Boulevard Brewing Amber Ale

posted on July 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm by Ken Valley in Beer Reviews,Craft Beer

Boulevard Brewing Amber Ale

Boulevard Brewing Amber Ale

Now that I’m back, it’s back to real life, and the variety of beer in America.

One slice of that variety is part of the Boulevard Brewing variety 12-pack: the Boulevard Brewing Amber Ale.

It’s a nice amber ale, but didn’t seem to have a lot of flavor.  It replaces Lunar Ale, a dark wheat beer and one of my favorites, in the mix 12-pack.

I wish I had more to say about it, but it was rather unremarkable.

Have you tried the Amber Ale?  Does your opinion differ from mine?

Our Last Day in Ireland – Dublin Day Two

posted on July 27, 2010 at 1:17 am by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

The Original Guinness St. James's Gate

The Original Guinness St. James's Gate

This is our final day on our honeymoon in Ireland.

On our last full day in Ireland, Grace and I got up, had our breakfast, and bought our tickets for our Hop On Hop Off bus tour of Dublin.  We were advised to take the bus with the live-action guide, and they did not disappoint.  We rode the bus, only getting off the bus at our must-see sights first, the Guinness brewery and the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail).

Our first stop was the Guinness Brewery.  It was an interesting tour, but there wasn’t a lot of new info for a seasoned brewer like myself.  As a basic tour, it was worth the trip.  At the top of the tour, there was the Gravity Bar, which gives you a 360 degree view of Dublin, plus a free pint.  After we took the tour of the brewery and got our free pint in the Gravity Bar, we walked around the block so we could see the original St. James’s Gate (pictured).

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol

After we stopped at the Guinness brewery, we hopped back on our bus tour and visited the Kilmainham Gaol.  This was the large jail that was built in 1796, and saw a lot of public executions, and was one of the first jails to employ the new idea of rehabilitation, which included quiet quarters and isolation.

The jail holds a special place in Irish history because the cells held many of the most famous people involved in the campaign for Irish independence. The British imprisoned and executed the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising here, and after the leaders were executed, public sympathy increased for the Irish Republic.

The tour was great, and it was amazing to think that Ireland only gained its independence from England less than a century ago.

After the tour of the Gaol, we hopped back on the tour bus.  We saw several stops, including the Dublin Zoo and the Wellington Monument.  As we passed the Wellington Monument, the tour guide told us that the monument was raised because the Duke of Wellington, an Irish native, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, but it was said the Duke wasn’t too fond of Ireland.  To this, the tour guide said, “… and we weren’t too fond of him, either.”  It was pretty amusing.

General Post Office

General Post Office

On our tour, we passed by the General Post Office, which was the headquarters for the uprising’s leaders.  Most of it, except the front of the building and the columns, was destroyed by fire in the uprising.  If you were to look close enough at the pillars, you can still see the bullet holes.

Next up, we visited the historic Trinity College, and saw the historic Book of Kells, a copy of biblical gospels, transcribed in Latin in the 9th century.  We also saw the library, which is a very long corridor, and has a ton of ancient books.

After visiting Trinity College and the Book of Kells, we decided it was time to visit a few famous Dublin pubs.

Enjoying Ryans Pub

Enjoying Ryans Pub

The Stag's Head

The Stag's Head

The Long Hall

The Long Hall

The first stop, and one that was on the bus tour, was Ryans Pub.  It was a good lunch, and that’s when we decided to check out a few more of these pubs around the Temple Bar area.  We quickly checked out O’Donoghue’s and M. J. O’Neill’s, but stopped at The Stag’s Head, with a great big moose head on the wall, for a pint.  After we checked out the historic pub, we walked by the Dublin Castle, but couldn’t take the tour because they were full for the rest of the day.  We continued on to The Long Hall, which was named for the long hall that ran the length of the bar.  In the early days, when women weren’t allowed in the bar, they would order their drinks from the hall, and had them passed through small doors.  (Click on the photos to view larger versions)

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge

Before we called it a day on our tour of Dublin, we crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge, which at one point was the only way to cross the River Liffey in Dublin, to pass from northern to southern Dublin.

After we had finished our touring, we headed back to the bed and breakfast to pack.  Once we had everything put away, we needed a change of pace, so we went to a brewpub near our bed and breakfast, Porterhouse North (not the one in the heart of Dublin, but the one on the north part of town).

The food was good, and we each had a nitrogen-infused red, but unfortunately the service was pretty slow, and not very attentive.  It was our only sub-par dining experience on the entire trip.

