Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Pilgrimage - Guinness at St. James Gate

Note : Before I even begin this post I would like to bring to your attention that I do not consider myself worthy enough, talented enough, or competent enough to review the Guinness Stout. This is just a narrative of my experience at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin.

There once lived a man called Arthur Guinness in the Kingdom of Ireland, he was the king of awesomeness and as a gift to the world he made Guinness Dry Stout at the St. James' Gate Brewery in Dublin. He was so awesome that he leased this humongous property for 9000 years at a princely sum of £45 a year, applicable till date. The first shipment out of this brewery were 6 and a half barrels of stout to England. Today the brewery makes 82.9 million hectolitres of the black stuff in 50 million barrels.

Osama's Nailed It..

The Guinness Storehouse (read as: the brewery tour) is a 7 storeyed extravaganza chronicling the history of the founder of this great beverage and of the brewery itself. It takes you through the various processes in making the Guinness though you only get glimpses of the actual brewing process. There is a part in the tour where a small shot glass of Guinness comes to you on a conveyor belt, its not fully ready to be served its still work in progress but it comes on a frickin conveyor belt !!! :D Also you get to taste the malted barley before it is processed, that way every time you drink your pint you can very easily break down the taste into its constituents and if you're cool enough you'll even be able to figure out whether your Guinness has been adulterated or served stale.

At the end of the tour is the 360 degree bar at the top floor where you can claim your complimentary Guinness. Its the end of your journey and all you have is your pint and your liver. The pretty lil bartender(ess) does the whole 6 step Guinness pouring business, but it doesn't matter that she's a 36 double D, "Give me the godamneeed pint already". It comes to you, the temptation of gulping it down on the frickin spot. But no you must let it settle, for at least 3 minutes. So you take your glass to the table and wait for the ruby red to shimmer through the glass. And then you take the sip.

On a rainy winter day, the grey Dublin becomes Arthur's Wonderland. Its pure ecstacy you feel at the top. All you can do is smile. Though to be fair, this wasn't the best Guinness I have tasted. That title goes to the Temple Bar in Dublin.

Guinness Fact : Poor Students in London are known to substitute a pint of Guinness for meals on a number of occasions. Guinness is good for you, seriously!

Link : http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/Index.aspx

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kronenbo...urg Blanc!

The first ever time I tried a Kronenbourg Lager was at The Dublin Castle Pub in Camden Town, London. On tap this is a really decent substitute to a Carlsberg, though it is owned by the latter. Kronenbourg is French, now that means different things to different people. To me the French make horrible beer period.

The Dublin Castle

Trivial Trivia - Stella Artois (French) is actually known as the Wife-beater's Beer. Source - Sakepedia

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the Kronenbourg tap, light, crispy, moderate head and very very edgy. Goes down brilliantly with a cigarette. But its only good on tap, the cans and bottles taste so bad it makes petrol seem like a better option. Irrespective, I tried the Kronenbourg Blanc (White Beer)...

It made me want to go up to the bartender hold him by his collar and vomit the stuff on his face while yelling out expletives and demanding a refund! Oh the blanc was ugly, so ugly. It was like somebody left some cider in a plastic cup at a house party and his drunk friend put some lager into it accidently and then the host of the party took a leak in it and topped the glass off with a lemon. And it cost me £5.50, which, to a poor student is a lot of money.

I don't even wish to waste space on the review of this abomination of a beer. A lot of people seem to like the citric flavors of this beer but frankly it tastes like liquid bubblegum. I dont have too much respect for the Carlsberg group anyway but with the blanc they just proved themselves to be Grade 1 Danish Douchebags, it's one of those pompous attempts at trying to sell you utter shite in the guise of exotic beer.

The concept of white beer is pretty creative. The primary ingredient is wheat which lends it the light color and taste and to that various flavorings are added usually of the citric fruit variety. So what you are supposed to get is fruity lager ideal for summer day sipping. But Kronenbourg lost the plot somewhere and have not been able to find it since 1664 (isnt that what the bottle says?). I'm still open to the White Beer concept, Hoegaarden is a witbier (German) and they do a good job of it especially on tap.

Rating : 2/10

Friday, November 19, 2010

Schneider Weisse vs Jenlain... The Battle of the Crafts

It's great that India is finally embracing the beer culture and opening their minds to international beer. I happened to call for a Schneider-Weisse and a Jenlain at Wasabi on a dinner date with my girlfriend recently. What followed was a curious battle of the crafts in my head that I'm still not able to resolve.

