One THOUSAND breweries. A journey that began in the late 1980s culminated earlier this month in Seattle, WA with Merideth and I visiting our 1,000th brewery.

This was never really the plan. There was no plan when I started keeping track of the breweries we visited. But “the List” began to take on a life of its own becoming the focus of our travels.

We really didn’t think about 1,000 until we reached the 750 range. Then it was just a feeling “I want to reach 1,000 before I turn 50.” Only at #900, did Merideth and I start discussing the possible the milestone brewery. Ideas ranged from some exotic locale to that brewery we always wanted to visit, Budweiser in St. Louis.

When we reached #950, I realized I needed to start planning in earnest. Reaching out to a fellow beer traveling friend, he said something that stuck in my head. Whatever we did, it needed to be special. After some thought, special to us was an Urban Beer Hike in Seattle with a group of friends.

Fast forward to Merideth and I sitting at #994. On a rainy Saturday morning, we met up with that group of friends at Brouwers Cafe, the starting point for our hike. Over a few beers and some much needed food, Merideth and I caught up with our fellow beer hikers, most we hadn’t seen in a few years. At the scheduled time, 12:30pm, our group started our trek to the first brewery in a light drizzle. Our looping journey would start in the Fremont district and end in Interbay. In between, we would hit the brewery dense Ballard and Magnolia districts.

Let’s get hiking!

Despite the rain, it was a pleasant walk as we set out along the tree-lined path decorated in fall colors. The only hazard were the puddles. There would be plenty of time for wet feet without the added soaking of stepping into one of the small lakes along our route.

First stop

Covering territory we had walked on previous beer hikes in Seattle, we passed Hales, one of the first 50 breweries visited and the new Fremont Brewing facility. Before long and still relatively dry, we were at Lucky Envelope Brewing, #995 on “The List.”

Usually, Merideth and I would order a taster set. But today wasn’t about the beer, it was about enjoying the moment, enjoying time with friends. Quickly scanning the choices, Merideth ordered a Blonde Ale. I went with ENIAC 2.0 a 6.9% ABV Mosaic-based IPA. With pints in hand, we rejoined the group at a large table and continued the banter that began at Brouwers.

With a schedule to keep, Lucky Envelope was a one and done. Thankfully, more beer wasn’t long in coming as our second stop, Stoup Brewing, was literally around corner. With the weather, their rather large outdoor seating area was empty. We squeezed into the smallish, busy tasting room and joined the queue for beer.

All smiles at our second stop

Merideth and I played true to form with our beer choices; she with their award-winning Hefeweizen, me with the Citra IPA. Beers in hand, our group scattered about the tasting room looking to squeeze into a corner or along the wall.

Despite being a non-taster flight day, traveling with our little gang afforded us the opportunity to try a number of beers that our compatriots ordered. Getting a sip of the wonderful and also award-winning Stoup Porter I decided going forward  I would temper my hophead tendencies and branch out with my beer choices.

The special moment of the day happened when Chris D. pointed out a Fraggle sticker on the wall at Stoup. Merideth and I thought it very fitting that Fraggle unexpectedly became part of our big day.

Beers at Reuben’s

In the Ballard district, ticking off breweries was like shooting fish in a barrel. After contemplating a second beer at Stoup, we again decided our schedule dictated we press on. Reuben’s Brews, our third stop, was another short walk.

A dizzying array of beer choices confronted us, 24 in all. While Merideth started with 5.7% ABV Belgian Pale I jumped off the IPA train and ordered the 6.2% ABV Robust Porter. After quick sips at the bar, #997 was officially added.

Lucky for our sizable group, a large table opened up in the crowded tasting room while we were lined up for beers. Sitting at the beer glass filled table with our friends chatting about this and that, I realized that we had made the right choice for our 1,000th brewery trip.

Maybe starting to get into a groove, Reuben’s was the first multi-beer stop. Despite my vow to broaden my horizons, I went back to the hops, ordering the Amarillo Fresh Hop Pale Ale.


Even on our 1,000th brewery day, we stuck to the code we developed all those years ago. Walking into a tasting room that the locals in our group weren’t sure met the brewed on premise rule, we verified with the bartender that in fact the beer was brewed elsewhere. I felt bad as our group of eight, who had just entered, all left.

Our backup choice and last Ballard brewery of the day was Hilliard’s Beer. It truly felt like the quiet before the storm as Merideth and I sipped on Chrome Satan, their delicious version of a California Common. Props for the name, an anagram for the well-known version from San Francisco.