To bring us back on a high note, we ended the night at our favorite pub, John Kavanagh.  While we were there, we talked a bit more with Eugene Kavanagh, and he even brought his daughter, the eighth generation, to meet us.

At the end of the day, I had six more Guinness pints, and a Porterhouse brewing Red, to bring my Irish Guinness pints to 32 in 6 days.  We finished the trip with a ton of memories, a lot of Guinness, and enveloped ourselves in a lot of Irish history.  Thanks for joining us on our honeymoon!

Dublin – Day One

posted on July 21, 2010 at 11:44 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

his is day five out of six on our honeymoon to Ireland.

At The Grave Digger's Bar

At The Grave Digger's Bar

As soon as we woke up in Kilkenny, Grace and I had breakfast, then traveled to Dublin.  By this time, we decided to skip the trip to Carlow, and instead decided to go straight to our Dublin bed and breakfast.

When we got to Dublin, we accidentally took a turn too soon, and discovered the pub John Kavanagh (a.k.a. The Grave Digger’s Bar), one of the historic pubs of Dublin.  The story behind it is that it is next to a graveyard, and even though the gravediggers couldn’t drink while on duty, they would knock on the outside wall of the pub, and the bartenders would bring their drinks outside to pass them through the wrought iron gates of the cemetery.

Our bed and breakfast wasn’t quite ready, so we walked over to Kavanagh’s and had a pint.  When we got to the pub, we went into the “old” part of the bar, which hasn’t changed for 200 years.  One of the locals started talking to us about soccer, and offered to take our photo (shown to the right).

In Kavanagh’s, we signed “the book”, which has had people sign it for the past couple hundred years.  We actually signed volume three, so there’s two more volumes of history that passed through there, and now we’re a part of it.

In The Temple Bar

In The Temple Bar

After we checked into our bed and breakfast, we took a bus to downtown Dublin, where we walked around.  We had lunch in one of the local pubs, and then just walked around downtown Dublin.

At one point, we stopped at the Temple Bar, which is also one of the historic pubs of Dublin.  As soon as we walked in, we saw two seats at the bar, and claimed them.  It was as if they knew we were coming.

We sat down, enjoyed the traditional Irish music being played, and had a pint of Guinness.

Although the Temple Bar district was an interesting part of Dublin, by this point we were tired, and after we walked around for a bit more, we took the bus back to the bed and breakfast.

After we rested a bit, we walked back to Kavanagh’s to spend the rest of our night.  When we got there, we went to the restaurant side, versus the bar, where we had went earlier in the day.

As soon as we got there, we began to fall in love with the place.  On the wall, there was a poster of several of the historic pubs of Dublin, and I jotted them down to visit the next day on our bus tour.  Our bartender talked about each one, explaining which ones would be the easiest for us to visit.

With Eugene Kavanagh

With Eugene Kavanagh

After we had a few, we asked the server, Shannon, if she could sign one of the coasters for us because we were having a great time.  The coasters were special because on one side, there was a photo of the Guinness brewery, and on the other side was the Grave Digger’s Bar.  This was special because Guinness rarely made coasters featuring one of the Dublin pubs.

After she had signed one, the head bartender walked out of the back and gave us a stack of about ten of the coasters.  A few minutes later, an older man signed one of the coasters, and gave it to us.  It said, “Best Wishes, Eugene Kavanagh”.  Eugene Kavanagh was the seventh generation family owner of Kavanagh’s bar.

Shannon told us that we needed to hang onto it because Eugene Kavanagh never signs anything.  As I was talking to Shannon, trying to figure out a memento for her for giving us the signed coaster (I had a $1 bill in my pocket that we signed and gave it to her), Grace was talking to Eugene.  She told him we were on our honeymoon, and even though he never takes photos with anyone, he agreed to have a photo taken with us.  The signed coasters and the photo are some of our most treasured pieces from Ireland.  We had a great time at Kavanagh’s, and it easily became one of our favorite places in Ireland.

At the end of the day, in day five, I had seven more pints of Guinness, bringing my total from 19 to 26.  Only six more to go before I hit the 32!

The Trip to Kilkenny

posted on July 18, 2010 at 11:37 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Last Port of Call of the Titanic

Last Port of Call of the Titanic

This is day four of our six day honeymoon to Ireland.

The next day, on our trip to Kilkenny, Ireland, we began the day with our breakfast, then traveled to the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove).  There, we visited several historic ports, including the last port of call of the Titanic and the memorial for the Lusitania, the cruiser that was destroyed by a German u-boat shortly after launching.  I thought it was neat that many of the Irish immigrants left Ireland through this port on the way to the USA through Ellis Island.

