The Craft Beers Of Scotland!

Right. I was on holidays for a few days in Scotland (not on any craft beer-related trip I hasten to add!) and ended up having a few here and there along with an astonishing coincidence…

Made sense to stick them all in one place…

First things first – these are all available at M&S. I wouldn’t normally be in there in Ireland but necessity must and these were pretty decent… even the one from the Co-op.

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I was on an open top bus tour in Edinburgh and my head nearly snapped round when I realised that Brewdog run their own pubs! I’ll be back, lads. Ended up getting one of this incredibly fine brew in a local shop anyway…

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I also had a much less salubrious experience at the tiny pub in the village I was staying in. This was all they had. Not for me…

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And then the moment of wonder. Driving from the village over to a town called Inverary about half an hour away for a wander and some lunch I saw a sign “Craft Brewery – 500 yards”. Well you’d have to stop, wouldn’t you?

Spun down the road and wandered in to the home brewery of this lovely that I’d had a week before! Fyne Ales…

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Bought this to take home – it’s *divine*…

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I was even lucky enough to find them on tap down the road at lunch in Inverary…

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Goes incredibly well with haggis. Nyom…

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And one final thought. I recommended this a while back at the suggestion of our own Chris Greene.

Have seen it at over 4 quid a bottle here. In Scotland where it’s made…?

:-(

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Book Fifty Nine

Book Fifty Nine 2014: 

After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry

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No.

Just not for me.

Sorry.

It was the premise and the cover that drew me in when I was shopping (a man decides to take leave of his life, his car breaks down and he walks through a forest finding himself in a strange community who seem to be waiting for him).

Sadly though, after a strong start, I was left at the end feeling that a huge amount of the book was needlessly descriptive, the story wasn’t what I thought it would be (I would have settled for eerie, creepy, conspiratorial, even philosophical) and it’s one of the few things from this year that I regret reading.

Harsh possibly, but just not for me.

Book Fifty Eight

Book Fifty Eight 2014: 

The Zone Of Interest by Martin Amis

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This is one of my absolute must reads of 2014.

It’s the interweaving stories of a group of characters on the mostly Nazi side of a concentration camp fence from around 1942 onwards. Thomsen has a job as a vaguely definied civilian liaison with high-up contacts involved in to the building of a factory complex to be worked by prisoners, Doll is the camp commandant, Szmul is a Sonderkommando – a jew who keeps himself alive in the camp checking dead bodies for valuables.

Don’t be put off by the setting though, this isn’t a dull historical text. It’s a meditation on how people justify what they do and how they survive in the most appalling circumstances during the darkest period of 20th century European history.

Yes, it’s from the dark centre of the human heart in places, but it’s also gripping, entirely page-turning and peopled with very *very* real characters. One of the best things I’ve read in a very, very long time.

Book Fifty Seven

Book Fifty Seven 2014: 

Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer

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Earlier in the year I read Daniel Glattauer’s Love Virtually, then realised there was a sequel. Wasn’t sure initially that the original book needed it but to be honest I’m glad it happened.

It’s the next part of the story between two Germans Leo and Emmi who meet accidentally online as a result of an incorrect e-mail address and what happens after Leo returns from disappearing to Boston. As usual I don’t want to reveal or ruin any more, just like the first it’s a swift read, a simple yet complex love story and one I ultimately was glad finished off a story between two characters whose fates I’d grown to care about…

Read both of them.

Adventures In Craft Beer Number 7,172…

It’s been a while, so. My latest in the series of “here’s a few craft beers I’ve tried recently you might like as well“.

With a few extra bits.

Thus these are all well worth your tipple and very nice indeed…

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I then had this pressed into my palms by the lovely guys at the Blackrock Cellar. This one is a *stunning* beer and you should seek it out.

Wowsers.

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On top of that I dragged Michael and Cormac to the new hostelry in Donnybrook a couple of weeks ago. Arthur Mayne’s is a Dublin offshoot of a place in Cork – the food is great, the beers plentiful and the vibe very, very nice.

We’ll be back.

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And finally, I was honoured to be interviewed for the legendary 11pm Somewhere craft beer podcast.

