Beer, wine and cider tasting events

Deveney's beer festival

Click for details of Deveney’s festival, one of the events exploring Irish and international beers.

Wine, beer, cider and food are on the menu at all sorts of public events coming up all over Ireland – from highly structured tutored tastings and dinners through to the open wander-aboutery of fairs and festivals..

Many of them are great value, and give us consumers an invaluable opportunity to sample what’s out there. As well as being fun, you could think of it as tastebud gym.


As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you.


█ Fri Aug 31 – Italian night in Cork

Curious Wines kick off their incredibly busy season of courses, dinners and tastings with an Italian night from 5pm to 9pm at The Bowery on Tuckey Street in Cork. It’s hosted by Francesco Riccardi of  Borgo Magredo, one of whose proseccos I reckon is one of the best-value bubblies around.

It’s a packed programme so for now here’s just the first month’s worth.

█ Thu Sept 6 – Australian Night with Peter Perrin (Bleasdale) at
Meades 126, Oliver Plunkett St., Cork. 7pm to 10pm. Admission free.
█ Fri Sept 21 – McLaren Vale with Scott Collett (Woodstock) at
Hayfield Manor, Cork. 7.30pm-9.30pm. Tickets €15.
█ Thu Oct 4 – Tapas Night w/ Ivan Acebes García, Castelo de Medina at
Cafe Gusto, Washington St., Cork.  7.30pm-9.00pm. Admission free.
I’ll add the rest and more details later.  And see

█ Wed Sept 5 – Winemaker Dinner at Donnybrook Fair

César Morales Navia, the oenological manager of Emiliana in Chile is the latest in a pretty illustrious list of winemakers to host a dinner at The Restaurant at Donnybrook Fair at 89, Morehampton Road, Dublin 4. Emiliana produces some outstanding wines, principally the biodynamic Coyam which I’ve occasionally enjoyed down the years. With a well-established nous for making good wines, including a growing acreage under organic and biodynamic grapes, Emiliana’s reputation has been heading in one direction only. Check them out yourself at stockists including O’Briens and independents, or in pleasant company with a good dinner in Donnybrook, all presented by César.

It takes place on Wednesday September 5 at 7.45pm. Book (€60 a head or €100 for two) on 01-6144849, by email at or online if you click here.

█ Sept 5 to 8 – McGuigan City Vineyard, Dublin

From Wednesday to Saturday, McGuigan Wines present their bold and imaginative City Vineyard project in Dublin. Open daily from noon to 7pm, it consists of dozens of living vines transplanted to a temporary perch in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Also there will be members of the McGuigan family who will present tastings of quite a wide range of their wines. The family’s been in wine business for decades — first under the Penfold’s marque but more recently under their own name, building to their present status as one of the big brands on the market. They’re imported by Barry & Fitzwilliam who mainly sell their Black Label range into independents, and also by Tesco which sells a more extensive range.

The city vineyard is similar to wine dinners: to wine firms, it’s an opportunity for deep marketing; to us, it’s an unusual (and in this instance, unique) opportunity for wine-related fun. If you haven’t gotten round to visiting real working wine lands, this could be a fun and interesting introduction — I reckon it would be particularly attractive to wine fans and gardeners.

It’s free, and you can just turn up. But make sure you check the conditions beforehand on this website. For one thing, no-one under 18 is allowed in, and that includes babes in arms or in buggies. You might brush the hair too as they may be filming for broadcast, and turning up implies consent to being filmed. Also, such is the persistence of the internet, there’s still some incorrect info around the place – the vineyard has been moved from the site originally mooted, across the river at the IFSC.

█ Aug 30 to Sept 9 – Irish Craft Beer Week
█ Sept 7 to Sept 9 – Irish Craft Beer Festival

After its brief turn around the IFSC, the annual Irish Craft Beer Festival returns to RDS in Dublin from September 7 to 9, 2012.

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne, one of the breweries pouring good beers and ciders from cask, keg and bottle at the RDS.

This year, the bash in Dublin is the culmination of the first Craft Beer Week when participating pubs, off-licences and restaurants nationwide will have special offers, tastings and expert talks on Irish craft beer. The website below has details of both the week and the weekend festival.