We also visited {Cobh_Cathedral|St. Coleman’s Cathedral}, which enjoys the most advantageous position of any Irish cathedral.

Once we finished visiting Cobh, I noticed a sign mentioning the Jameson Irish Whiskey Experience in Midleton, which happened to be on our way to our next stop.

The Jameson Experience

The Jameson Experience

So, we stopped in Midleton and took the tour of the old Jameson Distillery.  Adjacent to the old distillery is the new distillery, and at one point, we could look over the horizon to see it.

One thing I learned from the tour was before the distillation, the making of whiskey is very similar to the making of beer.

At the end of the tour, Grace and I both volunteered to be “taste testers”.  We were able to taste the difference between Irish whiskey (Jameson), Scotch whiskey (Johnny Walker Black), and US whiskey (Jack Daniels).  The Irish whiskey, as advertised, was very smooth because of the triple distillation.  The Scotch whiskey had a smoky flavor, and was a bit more harsh because it had only been distilled twice.  The US whiskey had a completely different flavor due to the fact it didn’t use only barley (it also uses corn) in its creation, and was only distilled once.  The distillation process makes the alcohol stronger, and also removes impurities.  This is why the greater number of distillations results in the smoother flavor of Irish whiskey.  Because we had to continue driving, we didn’t have as much whiskey, but it was an informative experience.

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

After stopping at the Jameson Experience, we traveled to the town of Dungarvan, where Grace had relatives immigrate to go to America.  It was a harbor town, similar to Kinsale.  We walked around to visit Grace’s homeland, and had some lunch, and, of course, I enjoyed a Guinness.

Our last stop on the way to Kilkenny was the Rock of Cashel, which is one of the oldest historic sites in Ireland.  It was built around the 5th century, and was given to the church around the 12th and 13th centuries.  It was an amazing site with a ton of history.  By the time we were there, we were the last visitors to the site, so we were able to take a bunch of great photos.

After we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, we finished our day’s trip to Kilkenny.  Once we got into town, we checked into our bed and breakfast, then went for some dinner.  We went to Kyteler’s Inn in downtown Kilkenny.  This pub was founded in 1324 by Dame Alice le Kyteler.  The story was she had poisoned four husbands and, although was burned at the stake for witchcraft, survived, but disappeared after this.

Andrew Ryan in Kilkenny

Andrew Ryan in Kilkenny

After dinner, it started to rain, which was the only time while we were in Ireland when it rained.  We walked closer to our bed and breakfast and stepped into a pub, Andrew Ryan.

While there, a group of 7-10 session musicians (I couldn’t really count all of them), were playing all sorts of music, ranging from traditional Irish, to US oldies, to even some newer US  hits.  Grace and I had several pints of Guinness.  As we were hanging out, I was looking around at all the photos posted on the walls.  Many of them were couples, but there were also a lot of photos of womens’ cleavage.

After we had a few, we mentioned we were on our honeymoon, and a few minutes later, the bartender pulled out his digital camera, and took our photo.  So, the next time we go to Kilkenny, Ireland, we are going to Andrew Ryan to see if we can find our photo.

Although there was a lot of travel on the fourth day, I was able to have 7 more Guinnesses, in addition to the combination of shots at the Jameson experience, bringing my current total to 19.  Only two more days to go!  See where the final 13 end up!

Next Stop In Ireland: Kinsale

posted on July 15, 2010 at 12:48 am by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone

This is day three of our six day honeymoon to Ireland.

The next morning, we woke up, had a nice breakfast, and headed to our next bed and breakfast.  On the way, we stopped at Blarney Castle.  According to legend, if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you gain the gift of gab, or the gift of flattery.  To kiss the Blarney Stone, you lean backwards and descend to kiss the bottom of the wall, which is where the stone is placed.  The stone has been kissed by many of the world’s greatest orators, most notably Winston Churchill .

Being deathly afraid of heights, Grace, my new wife, had me go first to see if I would go through with it.  Very quickly, I sat down, leaned back, grabbed the support rails (recent additions, mind you), and slid down to kiss the stone.  Immediately after, Grace did the same!

Grace's Seafood Platter

Grace's Seafood Platter

After touring the Blarney Castle, we traveled through Cork, then on to Kinsale.  Kinsale was a quaint little harbor town that reminded Grace of Maine, because of the way it smelled and the aura it had.  We had lunch at a nice place downtown.  After we had toured the downtown, we hopped back into our car to go to our next bed and breakfast.  Thinking we were headed back to Cork, I pulled out the location, and began entering it into our GPS.  As soon as we began entering the address, we realized that our bed and breakfast was in Kinsale.  Even though we booked it a month before, we had forgotten we had chosen a place in Kinsale, and we were very excited to stay.