With a number of beers under our belts, our hike leader, Dave,  recommended a quick stop for some food. After a few slices and pints at Ballard Pizza Company, it was time for the first of two long legs of the hike.

Darkness had started to settle in during our pizza and beer break. Bundled up, we set off through “downtown” Ballard heading towards the Magnolia district. Walking past hip shops, bars and restaurants, I felt oddly dressed in my shorts and rain gear. Thankfully, I wasn’t wearing a bright yellow rain poncho or I would have really felt out of place.

The locks at night

Through a park we came upon the Ballard locks. Officially called the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, I had no idea they even existed in Seattle. The series of locks connect Lakes Washington and Union to the Puget Sound and looked beautiful at night lit up in the rain.

The last of the triple digit breweries

Arriving at Urban Family Brewing, there was not just one but two kids birthday parties happening. Seeing no cake, I moved on to the important matter of getting a beer. Easily the most eclectic selection of beers on the day, Urban Family specializes in French and Belgian-style Farmhouse ales.

For the last of the triple digit breweries, Merideth and I both ordered the Saison, The Flowers Are Always Asleep. Other beers ordered by our crew were Limesicle, an IPA with lime zest and the deep purple colored Herr Kinski’s Blackberry Thought-Forms.

Over these beers, we squeezed in a few games of Asteroids and Missile Command on vintage consoles.

The last portion of the hike to West Seattle was another long one. In a beer hike first for us, we passed a bustling rail yard full of locomotives and boxcars. Something that I would expect to be behind a security fence, we walked past as if we were walking through a mall parking lot. If I had dreams of dropping out of society to ride the rails as a hobo, this seemed my big moment to leap on a locomotive or car and really travel. Even after a bunch of beers, I think I made the right choice to continue walking.

1000th brewery kiss

Holy Mountain Brewing was aptly named for our thousandth brewery. For me, the day’s hike to reach Holy Mountain was the end of a long beer pilgrimage that started in 1987 at Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley.

For the milestone beer at the milestone brewery Merideth ordered the 4.8% ABV The White Lodge Wit. My beer to mark the moment was Three Fates, a 4.8% ABV Pilsner-style beer.

Nowhere else to be, we celebrated over many beers at Holy Mountain. Eight miles walked. Six breweries visited. Milestone achieved. We can’t thank our friends enough for joining us on our special day: Chris D, Dave, Mandy, Link, Allie, Melissa, Renee, Mike, Russ, Phillippe. Special thanks go out to Dave for not only planning the hike but also keeping us on schedule during  and Chris D for letting us invade his work for our thousandth.

It truly feels like an end of an era for us. When we started beer traveling, there was a sense of adventure, such as finding the brewery in Italy with our only directions being that it was in the village’s main piazza. Today, with the sheer number of breweries and technology, beer travel has morphed into more a matter of logistics; how many breweries can we fit in a certain amount of time. We’re not sure what will look like moving forward but it will most likely more closely resemble our Zoigl experience rather than what we have done in the past. We hope you continue to follow along as we look for new beer adventures.

Here is a little video shot to commemorate the moment.

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The Zoigl Experience

Have you ever Zoigled? No? Well, I have and it is the most awesomely awkward beer travel experience I have ever had.

What Zoigl is all about

First a bit of history. Zoigl is a beer that is brewed in the Oberpfälzer Wald, a region in the far eastern  part of Bavaria very near the Czech border. For approximately 600 years, beer has been brewed in communal breweries owned by either a town or a group of home brewers. The wort is then given to each brewer who takes it home to ferment in their own cellar. When it’s ready, they put out a six-pointed star – a symbol of a brewers guild in Bavaria – to show they are open for business.

The beer is served directly from the lagering tank until it is gone. Then the next brewer puts out his star and opens until his beer is gone. And so it goes throughout the year. I find it best to think of Zoigl more as a brewing tradition than a beer style. For more information on the history, visit

Now, when we told our friends in Germany where we were going and what we were doing, they were all a bit perplexed. Even they were not very familiar with Zoigl or the area, except to say that the people there spoke a very strange dialect, even by Bavarian standards.

We arrived in Neustadt a.d. Waldnaab, our home for the next few nights, and immediately spied a six-pointed star hanging around the corner from our hotel. We later learned, however, that while there are a number of places that put out a star and call their beer Zoigl, there is a much smaller number actually brewing communally in a Kommunbrauhaus. The one around the corner was not brewing traditional Zoigl.