At the RDS event, more than 20 of our craft breweries and cider producers will be showcasing beers and ciders for you to taste. They’re joined this year for the first time by some guest breweries from out foreign — a brilliant move in my opinion, as I think it’s vital for beer fans and brewers alike to keep comparing notes with the wider beer world as we reinvent the traditions we nearly lost.

The whole effect at the RDS is a bit like an Irish take on a Bierhalle, complete with live music and artisan food stalls. At the time of writing, the Irish contingent comprises O’Hara’s, Dungarvan, White Gypsy, Eight Degrees, Trouble, Franciscan Well, Porter House, Dingle and Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne aka West Kerry Brewery. There may be more.

The festival returns to the RDS again this year.

Guest breweries include Sierra Nevada and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. And the night before the festival proper, there will be a beer and food pairing event exploring the character of Irish beers and the food they go best with.
Festival tickets start at €10 per day and you can get them at participating pubs and shops or at Ticketmaster.
Tickets for the beer and food pairing evening on September 6 are available directly from
 For more information on both the Irish Craft Beer Festival and Irish Craft Beer Week, see their website at

█ Sun Sept 9 – Clare comes to East Cork

At 6pm on Sunday September 9 at Ballymaloe, Winemaker Dave Palmer, Skillogalee Wines, Clare Valley, South Australia, and Birgitta Curtin, Burren Smokehouse, Co Clare come together to present their respective wine and food under the title ‘It’s a long way from Clare to here – A Taste of Clare in East Cork’.  Get tickets (€18) and more information from 021 4652531, or  Other events there include…

[] Sun Sept 16, 4.30pm – New Zealand winemakers Larry McKenna, Escarpment Wines, Martinborough & John Hancock, Trinity Hill Wines, Hawkes Bay present a tutored tasting of their wines (€15).
[] Thurs, Sept 27 Margaret River experience – surfing on Shanagarry Strand and cricket with the East Cork Cricket Club, followed by wine tasting and food with Australian winemaker David Hohnen, Ted Berner’s Wildside fire-cooking, and music. €35 all in.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you.


█ Sept 13 to 22* – Oktoberfest Beag, Cork

Kudos to whoever came up with the name. The annual event at the former Beamish & Crawford Brewery on South Main Street in Cork centres on Paulaner, one of the six Munich breweries which host the original Oktoberfest in their home city. And compared to that blow-out, it is small (‘beag’ in Irish). But it’s not to be sneezed at either, being eight days of, well, beer, food and drindl-und-lederhosen-themed entertainment.

It’s €11 in, including booking fee, but you also have the option of reserving seats (which must be taken up by 7pm). For instance, the Gold ticket for €26 gets you in, two drink vouchers, a substantial dish and guaranteed seating. You need a minimum of six people to book a table.

We here in Ireland and Britain tend to associate the great German breweries with just one or two styles (such as hefe and kristall) but they typically make a whole spectrum including seasonal one-off brews. Happily, the choice in off-licences has been flowering. And events like Oktoberfest Beag provide a unique opportunity to try out a wider range. As of now, as well of course as wine and soft drinks, the website only mentions the special Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier, and Paulaner Weissebier. By the latter I presume they mean the one we’re most familiar with, the naturally-cloudy Hefe Weissbier Naturtrüb.  I expect though that Oktoberfest Beag will in fact run out a wider selection of Paulaner’s dozen or so brews. If so, don’t pass up the opportunity!

* The festival runs from Sept 13 to 22 with the exception of Tues and Wed Sept 18 and 19, when it’s closed. Opening hours are 5pm to 10pm each day, apart from both Saturdays when it opens an hour earlier. For more information, phone 0867248284 (9.30am to 5pm), email and see

█ Sept 15 – Deveney’s Beer festival

Deveney’s are clearly trying to put me off the scent. Their fourth annual craft beer festival has a new name, new venue and new date – but I’m on to them, the rascals. It takes place this year at Pembroke Square in Dundrum Town Centre on Saturday September 15 from 2.30pm to 10pm. It’s ticket-only and, naturally, over-18s only. But you knew that.

One of the early adopters promoting Irish and world craft beers on a large scale, they promise to have hundreds of craft beers from around the world on offer in the garden marquee, live music, and beer-friendly food from some of the best restaurants in the area including Siam Thai, Harvey Nichols, Cortina’s Mexican, Wagamama and, of course, The Port House. Tickets (€20) include a festival tankard; three beer vouchers and a festival booklet. Book now at or their blog; by phone on 01-2984288; or in 3-D by dropping into Deveney’s of Dundrum at 31, Main Street, Dundrum, D16.

