’m leaving this review unfinished. So Seedlip, you are neither good nor bad, but you could be great, in the right hands.
Seedlip is available at Tesco in 70cl bottle RRP £28
20cl bottles are also available RRP £12.99
I was provided with two 20cl bottles of Seedlip for tasting & review purposes by the company itself.
I have no interest financially or otherwise in Seedlip.
The Worlds largest Wheat beer brewery run by the Brombach family since 1935 but with a history that stretches back even further. This non alcoholic offering has made recent headlines from its Winter Olympic endeavours
Marketed as an Isontonic post workout sports drink, Erdinger Alkoholfrei was used to keep the German Olympic team hydrated in South Korea.
It’s mouthfeel is deep and fulfilling with no hint of the watery aftertaste that makes many a non alcoholic beer sink!
Brewdog Nanny State
The 11 year old Scottish Craft Beer sensation that shows no signs of slowing down its grasp of the globe released Nanny State, its first and so far only non alcoholic take on beer.
With 8 different speciality malts in the recipe this is a non alcoholic Pale Ale displaying that classic Brewdogedness in both taste and appearance.
It’s fully flavoured, and instantly had me feeling the chemical release in the brain that a much sought after sip of beer delivers. With a hoppy and malt filled mouthfeel it’s as close as you will ever get to a cold beer in an alcohol free bottle
So the final decision has been made! I did go back & forward in this one, but realised how it was going to turn out by simply counting my empties..
Silver goes to Germany, which means Gold is destined for Scotland!
Brewdog Nanny State is a Non Alcoholic Beer that tricked me, for however long, into the mindset that I was drinking a full ABV Beer! Credit were it is due, Erdinger went almost the entire bout, but lost out in the eleventh!
Making the list for the second time, it is of course the Germans who take the first podium place, as my bronze medal drapes around the neck of Franziskaner Alkoholfrei Weissbier.
The Munich based brewery known for its Spaten and Franziskaner brand, is part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev conglomerate
This was a great all rounder for an alcohol free beer, ticking all the visual boxes it pours a strong amber colour with a thin foamy head balanced on top. It’s flavoursome and does not disappoint with its taste, which manages to stay strong throughout the 500ml serving.
The athletic levels of Carbonation supports the mouthfeel and the only negative I could find was a somewhat lacking aroma which was disappointing when compared to the other German offerings
My 500ml bottle cost me £1.30 from Tesco
So with only two beers left, will Germany take the Gold or can Scotland make it to the top?