BY JUDY ENRIGHT
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer; if one of those bottles should happen to fall, 98 bottles of beer on the wall.
We are probably all too familiar with that old song. How many of us gritted our teeth as our kids worked their way (usually in the car on a long trip) from the first to the final bottle?
Well, you may not find 99 bottles of beer on each and every wall in an Irish pub- – with the number of breweries in Ireland now, you might find even more.
Here’s an interesting beer story. Two veterinarians - Bart Adons from Belgium and Cillian O’Morain from Dublin – met in Westport, Co. Mayo, where both had successful practices. Each was getting a bit older and finding his job and the attendant emergency calls to cold, drafty barns becoming more difficult with every year.
The two met up one day, clinked glasses, gave up their practices and went to work developing a Belgian beer brewery in the shadow of the Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick. They chose the name Mescan to honor St. Patrick’s personal brewer – a monk named Mescan - and chose a stylized logo for the bottles that represents Croagh Patrick and St. Patrick’s staff.
The two men share their wit and the progress of the company on the website, mescanbrewery.com. They write that their first brewery “was a 50-litre set up. For three years, we brewed each week in Cillian’s garage, creating recipes and learning from our mistakes. The real work started when we set about converting a farm shed on Bart’s farm and building a 1,000-litre brewhouse from scratch. Many expansions later, we’ve now lost most of our hair, but, on a good day, we wouldn’t swap it for anything.”
Mescan’s offerings include Westport Stout (densely flavored with sweet and bitter notes), Westport Blond (golden ale with pear and floral notes), Westport White (subtly flavored with flora, citrus and yeast), Westport Red Tripel (malty and fruity) and Westport Saison (dry, light with citrus notes), Special Reserve (robust, dark beer), Seven Virtues Lambik, Seven Virtues Lager (crisp and slightly dry) and Seven Virtues Lambik (dry and cidery).
Hops, malts and yeast are imported from Belgium and water is sourced from a spring that rises from under nearby Croagh Patrick and runs beside the brewery. Food pairing suggestions are listed on the website also and tours (you can book on the website) with tastings are available.
There are enough beer breweries along the coastal route in the West of Ireland to inspire a guide that’s available in tourist offices, many hotels, and B&Bs. Those interested can also find it online by googling Guide to Craft Breweries and Beer on the Wild Atlantic Way.
The guide includes breweries all the way down the coast from Kinnegar in Co. Donegal (kinnegarbrewing.ie) to Black’s of Kinsale (blacksbrewery.com.)
GREAT WESTERN GREENWAY
Without a doubt, the greatest boon to the Newport, Mulranny, and Achill Island area in recent years has been the Great Western Greenway, which attracts cyclists and walkers of every age from all over. Bike rental businesses, stores, restaurants, hotels, and pubs along the 42 km (26.09 mile) route have flourished.
The Irish press recently reported that Michael Ring, minister for Rural and Community Development, announced that a further 3.2-million euro have been allocated to the Mayo County Council to extend the Greenway from Achill Sound to Bunnacurry and from Westport to Murrisk.
The extension will add 56 kilometres (about 35 miles) to the Greenway route.
Ring is quoted as saying, “This is wonderful news for Mayo. This investment will see further extension of the Greenway onto Achill Island and significant further work on the trail between Westport and Murrisk. With each investment from the Government we are getting closer to completing the Greenway all the way around Clew Bay. The Great Western Greenway has been a phenomenal success for Mayo. It is probably the finest outdoor recreational facility in the country…”
A number of other Greenways have sprung up around the country since the first section of the Great Western Greenway opened in 2010 following the route of the Westport to Achill railway that closed in 1937.
The Greenway is said to be the longest off-road walking and cycling route in Ireland.
Ireland is miles ahead of the US in conservation efforts as evidenced by a charge of 15 cents many years ago for single use plastic bags in grocery stores. That was long before this country decided to take a stand against plastic.
This March, the first water station in Ireland was installed at the Mulranny Tourist Office and has been getting plenty of use.
A voluntary environmental project called Refill.ie is working toward making Ireland a tap water refilling country again. There are currently more than 850 free public reusable bottle refill locations around the country.
It’s easy and convenient to refill, avoids single use plastic water bottle waste while helping the environment, health, and bottom line at the same time – the refill water is free.
See refill.ie for more information.
THE LOST VALLEY
While you’re cruising along the Wild Atlantic Way, a destination often recommended by local tourist boards is The Lost (Uggool) Valley which offers a three-hour tour that gives a window into the cultural heritage of the 19th century west coast way of life and the catastrophic effects of the Famine and its aftermath. The guided tour is conducted at a leisurely pace on well-developed trails and is said to be suitable for all ages.
A road was built into the Valley in 1989 but, prior to that time, at least seven generations of the Bourke family could only gain access to their home on foot.
The Valley has been designated a “Natural Heritage Area” and a “Special Area of Conservation” under the European Habitats Directive.
Because the Lost Valley is now a working farm, pre-booking a visit is essential. For more information, see thelostvalley.ie or email email@example.com
KILLARY SHEEP FARM
Looking for another fun family outing? If so, be sure to check in at the Killary Sheep Farm just outside the town of Leenane, Co. Galway. There you’ll meet Tom Nee, a fourth-generation sheep farmer who greets visitors, talks about farming, and supplies all outdoor footwear and rain gear.
It’s great fun to watch the sheepdogs at work rounding up the herd, see sheep shearing (in season) and turf cutting. Orphan lambs can be bottle-fed, too at certain times of the year.
Killary Sheep Farm is open from April 1 to Sept. 30, Tuesday through Sunday, with demonstrations beginning at 11 a.m. 1, and 3 p.m. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and before visiting.
TASTE OF DONEGAL
THE 11th annual A Taste of Donegal Food Festival will be held in Donegal Town Aug. 23-25. Some 28,000 visitors attended last year’s festival and this year is expected to draw even more attendees. The festival features all kinds of activities from theater and presentations to entertainment – and of course, great food and drink too.
The extensive schedule of events can be found online at: atasteofdonegal.com.
There’s lots more to do in August than space here allows so visit local tourist offices for the latest news, accommodation recommendations, and suggestions to help you enjoy every minute in this beautiful country.
BY JUDY ENRIGHT