Each Zoiglstube is only open for a few days to a week at a time, so if you want to maximize the number of Zoiglstuben you visit, planning is important. Before we left, Chris consulted the yearly calendar on (a different site than mentioned above). We later found that each town prints their own handy pocket calendar to keep track of who will be open when. Oh, and we decided beforehand that none of the Zoiglstuben would count on the List because no brewing takes place at the individual sites.

We found our first Zoiglstube

For our first real Zoigl experience, we drove a short distance to Windischeschenbach, one of the original Zoigl towns. I really had no idea what to expect. I knew to look for the star, but that was about it. We easily found Zum Roud’n, operated by the Heinl family. There was no other marker, except for the star, so I tentatively walked down a short corridor to find the door. Luckily, right by the door was a sign indicating we had found the right place. It had been a very long time since I had felt so unsure of myself while in Germany.

I opened the door and was immediately faced with a long table of about ten men. They all turned to look at me in the doorway. For a moment I thought perhaps I wasn’t supposed to be there because I didn’t see any other women. I turned around for reassurance from Chris and he wasn’t there. He was still outside taking pictures. I let the door close behind me, which necessitated a somewhat embarrassing second entrance, this time with Chris as back up.

The room was small with four long tables and a bit stuffy. To give you a sense of how it feels to be in a Zoiglstube, think if you were to open your dining room or patio to anyone and everyone for a week at a time every few months serving beer and a small menu of home cooked Bavarian fare. That is a Zoiglstube.

Like good ol’ Americans, we immediately chose the one table that had no other people. Within a few minutes, the owner approached and we successfully ordered our beers (There is only one kind, but different sizes). In addition to my welcoming committee of ten men, about three other people sat quietly drinking their beer. Frequent glances in our direction with accompanying snickers made it very awkward, but with beer in hand I had regained my confidence. What I didn’t know then, but was to discover as we visited more Zoiglstuben, is that the Zoiglstube is a local gathering spot. The men had turned to look at us not to wonder who the heck we were and what were we doing there (okay, that’s not completely true), but rather to see which neighbor was arriving. Their summation that we were not just out of towners, but also American tourists perplexed them more than anything. This part of Bavaria is not a tourist destination and my guess is that foreigners are far and few between.

Our first taste of Zoigl

Turns out we had arrived just in time, as the place filled up quickly and we were soon sharing our table with others. Now this felt more comfortable, not only because it was an atmosphere we enjoy, but also because the attention on us seemed to be dissipating. Everyone in the room, including ourselves, turned to look each time the door opened. All patrons pretty much showed the same somewhat startled look as they entered. They commented on the crowd, scanned the room for people they knew, and then found an open seat. As far as I could tell, friendly salutations were exchanged amongst whoever made eye contact.

The beer came in half liter mugs and was tallied just like they do in Köln, ticks on a beer mat. The amber colored beer was unfiltered with a strong malt presence, very little hop bitterness was detected. It was very tasty and it went down easily. All of the Zoiglstuben also have a small menu of traditional Bavarian fare. At Zum Roud’n, we ordered a cheese board, which turned out to be quite sizable. To round out the first awesomely awkward experience, we discovered that prices are extremely reasonable.  Six beers and a cheese plate set us back about $20.

We had visited Zum Roud’n on the last day they were open. The next day, the star was down and the man who had served us was on his roof making some repairs.

No longer Zoigl virgins

In Chris’ original plan, we were going to take a 12km round trip walk from our hotel to Windischeschenbach and Neuhaus visiting a Zoiglstube in each town. However, Mother Nature had other ideas and we didn’t want to chance getting caught halfway through in the pouring rain. What this did allow us to do, however, was take a drive out to Mitterteich to visit an additional Zoiglstube.

Trying to confuse us

Lugert is located at 12 Bachstrasse, otherwise known as Boozhaus. According to Lugert’s website, the Boozhaus had been a Zoiglstube for hundreds of years, but closed sometime in the 20th Century. It re-opened 16 years ago.

Like Zum Roud’n, Lugert was a little tricky in that there was not a big sign out front. There wasn’t even a six-pointed star. Hanging from a pole high above our heads was what looked like the top of a Christmas tree hanging upside down. But it wasn’t the bright cheery green of a Christmas tree. Hanging upside down it made me feel sadly curious, very Tim Burton-esque. Just below on the wall there was a green sign. It was the authentic Zoigl symbol (Echter Zoigl vom Kommunbrauer), which would become a familiar and comforting sight for us. It showed we were in the right place.