After we checked into our bed and breakfast, we went back down to the city center and had some dinner.  Grace was already tired of fish and chips, and really wanted fresh seafood.  At the restaurant “The White House”, they had the largest, freshest plate of seafood I’ve ever seen.  It was delicious!

Musicians in Kinsale

Musicians in Kinsale

After eating, we walked around a bit, and found a pub where the musicians were just setting up.  We walked in and got some front-row seats, so we wouldn’t miss anything.  Right away, as they began to play, the singers asked for us to cheer loudly to attract others, and within about 10 minutes, we were able to get the place packed.

We had a great time, and were treated to some traditional Irish music, including “Whiskey in the Jar”, and “Cockles and Mussels (Molly Malone)”.  At some point, someone discovered that we were on our honeymoon (I may have tipped someone off), and they sang the song “Congratulations” to us, and a couple of people from Philadelphia bought us a round of Guinnesses.

After the musicians wrapped it up for the night, some ladies who were in Kinsale on a ski (Spending Kids’ Inheritance) vacation from south of Dublin told us some nice words of wisdom to keep our marriage happy forever.  I don’t really remember them now, but I’m sure they were good tips.

That day in Kinsale, over lunch, dinner, and evening drinks, I caught up and had 7 Guinnesses, bringing my Ireland total up to 12 (out of 32).  If you’re keeping track, there’s still 20 left.  Keep checking in to see when they happen!

Visiting Killarney

posted on July 12, 2010 at 10:24 am by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Irish Hills

Irish Hills

This is day two on our honeymoon in Ireland.

The next morning, my new bride and I woke up, had our breakfast, and continued to the next stop on our Irish journey: Killarney.  Along the way, we took the ferry across the Shannon river, which was neat, and saved us a couple hours driving time.

As soon as we got to Killarney, we checked into our second bed and breakfast, then decided to take a short tour of the town.  Along the way, we took a horse-and-buggy ride of Killarney and Killarney National Park.  Killarney National Park is one of the largest parks in Ireland, and is home to the famous Irish red deer.  We also visited Ross Castle.  We had a nice time, and our guide continually got out of the carriage and took our picture in several scenic locations.

After our ride, we decided to attempt traveling the Ring of Kerry, a large scenic route around the Kerry peninsula.  Along the way, we stopped and took a tour of the Muckross House.  The history of the house was fascinating, but the most interesting part was the original owners, Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, spent large amounts of money to prepare for a visit from Queen Victoria in 1861.  A good visit from the queen would allow them Lord and Lady status, giving them a higher social stature and the privilege to land ownership.  After the queen’s visit, however, her husband, Prince Albert died, and the status never was granted.  Because of these events, the family had to sell the house because they had become bankrupt.

Along the way to the Ring of Kerry, we took several nice scenic photos, such as the one shown as “Irish Hills”.  Because we had not gotten used to the driving, we decided that the 5-hour trip along the narrow road opposing buses would be too much for us to handle, so we only traveled part of the ring.

Closing Down a Pub in Killarney

Closing Down a Pub in Killarney

After the car trip, which was still about 3 hours, we decided to rest a bit before going out in the evening.  Once we were up, we toured around looking for a place to eat.  The restaurants in town had the menus shown in front, so, while we decided where we wanted to go, the clock turned 9, and most places didn’t serve food anymore.  Because the U.S. has places to eat at almost any time, we weren’t quite prepared for this.

We finally found a take-and-eat (a.k.a. fast food) place that had freshly battered fish and chips.  Right up the street, many of the pubs started to play music, so after our meal, we went into one of the local pubs.

After a few pints of Guinness (and one Beamish stout) while listening to music, the pub closed down.  As we looked around, we could only see a few other folks in the pub, and we started chatting with the bartender.

He told us that he used to be a firefighter in New York City.  One day, there was a call at Derek Jeter’s residence, and he was one of the firefighters to respond.  Although it turned out to be a false alarm, Derek Jeter was thankful, and signed a card that said, “Take care of this guy. -Derek Jeter”.

The next time he went to a Yankees game, he and his two young sons were brought to box seats, and were even invited to the post-game party, but he said he had to bring his sons home.  After that, for seven years, he bought Yankees season tickets, including the post-season, in the box seats for only $5,000.  It was a great story, and we were glad to have met him.  After that, we were even able to snap a quick photo with him for posterity.

That night was when I decided to start my Guinness mission, and that day brought my Irish Guinness total to 5.  Stay tuned for the remaining 27!


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