Tries in vain to love craft beers

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS -

n another life, I worked for a sum­mer as a bar­man in north Lon­don. The pub had a strong crim­i­nal el­e­ment, and hold-ups at gun­point were not in­fre­quent. The gang­sters’ wives and girl­friends tended to drink a glass of port and brandy, while the gang­sters them­selves con­sumed a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of lagers, lager tops (lager with a dash of lemon­ade) and pale ales.

I was re­cently re­minded of that sum­mer when I be­gan my long-de­layed ex­plo­ration of Ir­ish craft beers. To be­gin, I popped into the al­ways ex­cel­lent Black­rock Cel­lar in the Dublin sub­urb of the same name and asked for two rec­om­men­da­tions. The first was an In­dia pale Ale called Scraggy Bay, which is from Kin­negar, and the sec­ond was Con­nemara Red Ale from the Ir­ish-speak­ing In­de­pen­dent Brew­ing Com­pany of Ire­land. Nei­ther was cheap at more than €3 a bot­tle, but I was in an op­ti­mistic mood as I cy­cled home.

I don’t hon­estly know how to de­scribe Scraggy Bay. It prob­a­bly is an ex­cel­lent In­dia pale ale, but if one doesn’t like In­dia pale ale (and I sus­pect most Ir­ish peo­ple don’t), then that is an in­sur­mount­able prob­lem. The drink is just a well-made pale ale in a nice bot­tle. It’s like 18th­Cen­tury French fur­ni­ture; you can ad­mire the crafts­man­ship, but it is dif­fi­cult to en­joy it as an aes­thetic ex­pe­ri­ence if one does not come from the cul­ture.

The Galway-made Con­nemara Red Ale was rec­om­mended as some­thing re­sem­bling Smith­wick’s, but it did not reach those lofty heights and, as I drank it, I kept wish­ing it was in­deed a Smith­wick’s.

This must be a peren­nial prob­lem for craft beers. It is some­how dif­fi­cult to en­joy a taste slightly dif­fer­ent to what one is ex­pect­ing. Too of­ten, the new taste can seem off-key rather than orig­i­nal. If that all seems a bit ridicu­lous, I agree. My moan­ing is like a man­i­festo for never chang­ing, which is clearly ab­surd. I shall stick with the craft beers for a few weeks and see whether they are like al­co­hol it­self. Dif­fi­cult to like ini­tially, and then sublime.

I

Tom Mol­loy

Pre­heat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. Cut the squash in half length­ways and scoop out the seeds. Put the two squash halves, flesh-side up, in an oven dish, and sea­son with salt, freshly ground black pep­per and the chilli flakes. Bake for 45 min­utes, or un­til ten­der, then cut the cooked squash into chunks. Put the kale, the olive oil and the le­mon juice in a bowl, and mas­sage the kale for about five min­utes un­til the in­gre­di­ents are well com­bined and the kale is brighter in colour. Put the tahini and the crushed gar­lic in a small bowl, sea­son with some salt, and grad­u­ally add the wa­ter, whisk­ing as you go un­til

the mix­ture has the con­sis­tency of pour­ing cream. Add this mix­ture to the bowl with the mas­saged kale and toss to coat the kale thor­oughly. Di­vide the dressed kale be­tween two large bowls and add the chunks of roast squash. Fill a medium-sized pot with boiling wa­ter, add the white wine vine­gar and

bring to the boil. Re­duce the heat slightly, swirl the wa­ter with a slot­ted spoon and then care­fully crack in the four eggs. Al­low them to cook for 3-4 min­utes or un­til they are done to your lik­ing. To check them, lift them out with the slot­ted spoon af­ter a cou­ple of min­utes and gen­tly prod the yolk. Place the

poached eggs on top of the dressed kale and roast squash and serve.

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