A brewing course, a fun festival, plenty to do in Ernie Whalley’s ‘Liquid Assets’ this month.


Last month I gave a shout-out to a beer brewed in the Belgian ‘Tripel’ style by County Mayo brewers, Mescan (Mescan apparently was Saint Patrick’s best mate and personal brewer, clearly, a handy chum to have). On 20th April, Mescan Brewery opens its doors to fledgeling brewers with a course called 'Learn How to Brew a Belgian Beer'.

The day, which includes lunch and dinner costs €110 per person and will cover all aspects from ingredient selection to packaging, with plenty of hands-on as well as theory. Bolt-on goodies include detailed notes, a T-shirt, and a promise of plenty of tasting (might be wise to find a teetotal chauffeur). 

Obviously, the beers made will not be bottled on the day, but participants are invited to come back subsequently and collect samples of their handiwork. Follow up support is also offered to anyone who wishes to put their new found knowledge into practice.

Lunch and dinner are included in this full day course. Advance booking is absolutely essential as numbers are limited to 20. Booking is online through mescanbrewery.com.

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COMPETITION TIME! Enter our competition and win yourself a place on the 'Learn How to Brew a Belgian Beer' course. To enter just tell us which of the Mescan beers is missing from the photo above, tag a friend who you think would love to spend a day in a brewery, and follow our page to be in with a chance to win. NOTE the brewing course that this competition refers to takes place on Saturday 20th April (Easter Saturday) and you must be available to attend. If you're lucky enough to be under 18 - sorry but you can't enter. This post is in conjunction with the competition being run on our Facebook page. #competition #brewingcourse #mescanbrewery #mescan #irishbeerbrewedbelgianstyle #brewerytours #microbrewery #artisanal #smallbatch #brewing #bottleconditioned #irishcraftbeer #westport #louisburgh #mayo #wildatlanticway #wildatlanticwaymayo #craftbeerlover #craftbeerlife #craftbeersnob #beerstagram #instabeer #beersofinstagram #craftbeer #belgianstylebeer #beoir #beer #productofireland #irishproduct #notanothercraftbeer

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Yeast, the hardworking cousin of mould and mushrooms that almost magically converts a porridge of malted grains, water and hops into a potable delight, comes in two broad categories. Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast, the kind that produces a thick fluffy cap on the top of the fermenting vessel. Contrast the bottom-fermenting yeast used to produce lagers, which beavers away unseen at the base of the vessel.

Beyond this simple division, there are a few mavericks like the ‘sours’ whose catalyst, in the form of ‘wild yeast’, is naturally present in the atmosphere. Then there are hybrid beers, so called because they utilise a mix of both techniques. Most interesting of these is Kolsch, a style hailing from Cologne/Koln in Germany, which is fermented with ale yeast, then finished in colder temperatures like a lager. The finished beer exhibits some of the best characteristics of both categories. Light and easy to drink, Kolsch melds ‘fruit pie’ flavours from the top-fermentor with the crisp, dry finish of a typical lager, making Kolsch a great long drink as we move into warmer weather.

Recently I came across an Irish Kolsch from the Drew Fox Brewery of Clonard, Co Wexford that ticks all the boxes. The beers bear the label Clever Man, a nod to Irish ingenuity. Atractor, Drew Fox’s Kolsch namecheck Harry Ferguson, inventor of the modern agricultural tractor (and, incidentally, the first four-wheel drive Formula One car). Other beers in the range celebrate John P Holland (submarine); Walter G Wilson (tank); and Sir James Martin (ejector seat). 

Clever Man ‘Atractor’ Kolsch, ABV 4.5%,  €3.75 500ml

Clever Man Beer is made by Drew Fox Brewing, Wexford’s newest Irish Craft Brewery, founded by Malcolm and Andrea Molloy.

Clever Man Beer is made by Drew Fox Brewing, Wexford’s newest Irish Craft Brewery, founded by Malcolm and Andrea Molloy.


Adore albariño? Fancy flamenco? Gagging for Gambas al Ajillo? Following on from the huge success of the last three year’s celebrations, Wines from Spain recently announced the fourth annual Spanish Wine Week in Ireland, celebrating that country’s impressive diversity of regions and grapes. This year’s event runs from April 8th to 14th. Designed for wine and food lovers of all levels, events include wine dinners, tutored tastings, masterclasses, supper clubs, even flamenco lessons.

The other night myself and a coven of other wine and food journalists were given a sneak preview, culminating in a lovely dinner at Fish Shop, great food teamed with superb wines from importers Vinostito. The evening kicked off with tapas and manzanilla sherry, and from here on I shall climb up on my hobby horse. Fino and Manzanilla are pale coloured, deliciously savoury bone dry sherries, fortified and bottled at 15% alcohol by volume, making them about the same strength or less than a typical new world red wine. The wines we tasted were made by Callejuela, a firm considered to be at sherry’s cutting edge.

When it comes to matching with food, fino and manzanilla are among the most versatile in the wine universe. Don’t take my word for it, here’s a quote: “Even though they are almost always served as aperitifs, fino and manzanilla sherries deserve a special place at your table. I would even go so far as to say that they can be considered among the most versatile wines when it comes to food pairings.”

These words are François Chartier’s. François is a world champion sommelier, wine and food writer and consultant to top restaurants worldwide, a guy who has done his homework and established, through painstaking research, clear scientific links and relationships between the ‘taste molecules’ in food and those in wine.

I fell out of kilter with the popular tenets of food and wine matching many years ago, coming to believe a good deal of it to be hokum, or at least, personal opinion unsubstantiated by evidence. Then, at a conference in Barcelona organised by Spanish wine legend Miguel Torres, I met François, a guy who had gone to great lengths to establish clear scientific links and relationships between the ‘taste molecules’ in food and those in wine.  Fino and Manzanilla’s versatility is derived from having a far greater number of molecules than other wines. Hence there is more chance of linking with their food equivalents. At last!

François revealed a relationship based on logic and science, not woolly opinion and guesswork, his talk was my ‘road to Damascus’ moment. I was so eager to get my hands on his book ‘Tastebuds and Molecules’ that I bought and read the French edition because the English version wouldn’t be out for another six months. 

Callejuela Manzanilla around €17.50, good independents or SIYPS.com.

Author: Ernie Whalley

Ernie Whalley, Restaurant Critic for The Sunday Times and former editor of Food & Wine Magazine, grew up working in his aunts’ hotel kitchens. He wrote on food, wine and travel in the UK before settling in Ireland in 1987. In the 1990s, he ran his own Dublin café before joining Food & Wine in 1999. In 2002, he launched www.forkncork.com, Ireland’s first food and drink website.

In a long career, Ernie has given cookery lessons as “One Man & his Hob”; written for innumerable publications worldwide and appeared on radio and TV food & drink programmes. Judging stints include The Cordon Bleu World Food and Drink Media Awards, the Bocuse d’Or and wine competitions in five countries. In 2018, he was inducted into the Food & Wine Magazine Hall of Fame.