You can also get tickets at these off-licences and wine shops – Redmond’s of Ranelagh; Deveney’s of Rathmines; Jus de Vin Portmarnock; The Corkscrew; McHugh’s on Malahide Road; The Vintry, Rathgar and Martin’s of Fairview.

█  Fri Sept 21– Beer club in Cork

Paddy Cullen at the No 21 Off-Licence on Coburg Street (at the foot of St Patrick’s Hill) in Cork is still mulling over which beers to sample at the next meeting of the No 21 Beer Club at 7pm on Sept 21.
To give you an idea of what they do, last time round it was a tutored tasting led by Phil Tavey of distributor Four Corners of six beers from the USA (Brooklyn Brewery and Magic Hat) and Scotland (Brewdog).

Get more info and make your own suggestions in store or by emailing Paddy at or on Twitter at @no21cork.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you.

█ Sat Sept 22 – Wine fundamentals in Cork

L’Atitude 51 wine café is kicking off a series of Wine Fundamentals sessions in its beautiful  upstairs room overlooking the River Lee on four successive Saturday afternoons from September 22 at 3.30pm. The price per session is €25, or book all four for €90. You don’t need any prior knowledge to take part. Full details are in a PDF on their new website at, phone 021-2390219, email them at or just drop in to l’Atitude 51, 1 Union Quay, Cork.

█ Wed Sept 26 – Glassware comparative tasting

The size and shape of your glass has an enormous influence on your wine. Really. There’s more about that over on this post including the reasons I’m more than happy with one range of glasses costing only a fiver a go. But if you can stretch to €60, I think you’ll enjoy and benefit from a glassware comparative tasting hosted by Riedel from 6.30pm at The Miele Gallery, Citywest, Dublin 24. The ticket price (€60 from Mitchells on 01 6125540 or includes a Riedel Vinum tasting set which normally costs about €96 apparently. 

█ Weekend beer fest

This weekend (Friday to Sunday August 24 to 26, 2012) an Irish Craft Beerfest takes place in Doolin, Co Clare. Participants include Carlow Brewing; Dungarvan; Eight Degrees; Franciscan Well; Stonewell Cider; Trouble Brewing; White Gypsy. Tickets €5 at the door. Larks and antics a-baa. For more, see their website at


Making wine in Ireland

Stonewell Cider

Stonewell Cider

I’M tacking a few paragraphs about Stonewell Cider on to a version of an earlier post for reasons that I hope will become clear. Sadly, Michael O’Callaghan, who is mentioned in the earlier post, has since died. I’ve left my comments about him unedited and in the present tense. May he rest in peace.

[July 2 2011] I’ve recently had the great pleasure of tasting Stonewell Medium Dry Irish Craft Cider 2010, the first release of Nohoval Brewing Company, which is named for its location near Kinsale in south Co Cork. Made with “regionally sourced” Dabinett, Michelin and Cox apples, it’s a crisp and fragrant medium dry cider. It’s a great beginning — although personally I’d prefer a drier style. I got mine among the great collection of British and Irish beers and ciders at Bradley’s Off-Licence on North Main Street in Cork. You can find it there or among the updated list of stockists at the Stonewell Cider website.  It’s featured in today’s Irish Examiner, along with a number of wines distributed by Wine Alliance.

As with wine, it’s interesting to see how a tipple fares alongside its peers, and I’d encourage anyone interested to do so. In this case I enjoyed the Stonewell in a taste-off against a number of others — Bulmers original cider (bottle, not draught), and two vintage ciders sold by M&S from Herefordshire and Somerset.

Although the advent of Stonewell – the first of its type in the republic – is the most welcome news from the drinks industry in years, I believe the rest of this post  still rings true. See what you think, and please share your thoughts. Okay. That’s the end of the update. Here’s the original post…

[January 11, 2010] WE WINE lovers tend to be pretty enthusiastic about the subject. If there’s one recurring motif that sums up our irrepressible optimism, and our affection for the ancient craft of winemaking, it’s got to be the frequently-heard question “so, is it possible to grow grapes and make wine in Ireland?”

The short answer is “yes”. The longer answer is a tortuously qualified yes (well summarised in this interesting and fun debate going on over at The Evening Hérault). But the best answer of all is another question — Why would you bother? Or to put it another way, what would Michael O’Callaghan do?