Despite the relative newness of the current establishment, Lugert maintains a traditional feel with the beer and food. Our waiter was in his 30s, by far the youngest of all those who waited on us. We thought it was our best chance to speak a bit of English and maybe get a firmer understanding of how all this Zoigl stuff worked. We were wrong and the waiter showed little interest in chatting with us in English or otherwise. The room was of medium capacity and similarly crowded when we arrived. We found a couple of seats at an empty table close to the door. A trio of older individuals joined us and it became quite cozy. At Lugert there were far fewer weird looks in our direction and we were feeling much more confident, having had one other Zoiglstube under our belt.

The beer was in a similar vein as Zum Roud’n, malt forward (though with a lighter body) with little hop presence. This one was not quite as cloudy, but still unfiltered and paired nicely with one of my favorite Bavarian specialties, Obatzda. Overall. It was a very enjoyable experience. One we would not have been afforded had the weather been more amenable to the long walk Chris had planned.

Our second Zoiglstube

We visited two other Zoiglstuben, Schlosshof in Windischeschenbach and Schoilmichl in Neuhaus, the other traditional Zoigl town.

The weather was trying to cooperate with us and the sun was shining through a bit more. This gave us the chance to walk around Windischeschenbach a bit. Not being a tourist town, the window shopping was minimal, but that was okay. We were just happy to be out and walking around.

The sun is out in the Biergarten

We found Schlosshof down some winding streets in a residential area. In fact, most of Windischeschenbach seemed residential. We entered a Biergarten in front and headed inside. We were immediately hit with the stifling warmth of a sauna. Although no one else was sitting outside, we went back out to sit in the pleasant Biergarten.

With only one kind of beer, you don’t have to think much about it and just order. I found all of the beers at the Zoiglstuben we visited to be nice and easy to drink. The food was great, too. At Schlosshof we opted to go bigger and I ordered the Schweinbraten with Kartoffelknödl, roast pork with a potato dumpling. Chris ordered the cold roast pork plate.

Sitting outside made it a somewhat solitary experience, but it was nice to sit in the sunlight. We watched as laboring men stopped by for a beer and small children were picked up for a play date. I imagine that parents whose home is the neighborhood gathering spot would feel right at home at Schlosshof.

Finished at the Schlosshof

One of the cool things about Schlosshof is that it has an apartment to rent. However, when Chris made our travel plans he found that the apartment was not available. I think it would be a cool place to stay for the ultimate Zoigl-centered trip.

The last Zoiglstuben we visited was Schoilmichl. It was unlike any of the other Zoiglstuben we visited. The other three were packed or became so soon after we arrived. We walked in Schoilmichl to find the place completely empty. An older gentleman came out to greet us and Chris did his best to ask in German if the place as open. As I said previously, the dialect is very different in Eastern Bavaria and it took a bit of deciphering to determine that 1) they were open, and 2) because it was their last day, there as no more food. This explained why the large room was empty.

Our Zoigl experience comes to an end

Owner Manfred Punzmann was a jolly, round man who tried very hard to communicate with us. Together we sat at a table, with no other people in the room, trying to communicate by using a lot of hand gestures, some poorly pronounced German, a tad bit of broken English, and a fair amount of a German dialect completely foreign to us. Another couple (friends of Manfred as far as we could tell) came in while we were there. Manfred explained that we were American and the man came over to try to speak to us in English. Overall, this was probably the most awkward of all the Zoiglstube experiences.

To be honest, we couldn’t drink our beer fast enough. At the same time, it was extremely rewarding in that Manfred and his friends were not about to give up and leave us alone because we couldn’t communicate. They wanted to interact with us, offering information on Zoigl and generally being very welcoming. In a world with waning customer service and increasingly isolated consumerism, Manfred’s attitude was refreshing and reassuring that interpersonal communication was alive and well, even if we barely knew what the other was saying. It fully embodied the Zoigl spirit and pretty much encapsulated my experience of this new beer adventure.

Aside from the generous attention and hospitality, the best part of our visit to Schoilmichl was that we could purchase beer vom fass to go. For 3, we purchased a one liter bottle of freshly filled Zoigl. We even went out to by some heavy duty tape to make sure the swing top didn’t open during the trip home. We shared it with friends at home about five days later. It was fully carbonated and just as good as when we had it at Schoilmichl. Sharing this beer with friends allowed us to bring a bit of our awesomely awkward adventure home to re-experience in an awesomely not-so-awkward way.

