It all started with the Dark Arts.
I was at the first Inishfood festival in 2011, freezing in a marquee on a cold March night in Donegal, when I was given a cup of Dark Arts as part of a beer-tasting event. Having never been much of a fan of Guinness, my first thought was Ugh, stout. But then I figured that I might as well try it; it had already been put in my hand, after all.
Instead of the metallic tang of Guinness, I tasted roasted coffee. I took another sip, and tasted chocolate. Cue Green Eggs and Ham–style revelation: Say! I do like stout! I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Oh hello, Leann Folláin, Knockmealdown Porter and White Gypsy Imperial Stout, where have you been all my life?
Fast forward a few years and that light bulb moment has evolved into a full-blown love of craft beer, especially beer and food matching. Come Friday night, you’ll likely find me sitting at the kitchen table with my husband, sharing a beer and swapping notes on the taste and aroma – is that grapefruit? toffee? McVitie’s biscuit? – and debating how well it matches up with whatever we’re having for dinner that night, be it chicken fajitas and an IPA, homemade pizza and a lager or a stout and a brownie for dessert.
It also doesn’t hurt that my very good friend Caroline just so happens to be married to a brewer who makes some of the best beer in the country. I’m a cookbook editor and Caroline is a journalist, so when we’d get together we’d talk about beer, and books, and it wasn’t long before we started talking about doing a book of our own.
And now, from that first dubious sip three years ago, we’re writing a book about beer!
I’m thrilled to announce that Caroline Hennessy and I are co-authoring The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider, to be published by New Island in the autumn. My hope is that it will be the kind of book I wish I’d had when I first started exploring the world of craft beer, covering everything from the basics of how beer and cider are made to profiles of the people and stories behind the microbreweries that are fuelling Ireland’s craft beer revolution, all the way through to tips on matching beer and cider with food and Irish farmhouse cheese and recipes that incorporate craft brews.
In the meantime, we’ve launched a new website, Craft Beer Ireland, where we’ll be keeping our fingers on the pulse of all things craft beer and cider. You can also follow along there on Facebook and Twitter. I’m writing a beer of the month column for Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide ezine, so be sure to check in there too.
It’s an exciting time for craft beer and cider in Ireland, and I’m so excited to be a part of it. Sláinte!
(And if all this has got you curious about craft beer, get down to the Alltech International Craft Brews & Food Fair in Dublin this weekend or the Franciscan Well Cask & Winter Ale Festival in Cork from 14–16 February.)