To the uninitiated, craft beer is an off-shoot of the micro-brewery concept where beers are produced more for the taste than mass appeal. Needless to say they are pricey as the demand far exceeds the supply. Traditional methods are employed to produce these beers and they have to be imported from their place of origin as opposed to locally brewed foreign beer.

So in the red corner we have the German, Schneider-Weisse. Made from wheat by German Monks and with an ABV (alcohol by volume) ranging from 5.4% in the original bottle to a whopping 8.2% in the strong dark Aventinus bottle. The one I had was the original; the taste is creamy and its got a splendid nose. It's all in all well-balanced and goes well with meat. It stands pretty in a glass with it's impressive head and amber colour.

In the Blue corner we have the French, Jenlain. Named after a commune in the Nord Department in the North of France, this amber colored craft has a very curious after-taste. It almost leaves a sweet tinge on the palette. Jenlain is produced in a closed-knit family in limited quantities. The Jenlain Ambrée has a 7.5% ABV. Though I have only found pints in India, the big bottles apparently have corks in stead of crowns, I like the respect. Jenlain is made from barley and hops unlike its German nemesis. The beer has a toned-down nose and good head. But I'm not able to decide whether or not I like the sweet after-taste. I guess that depends on the accompanying food. Also its proximity to Belgium makes it taste a bit like Leffe.

So take your pick, both beers are available at Nature's Basket stores across Mumbai and in select 5 Stars. The damage at MRP is about Rs 200 for the German and Rs 280 for the French (300ml) at the Wasabi (Taj Palace) it cost us Rs 500 each.

Ratings (subject to change at any time without prior intimation)
Schneider-Weisse : 7.5/10
Jenlain : 7/10

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mussels and Guzzles at Johnny Fox's (Dublin)...

In India we begin a venture by choosing an auspicious day and doing seemingly pointless things like breaking coconuts on cars and shit... The equivalent of that for a beer blog has to be a post about Ireland... The Irish are warm, happy-go-lucky, sometimes incomprehensible, loud, brash, full of life and alcohol and always ready for a pint of the black stuff. My host in Ireland, Dermot Ryan, is a dear friend who let open his house and heart for a bunch of ten sordid drunk souls from all over the world gathered in the City of London for a Masters Course in Thievery and Hard-Balling or as they are calling it these days.. Finance.

It's obvious that I don't have much of a recollection from this particular trip as we were face down in pools of Guinness for the greater part of our time there. But the only three times I made sure I was at my alert best were our trips to St. James Gate (the Guinness Brewery), Johnny Fox's Pub and the Jameson Brewery. Since this is a beer blog I'm keeping the whiskey bit out of it (but it was awesome and I earned a diploma in whiskey tasting (at 9 am)).

Getting straight down to business Johnny Fox's has been by far the most profound drinking experience in my legal drinking life, hitting the right notes with all the senses. Located about an hour and a half away from the hustle bustle of Dublin, the pub is set atop a beautiful hill in the middle of a long windy road meandering through a forest. The pub on all accounts resembles a watering hole in the Shire. It also enjoys the privilege of being the highest pub in all of Ireland, and I don't just mean that in terms of altitude. Guests here enjoy not just a traditional Irish ambiance and music but also delicately cooked Irish food coupled with one of the nicest Guinness pints poured immaculately in six steps.

First came the stouts then came a massive bowl of Mussels placed on a slow fire swimming in a subtle garlic butter sauce. This was followed by spare ribs and another pint of Guinness. For desert we ordered a pint of Guinness each. I don't quite remember the damage but I wasn't complaining, so it couldn't have been that bad. The wooden interiors further accentuate the experience and also help the acoustics of the place. The pub is a platform for Irish musicians who are hell bent on making a fool out of you in your attempt to tap dance like the Irish.

The pub also has a very beautiful beer garden outside. I can only imagine the awesomeness of the place in summer. It was freezing outside in early February when we visited. This is the kinda place you'd take your whole family to on a Sunday afternoon and return home only much much later in the evening, or the kinda place you'd take your mates to and may be return the next day.

After one last booster pint we bid a teary goodbye to the pub. But the ride back through the beautiful long windy roads was some kind of a consolation.

Rating : 8.5/10
Link : http://jfp.ie
Address : Johnnie Fox's Pub, Glencullen, Co. Dublin, IRELAND.
Reservation : Recommended