In a trip with a compressed schedule, we moved on from the Oberpfälzer Wald the next morning. Other Zoiglstube opened later in the week, but we would already be home in California. Awkward at times and despite not adding any breweries to the List, Zoigl was one of those truly special adventures in our long years of beer travel.

Cheers to Zoigl!

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Our Anniversary, Dublin Style

We have been lucky enough to spend some special days in some of our favorite cities. The last time we were in Dublin, Merideth and I spent her birthday traipsing around the ice-covered city drinking craft beer, ending with an awesome dinner with friends. This trip, we spent a romantic 26th anniversary traipsing around Dublin drinking craft beer without the ice, ending at the same spot to have another awesome dinner.

December 2010: Our last Dublin beer hike

As we departed our hotel late morning, I realized the one advantage that frigid and icy December day in 2010 had over present day Dublin was oddly the weather. While cold, I mean really cold, that day was clear. Forecast for our anniversary beer hike was showers. Nothing can put a damper on beer travel enthusiasm more rain.

On the map, the journey to our first stop, the 5 Lamps Brewery, looked pretty straight forward, a few lefts, than a couple of rights. But a premature left had us wandering the confusing grounds of St James Hospital. I stand corrected. The one thing more than rain that can put a frown on Merideth’s face is following me when she thinks I am lost, which on very rare occasions, does happen. Then it started raining. Our on wedding anniversary. Even I was frustrated unleashing a few f-bombs. After circling around to what felt almost back the our hotel, I finally found the correct road and we were on our way.

Our brewery count immortalized on the wall

We were teetering on being soaked when we located the 5 Lamps Brewery at the back of an industrial park. Greeted by brewer Will Harvey, we were soon joined by owner Brian Fagan.

With greetings completed, we got down the important stuff, drinking beer and learning the definition of 5 Lamps. With their first beer in hand, the Dublin Lager, we listened as Brian explained their colorful name. In Dublin banter, if you want, for example, to shut up a person who is being annoying, you ask them “Do you know the 5 lamps?” No matter the answer, the reply is always “go hang your bollocks off them.”

Continuing on through the 5 Lamps beers, we chatted with Brian and Will about the 5 Lamps (the brewery not the slang) and the Dublin and Irish beer scenes. Talking of their beers, the word accessible came up a number of times. In our world of heavily hopped, barrel aged this and that, accessible is not always a word we hear a lot. But all the beers were well crafted, with the Honor Bright Red Ale and Blackpitts Porter being the standouts for me.

Not wanting to take up any more of Brian and Will’s time, we offered our thanks and bade farewell. As we backtracked to continue our anniversary beer trek, thankfully, the rain let up. The day was even making an effort on being pleasant with the sun trying its best to make an appearance.

Anniversary pints at Bull & Castle

Up past St. Patrick’s Cathedral we walked, conveniently arriving out front of Bull & Castle just around lunch time. Settling in with a pints of Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, Merideth and I grabbed a quick bite to eat to fortify us for the afternoon of walking and beer drinking.

We even managed to have goodbye pints with our friends Paul and Eilís before they headed back to London.

Continuing our journey through the bustling Temple Bar for the last time this trip, I thought back to our first visit to Dublin almost 17 years ago. Home to the city’s first brewpub, the Porterhouse, Temple Bar in those days was the center of our Dublin beer universe. How our beer world expanded over the years!

With no time for a pint at the Palace, we exited Temple Bar destined for one of the Dublin’s new specialty beer bars. Crossing O’Connell Bridge, we headed down past the Custom House. For Merideth and I, these are mostly uncharted parts of Dublin, an area we rarely frequent.

Near Connolly Train Station, the Brew Dock, like Beer Market we visited on the first night, is part of the growing Galway Bay empire. However, where the Beer Market was shiny and new, the Brew Dock, though newish, felt more traditional, even gritty. Though I will admit seeing out front the young drunk lad with the almost empty bottle of wine being kicked off LUAS added to my initial other side of the tracks impressions.

Taps at the Brew Dock

There was nothing other side of the tracks about the beer list. Along with a lineup of Galway Bay beers, the selection was a who’s who of international breweries. Of note to me was London’s Brew By Numbers, which was housed in the brewer’s basement flat when we visited in 2013. Things must be going well for them.

We stuck with Galway Bay beers. Merideth ordered Mare Icognnita, a 4.8% ABV Saison. Of course, I got the Voyager IPA (US). Hopped with Bravo, Citra, Amarillo and Cascade, the ABV was also on the American scale, 7.5% ABV.

