Once upon a time, I had a friend named Kevin.
It was one of those friendships you forge when you’re young and living alone in a city, far away from family, paying off college loans, watching many of your friends get married off and secretly wondering what the rest of your life is going to look like.
Kevin was my best ever drinking buddy.
He was a high school physics teacher by day, and a liquor store worker by night. But not just your run-of-the mill dodgy corner lot – no, Kevin worked in a massive superstore of wine, beer and, of course, the hard stuff. But he was a beer drinker. Not actually a drinker, really – more of a beer auteur. Beer was his hobby and his joy. He tasted and tried and critiqued everything they sold in the shop and was always excited to get something new when he travelled or when friends travelled and brought it home for him. I have no idea how many kinds of beer Kevin has tried, but I’d bet it’s close to 1000 by now… and that includes the stuff he now brews himself in tubs at the back of his closet.
I have Kevin to thank for a lot of things… for introducing me to Family Guy and Arrested Development, for listening every time I had a meltdown after a bad week at work, for showing me where to get the best pizza and the best burgers, for helping me to chillax, for being my go-to date for parties, and most of all, for giving me an education on beer. It’s due to him that I have not wasted the formative years of my adulthood swilling Coors and Budweiser, but rather microbrews of every variety. He helped me, through many, many bottles and long funny conversations, to discover what I like. Even now, roughly 7 years later, I still think back to his descriptions and quips when I pop the top on a bottle of brew. (He also gave us the wine glasses pictured, which are just as nice for beer.)
So – why is this post dedicated to an old friend from my past (and who has never visited Ireland to date *nudge, nudge*)?
Because, dear friends, a Blessed Event has happened in Drogheda. One of the shops here is having a beer sale, and not for just any beer, but on a rather large variety of microbrews and specialty ales, stouts and lagers that I have never seen or heard of!!! I was seriously so excited when I stumbled across the bottles in our local Tesco. Ireland may be a big place for beer drinking, but there is sadly little variety in the offerings. There are a handful of non-Guinness breweries around the country (like Porterhouse, O’Hara’s, 8 degrees and Whitewater Brewing companies) but even these selections are hard to find, much less anything unique from abroad.
As I beamed at the full shelves of exciting beers, I thought of Kevin (we actually used to drink Founders together, though it was the Breakfast Stout which I couldn’t find) and I knew I would have to do some tasting. So Frank and I “went on the beer” as they say, and picked out 5 to share over the weekend (I know, only 5, but we are poor, old, parents of a toddler, and besides, these all had high alcohol contents!):
1. Banana Bread Beer – Wells and Youngs UK
2. Ginger Beard – Wychwood Brewery UK
3. Clotworthy Dobbin – Whitewater Brewery, Northern Ireland
4. Directors – Wells and Youngs UK
5. Youngs Chocolate Stout – Wells and Youngs UK
Wow. What a fun experience! I was surprised and delighted and very, very happy with our choices, overall. But I’m thinking… and part of this is pure greed, I won’t lie… I’m thinking I will wait until next weekend to write up a review of these beers along with 5 more we haven’t yet tried to make it a full 10 bottles. Yep, I think that’s what we’ll do! So stay tuned… and maybe try some for yourself so you can compare!
Incidentally, there is also another Blessed Event coming up. My old friend Kevin, that sly fox, is getting married this summer. 🙂 I am so thrilled for him, so I have to give another little shout out and send my best a few thousand miles west to Indiana. Hopefully he and the Mrs. will come for a visit one day soon and we can all enjoy some of these lovely Irish and UK beers together.
Check back next week for Part 2!