I first encountered Michael O’Callaghan at London Wine Fair a few years ago when the couple who run the stellar Staete Landt winery in Marlborough, New Zealand, named him as their Irish distributor. He was hand-selling their wines in small quantities to restaurants back then, more-or-less as an interim measure while they sought out a fully-fledged distributor. And, it also turned out, he was developing a vineyard at Longueville House near Mallow, Co Cork. Along with a handful of other pioneers in Cork, Waterford and north Co Dublin, he was defying our Atlantic climate to make wine.  The Vitis vinifera vine generally favour a continental hot-and-cold climate rather than the mousey damp mildness that prevails here. But O’Callaghan et al had determined to grow them here, and so they did.

Fast-forward to the end of the last decade to the really interesting bit, because what Michael O’Callaghan did next should provide inspiration to any green-fingered Irish wine lover — he rooted up all his vines and replaced them with apple trees. Even though he’s clearly not short of teaspaí, and had been been sufficiently inspired to live the fantasy life of Irish winemaker, he threw his hat at it and opted instead for a native species of fruit more suited to our climate.

Apples to eat, apple juice to drink — and there is a steadily growing band of good locally-made apple juices on the shelves of good grocers and at farmers markets. There’s also the prospect of a good cider, which can go beautifully with dishes such as roast pork. And of course the whole apples/juice/cider thing fits in perfectly with the local-and-in-season aspiration which has all but supplanted organics as the foodies’ touchstone.

Displaying his typical indefatigable industry, Michael O’Callaghan now distils, and has recently launched, an apple brandy in the style of Calvados. Better again, it was awarded a bronze medal in its category on its first outing at the International Wine And Spirit Competition. (However, the contact details on the IWSC site are incorrect. Eden Apple Brandy is available directly from Michael O’Callaghan on 00 353 22 27643. There are no plans to distribute it more widely.)

SeedSavers apple catalogue

Seedsavers is still building its library of native British and Irish plants - including many vaireties of apples.

You don’t have to go as far as Michael O’Callaghan has, but I point him out as an example to anyone expressing an interest in growing wine in Ireland. If you love the infinite variety of flavours and aromas of wine; if you appreciate how wine puts you in touch with ancient food and drink traditions; if you ‘get’ the whole thing about wine and its heritage and history — plant an apple tree.

Get a few neighbours together to grow a tree each to ensure all are cross-pollinated. Better again, gather like-minded people together to turn a whole neighbourhood or town into a virtual orchard. (Green activists in Bandon, Co Cork, did precisely this during 2009. At the time of writing I haven’t been able to contact any of them for a progress update. When I can, I’ll update this post with details. If you’re involved or know more than I do, please email me).

Talk to your local nursery or garden centre. Or better still, get in touch with Seed Savers (00 353 61 921866. and get a sapling from their growing library of traditional native Irish and British apples such as the Cavan Newington or Ballinora Pippin.

I’m not alone in getting misty-eyed over a delicious glass of wine. I love the stuff. I also love the accompanying local traditions. Bourgogne. Vacqueyras. Penedès. But think about it. A legion of wine fans is intimate with many, many grape varieties, and with their provenance, their terroir. So why in the name of Auntie Nora aren’t we similarly fluent in, for instance, Irish apples and their terroirs?

Link to The Apple Farm website

Check out The Apple Farm website here.

As I write, I’m crunching the second of two apples grown by Con Traas in Co Tipperary. They’re Elstars, delicately sweet and crunchy with a pleasant touch of earthiness. But I have to admit I’m relatively ignorant of the apple varieties native to these shores. I think the disparity of our knowledge of and attitudes toward grapes and apples begs many questions of our attitude to food and drink. And so fundamental are food and drink to who we are that I wonder if it says something about us. ♦



Since posting this I see one of the main players mentioned in it is taking part in a very interesting event in Cork this Thursday. Here are the details.

Con Traas (The Apple Farm, Cahir, 2009 Eurotoque Food Award Winner) &
John Howard (Sunnyside Fruit Farm, Rathcormac)

present an evening of inspiration advice and guidance on how to grow strawberries,  apples, plums blackcurrents, raspberries etc.

Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place on Thursday January 28 at 7.30pm.

€6 including tea & coffee.

* old media meme. Ask your grandparents.

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