With our day rapidly coming to an end, we were one and done at the Brew Dock. Our journey next took us down shopping mad Henry Street past Smithfield and into Stoneybatter.

If I was forced to name my favorite Dublin beer spot, I would probably say L. Mulligan Grocer. Off the tourist path, the combination of great beer selection and eclectic food menu makes it a must stop on all our visits to the Irish capital. I could think of no better place for the Irish portion of the trip swan song.

Arriving at opening time, we settled in for a few beers and a relaxing anniversary dinner. We shared the Ploughman for an appetizer. While Merideth ordered the Pork Belly for her main, I went lighter with the Spring Pea Tart. There would be plenty of time for pork on the German portion of our trip. All was exactly the culinary expertise that we have come to expect from L. Mulligan Grocer. We finished off the evening pairing chocolate cake with Dark Arts Porter from Trouble Brewing.

Main course…

With an early flight to Germany the next day, we spent our last night in Ireland at an airport hotel. Somewhat an odd way to end a trip to Dublin, especially since we tried to go to bed at 8pm (Not something easy to do when it is light until after 10:30). But we had a full day, six plus miles walked, and plenty of delicious Irish beer and food consumed. All and all, Merideth and I had a great 26th anniversary day.

Happy 26th!

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Eight Hours in Cork

Once it was settled that we would spend a few days in Ireland prior to heading over to Germany, my task was to map out our brewery visits. With no plans to rent a car, our options were limited to the Dublin area or places we could reach via train or bus network. After a bit of research, spending a day in Cork seemed like the best option to add a few breweries.

Despite the first day over-indulgence in Dublin, Merideth and I managed to make our morning train to Cork. We welcomed the two-and-a-half hour journey for a bit more sleep. Arriving at Kent Station in Cork, the fresh air of the almost one mile walk to our first stop, Rising Sons, also helped in clearing the cobwebs from our heads.

A nice walk along the River Lee

Rising Sons was unlike any other brewpub we have been to in Ireland. For lack of a better word, it was very American. The large brick exterior was reminiscent of a warehouse but the building had, in fact, housed a printer who at one time printed all the check books in the country. The high ceiling, exposed beamed open interior was dominated on one side by the copper clad brewery behind a large window that backed the bar.

Starting light

Waiting for us at the bar was our friend and guide for the day, Dave O’Leary. Owner of Bierhaus Cork, we first met Dave back in 2008 during our Year in Beer visit to Ireland. One of the pioneers of the Cork beer scene, who better to hang out with in Ireland’s second city?

Still feeling the effects of the previous night, I ordered, somewhat out of character for me, a half of Sunbeam. The half being the out of character part, I caught Merideth giving me a ‘I’m married to this guy’ look when I said half. The 4.3% ABV Bavarian-style lager was a perfect hair of the dog beer. Merideth started with Grainú Ale, Rising Sons’ 4.6% ABV Belgian-style Summer Ale. She was a trooper though and ordered a whole pint.

Six years since we last visited Cork, five years since seeing Dave last, we caught up with him and the Cork beer scene as we nursed our beers. Starting to feel alive again, I followed up Sunbeam with Handsum, Rising Sons’ American hopped IPA. However, I still stuck with a half pint.

Already back in our minds that we had an evening train to catch back to Dublin, we finished our beers and decided it was best to move on.

If there is a commonality in the people we meet on our travels, it’s that many end up helping us with our quest. Whether it is research, transportation or guide, people are eager to participate in our beer adventures. Dave was no different.

He mentioned there was a newish brewery in Mayfield, an outlying area of Cork, that had an American connection. Too far to walk and too long a journey on public transportation given our short window, Dave volunteered to drive us to the amusingly named Cotton Ball. And we can’t thank Dave enough for this. Not only did we add a brewery that we might not have, Cotton Ball ended up being one of those very special brewery visits — it joined my love of beer and interest in Civil War history.

First pint of the day, Indian Summer Pale Ale

Up past Heineken Ireland we drove into a working class part of Cork. The sign advertising Stouts and Ales gave the Cotton Ball a look of your typical Irish pub from the outside. Entering the small front bar, I was somewhat surprised to be the only customers. Our trio settled up to the bar.

