Craft Beer Roadtrips

Well, technically I was there for work, but if you can’t squeeze in a little pleasure along the way…

First things first – we ended up in Franciscan Well in Cork as part of the radio show a couple of weeks ago. Great spot, nice guys, well worth the wander down the quays if you’re there…

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Have to admit that while I was down there the finest thing I had was this little gem. Find it if you can…

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Spotted this too, they were only opening the following week but menu and beers looked interesting. Will definitely head there the next time I’m down for the night.

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Following night we were in Wexford. Had both of the below – the Jack Doyle’s guys are just new and only available in a few places in Wexford so far. The bottom bottle was brought in to me in The Yard Restaurant from their tapas bar next door when they heard I like interesting beers. Made with seawater and not at all salty, of course…

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Last week I found myself, for various reasons, in Galway for a couple of nights. Went both to The Oslo and The Salthouse for the first time. Try both. Very different, both top spots to visit for different reasons…

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This baby was the joy of them all. Why, oh why isn’t it bottled…?

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Book Seventy Six

Book Seventy Five 2014:

Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

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What a gorgeous little gem of a book. The story of a thirty-something girl in Tokyo who stumbles on one of her old teachers in a bar one night and the (sort of) fractured relationship that develops between the two of them.

When I say “sort of” I genuinely mean that. It’s as gentle as a Merchant/Ivory film or Ozu’s Tokyo Story in places, obsessed with food and manners and place and time but very satisfying if you literally need a little Zen in your life for a day or two.

I loved it, you might find it a bit slow. Kind like Murakami without the weird.

Insider Magazine – The One Where I Tell You To Get Rid Of Your Beard

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Men of Dublin, please feck off and stop growing beards. Thanks.

You mean I have to fill this with another 800 words and in some way explain myself? Apparently that’s the difference between good old-fashioned standing in the street and yelling stuff at randomers and having a national newspaper column. Fair enough.

Once, beards were a sign of radical left-wing politics, a love of folk music, an earth loving hippy sensibility or not giving a shite about your personal appearance. Occasionally all of the above. These days it’s like pregnant women. You don’t notice one for ages until someone points one out to you and then they’re all you see.

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day (not a hipster in sight) and every man there bar one had a beard of some kind. Every last one. As a bearded man for the last 5 years it’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed on the rise in for the last while now. First it was the trendoids, not long after it was the Mumfordpocalypse, George Clooney even caused a spike in interest and now, post-Hozier, there are hoards of facially hirsute young lads everywhere you look. It’s not fair. That used to be my thing.

Not that I’ve had a beard forever, or even for that long a time. If there was one thing I was sure of when I was a kid (besides a future career as an astronaut, the invincibility of Liverpool FC and just how cutting edge computer games that loaded on cassette were) it was that I was never going to have a beard. My dad had one for all of my childhood, thus if there was one small act of rebellion that was going to be mine, it was that there was no way I was going to have one too. Yet, here we are.

First it was just laziness, letting the stubble grow for a few days because I hated shaving, next thing I knew no-one could remember the last time they’d seen me clean shaven. It’s been over four years now. I’m so attached to it now that I won’t even do Movember because it would mean shaving part of it off for a month and flapping my clean-shaven chin to the world. What happened to me?

One of the things I liked about it in the early stages (apart from it hiding a multitude of sins when it came to having a fat face) was that few men my age around had them. No, I’m not one of those “I liked the band before any of you guys had heard them so now I don’t like them anymore” merchants of the personal appearance brigade. Well, maybe a little. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life observing what goes on in the middle of the motorway, quietly, from the pathway on the side. Well, more from a nearby hill really. With binoculars. Then running away. Now I’m smack bang in the middle of the white line and people think I’m a beardy bandwagon jumper.

But why do so many lads have beards and why now? I’m the sort who asks that question of colleagues at random, say 9.30 on a  Tuesday morning in the canteen whil they’re eating breakfast (they’ve come to expect it now). One of them gave me the theory that Irish men are bearded by default and that we only get rid of them in times where we lose the run of ourselves with money, comfort, vanities and notions of clean-shavenness. It would explain Peig Sayers. Thus in the 80s, when I was growing up, lots of men were unemployed and bearded. The Celtic Tiger saw that off for a while but fairly soon our natural hairy chins returned.

According to that hypothesis, if you believe all the post-Budget hype you just need to leave it another 6 months and beards will be only for trad bands again. I’ve already instructed my broker to invest my extensive portfolio in Gillette. It’s only a matter of time before they invent something with one more blade than the last one. Again.

Actually, now that I’ve written all this out, I’m not sure what the problem is that I have with so many men 25-45 having a beard. In fact, maybe I’ve even been a trendsetter in this regard. If you could see the slap I just gave myself for typing something that stupid, you’d laugh. The beard did cushion the impact, though.

 

(This column originally appeared in Insider Magazine in the Irish Independent)

Lingo Festival 2014

Again my odyssey into the world of books, reading poetry and literature takes me somewhere stranger than the last time…

Saturday night I was honoured to be asked to be on the panel you see below for a Radio 1 Arena special called the Hero Hour. We all picked one poem we adored, talked about it and performed it in front of an audience in Smock Alley Theatre all for Childline.

It included, as you can see, Senator David Norris, Mary Coughlan, Sinead Gleeson, myself, Aengus Mac Grianna, Temper-Mental MissElayneous and Donal Ryan.

While it was lovely to meet new people (and I know Sinead and Sean well), I had more than a small fanboy moment chatting to Donal Ryan before and after. You might have seen my reviews of The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December.

I’ll let you know when it’s going out on the radio, it’ll be a very entertaining hour of radio…

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Book Seventy Five

Book Seventy Five 2014:

The Second Half by Roy Keane with Roddy Doyle

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A book of two halves. Now that I have that cliché out of the way…

The first is worth your time – the fallout from the first book, the end of his time at United and his brief-lived trip to Celtic.

It lost me later on when he started in management for the first time. At that stage large tracts of the book are taken up with week to week results, transfers, points earned and lost and all gets a bit stats heavy after a while.

I would have liked to get inside Keano’s non-football head more, I suppose. Even at the end of this there are huge parts of his life (home, family, friends) that are entirely opaque.

For the footy-obsessed.