Make of my ramblings what you will

Book Fifty Six

Book Fifty Six 2014: 

Sand by Hugh Howey

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And here’s the point where I’m pretty sure I’m going to read whatever Hugh Howey writes for as long as he keeps writing.

You might remember my slightly breathless review of Wool last year (I liked it so much I wrote a review even though I didn’t really review books at the time!) and the sequels Shift and Dust just reinforced him as someone who writes incredibly readable wide-appeal SF with beautiful visual touches and new ideas.

This just furthers that impression.

Here we’re in a future America where people live on shifting sands that have covered the country. There are rich and poor but everyone ekes a living, scavenging artefacts of the old world and precious water from beneath the sands.

Sounds dull, right? Nope.

He does what he did in the Wool trilogy – he writes character really well and his imaginings of how the divers use their cobbled together tech to dive beneath dunes as easily as you would beneath the ocean are vivid and cinematic.

My only disappointment is that I could have done with more (how often do you say that?!?) I could have sworn that, leading up to the last quarter of the book, there was a bigger world to be explored and a sequel being set up; it all ends a bit suddenly.

A good complaint that one normally doesn’t have.

Overall it’s a fantastic piece of SF from an author I’m absolutely sure I’m going to be reading for a long, long time to come.

Why You Should Eat At… Rasam.

I’ve said it before, I rarely review places I eat out at (that’s because normally I’m too busy enjoying myself and mixing business and pleasure is strictly to be avoided!) but there have to be exceptions and Rasam is one of them.

For a very good reason too. It is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. Let me say that again -  it is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. Handy then that it’s just a few minutes away from where I live.

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What you’re seeing above in my poor shot is the Machi Koliwada – it’s red snapper deep-fried in a marinade of carom seeds, ginger, garlic and gram flour. I had it at the weekend and it may be one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever eaten. That’s just the starter…

Over the last few years I’ve worked my way through all the starters and pretty much all the main courses My personal grá is for the Lal Maas (it’s a boneless lean leg of lamb slow cooked on the bone with red chilli, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, tomatoes and specially blended garam masala; I have no words for how incredible it is).

I have never eaten there when the food was any less than stunning. Never. That’s a big thing ask for any restaurant; I’ve eaten in Michelin star places where you couldn’t say that.

The staff is brilliant, the atmosphere warm and unrushed and it’s always busy (actually if you want to head you should consider booking well in advance as it’s never less than jammers at the weekend).

I know you might be thinking “well, it’s an Indian restaurant, isn’t that pretty much just takeaway food?” In some places I might agree with you, but never here. Remember what I said above – it is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. Not favourite “ethnic” restaurant or favourite Indian restaurant, favourite restaurant. The art and beauty in what they conjour up means it does not deserve to be tagged and ut in a little box just because of the sort of food on the menu.

I did have that terribly selfish thing of not properly reviewing it for ages because I wanted it to be my little secret but they’ve won so many awards over the years they’re a well-known spot in a lot of south county Dublin.

Go.

Book Fifty Five

Book Fifty Five 2014: 

Command And Control by Eric Schlosser

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Command And Control by Eric Schlosser is actually 2 books, one I liked very much and one I ended up skimming over.

The first is a history of the atomic bomb and, more specifically, how the United States developed it, used it, misused it and how astonishing it is that there wasn’t a major accident involving one of them at some point since 1945.

The other, intercut with it, history of a specific incident in 1980 in Damascus, Arkansas. Fascinating in itself but told with such over-painstaking detail (we know childhood stories and hair colour of minor characters) that after the second or third chapter devoted to it I actually got bored and skimmed. This doesn’t happen often with me.

Having said that, don’t let it put you off the other 2/3 of the book. I found out a huge amount of stuff I had no idea about with regards to how America (and to a lesser extent the world) dealt with the development of nuclear weapons, the progress of the Cold War and the arms race that became part of it. Some of it genuinely boggling stuff (nuclear mines and anti-aircraft nuclear weapons, anyone?)

If you grew up during the Cold War and like history it’ll probably fascinate you. I wonder how people younger than that feel?