Both Merideth and I started with the 4.7% ABV Indian Summer Pale Ale. A wonderful citrus hop aroma greeted me as I took a big gulp of my first pint of the day. After a few more gulps, it was time to go check out the brewery. Pints in hand, we passed through the large dining room (that’s where all the people were!), down some stairs and into the large space located below. Here we were greeted by Eoin Lynch. Brewing started in late 2013, Eoin Lynch explained as we toured the five barrel brewhouse.

While touring the brewery, Dave brought up the American connection. Eoin suggested we go back upstairs and talk to his father, he would be able to fill us in. Eoin introduced us to his father, Jack Lynch. And the Cotton Ball story unfolded.

Jack’s grandfather, Eoin’s great-grandfather, Humphrey Lynch emigrated to America at age 15, settling north of Boston. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Humphrey enlisted, joining the 4th U.S. Light Artillery. Fighting mainly in the western theater including battles such as Chickamauga, Humphrey was discharged from the Union Army in 1865 at the rank of sergeant.

With Jack Lynch and a rare 39 star American flag

Returning to Ireland in the 1870s, Humphrey bought a public house in what was then called Baile na Mbocht. He named his pub the Cotton Ball, harkening back to his years following the Civil War working as a foreman in a cotton mill. Almost 140 years later, still owned by the same family, the Cotton Ball added the brewery.

Back at the bar after the history lesson, we all grabbed a bite to eat while enjoying the Cotton Ball’s wonderful Lynch’s Handcrafted Stout, both on nitro and off the shelf.

Returning to the city center, we had time for a quick pint at the Bierhaus (Dave’s beer bar) before heading to our last stop of the day. And Merideth bought her new favorite zippie.

Last stop

Space was a premium at the tiny Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House. Entering the tiny 25 seat restaurant, I wondered if we had ever been in a smaller brewpub. I think not. Greeted by the manager, Jerry O’Sullivan, he immediately started us on a tour of Elbow Lane.

Pushing some tables and chairs away to access a door at the back of the restaurant, we entered the tiny brewhouse. I immediately recognized how the place could be so small, a Braumeister system. An all-in-one brewery, all grain brewing system, we had seen one of these before on our last trip to London, but on a much smaller scale. While in that system, the basket could be lifted out by hand, Elbow Lane utilized the biggest kit available, 250 liters. Lifting the basket required a winch. With this Braumeister kit, Elbow Lane produces five house beers.

Touring the conditioning tanks upstairs, Jerry explained that the goal was to achieve just-in-time brewing as much as possible. One of the benefits of such a small brewery to tour, Merideth, Dave and I were quickly seated at the bar ready to try their brews.

Sample flight at Elbow Lane

Beers ranged from Elbow Lager to Angel Stout. All the beers were solid, especially the 4.4% ABV Stout whose strong roast character I imagined pairing well with some of the bigger meat dishes. The star was Arrow Weiss, a 5% ABV Bavarian-style Wheat that recently won Best in Category for Wheat Beers at the Killarney Beerfest. The prominent banana/clove character reminded me that in a few days we would be in Germany.

The food menu looked pretty amazing but our appetites failed us at this crucial moment. We stuck with a couple of small bites, Olives & Spiced Fried Chickpeas and Pigs in Blankets, as we moved through the sample flight.

It was now early evening and our train’s departure back to Dublin was looming. We thanked Jerry for his hospitality, and after thanking Dave profusely for being our tour guide for the day, we parted ways.

With three breweries added to the List, we walked back to the train station with a bit more bounce in our step then we made the opposite journey from earlier in the day. We can’t thank Dave enough for taking the time to chaperone us around his city.

Heading back to the train station after a great day in Cork.

View all the images from Cork

We’re Back!

Life in the last few years has not been compatible with our beer travel pace of years past. Two old dogs and one new puppy later, we once again hit the road in search of the next great beer adventure. And boy did it feel great!

To avoid high airfares, we started our trip to Germany with a short detour to Ireland. This initially caused a bit of a stir for us, but we soon embraced it as an opportunity to see some friends and re-discover a city we hadn’t been to in years.

Ireland’s craft beer movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Relative to America, one might say leprechaun-sized leaps and bounds, but I say very impressive for a small country. Blink and a new brewery has popped up. We have visited Dublin numerous times before, but 5 years is by far the longest stretch between visits. It is an especially long absence when it comes to the beer scene. During our first visit in 1998, Ireland had less than 10 craft breweries. Today, an estimated 30 breweries are currently operating in the country, with an additional 20 brands brewing through contract.

We landed in Dublin in the morning and in probably one of our best arrivals ever, we took a cab directly from the airport to our friends Paul and Eilís who served us a home cooked Irish breakfast. A great way to start out a long day of beer drinking.

A pint of Galway Hooker, our traditional first beer in Dublin

By mid-day, the four of us found ourselves at the Palace Bar in Temple Bar. Like many Irish pubs, this one is steeped in history, literary history in particular. Operating since 1823, the pub eventually became the favorite watering hole of staffers from The Irish Times. It was the perfect place to meet “sources” and the writers frequently found their muse in pints of ale. With Paul and Eilís by our side, we settled in to drink away the jetlag.

Paul was the first one to tell us about the Palace Bar, a distinctly local bar in the not-so-local Temple Bar area. As far as I remember, the Palace Bar was one of the first traditional pubs to embrace Irish craft beer. I knew they offered Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, so with a pint of it in hand, I aimed to reclaim my beer travel mojo. At 4.4%, this easy drinking, well-balanced pale ale was the perfect start to what was to be a very late night. After a Galway Hooker, Chris also tried something new to us, the Coalface Black IPA (5.5%) from Carrig Brewing, a brewery in County Leitrim. His first BIPA from an Irish brewery, Chris found the beer to be more toasty than IPA like. Someday we’ll add Carrig to our brewery list, but not this trip.

Our first brewery of the trip was J.W. Sweetman, located a short distance away on Burgh Quay. Occupying the former Mssrs. Maguire brewery, this multi-story brewpub is easily located near the O’Connell Street bridge. We had not heard much about this new brewery and we had a full agenda for our Dublin pub crawl, so after a quick pint, the brewery was added to The List and we moved on. While I chose the Irish Red Ale, the rest of the group opted for the Pale Ale, an American style pale ale brewed with Cascade hops.

A beer after Chris’ heart

Back into Temple Bar, our next stop was The Porterhouse. They now boast several locations, but the Temple Bar location was the original, opening its doors in 1996. While the Porterhouse no longer brews at that location, it’s a sentimental favorite for us. It was one of the first Irish breweries we visited after Guinness and I think we have stopped in there on every one of our visits to Dublin. They have a nice selection of beers, a friendly atmosphere, and good food. They also have great music. Despite several floors, the place gets packed. Mid-day on Monday was quiet, though; perfect for a spot of lunch. Food was definitely a good idea since we were already several pints in and the pub crawl still had a few more stops.

The Porterhouse serves 3 different stouts (Plain, Oyster, and Wrasslers) and numerous other ales and lagers. Wrasslers 4X Stout bills itself as “a stout like your grandfather used to drink.” The XXXX denotes the strength of the beer, but don’t be intimidated, it comes in at an easy drinking 5%. Wanting to go light, I ordered Temple Brau, an Irish lager brewed with Hallertau hops and Irish malted barley. Chris went for the Hop Head, a 5% bitter pale ale. Generally speaking, there are plenty of lower alcohol Irish craft beers to choose from. The next day I would be thankful for that!

In a city with a traditional pub on every corner (and several in between), new-fangled American style beer bars are starting to pop up. Down the street from Christ Church is the newest one, The Beer Market, the 10th craft beer pub brought to you by Galway Bay Brewing. Opened in April of this year, The Beer Market is different in that it only serves craft beer — No macros. No Guinness. No wine. No spirits. They do have handmade pies, though, including chicken and mushroom, beef and stout, and veg options. We didn’t have one, but they created a wonderfully yummy aroma in the place.

Nothing but beer. We like that.

For many years we visited Ireland almost annually and we were able to keep close tabs on the growth of craft beer in the country. With a 5 year absence, it felt as if we’d lost personal touch with Irish craft beer and were only able to stay informed through social media. We were thrilled to meet up with our friends John “The Beer Nut” Duffy and  Mark Hilliard at the Beer Market, both are very involved with, an organization that promotes Ireland’s “native craft breweries.” They have a love of craft beer in general and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Irish craft beer. Plus, they are just plain fun to hang out with.

While we drank some of the Irish beers that we had been reading about on social media, we caught up on what we had missed in our absence; which was a lot.

We ended our night at The Bull and Castle down the street. The Bull and Castle was probably the first craft beer gastropub we went to in Dublin. It was also a place where we stayed up until about midnight; not too shabby for a first night in Europe. I definitely recommend a whole day/night of drinking beer with friends to beat jetlag! Except if you have a train to Cork early next morning.

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Added Bonus> Watch John The Beer Nut discuss Dublin brewing history.