By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
You spot Black Donkey, 9 White Deer, and a Black Boar. Are you at an Irish farmhouse, tourist attraction, or nature park? Not at all. You are in a pub on the West Coast of Ireland sampling some of the many varieties of craft beer available today – with more to come no doubt.
WEST MAYO BREWERY
Iain and Caroline Price don’t have much of a commute to work at their small, independent microbrewery in Islandeady, Co. Mayo. They just walk down the hill from their tidy farmhouse – complete with stunning, distant views of Croagh Patrick - to the purpose-built, long, low structure where they have brewed their natural, traditional beer since 2013.
Combining a wish to diversify their small farm with a genuine enjoyment of craft beer, they started a brewery. They worked with South West Mayo Development on the setup and have also had ongoing support from the Local Enterprise Office and Gno Maigh Eo.
Iain trained with Brewlab at the University of Sunderland and holds membership and a diploma from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.
West Mayo Brewery launched Clew Bay Sunset, an Irish Red Ale, in July 2013, followed by Clifford’s Connacht Champion (3C), a golden ale; Paddy’s Pilgrim Porter (3P), a dark ale; Grainne Uaile Atlantic Ale, a winter special brown ale; and Throstle Preacher IPA, an India pale ale.
Caroline said that Iain creates recipes and adds his special twist with grains, natural products, and hops he likes. One unique ingredient is bog myrtle, she said, that grows knee high by a nearby lake. While enjoying the flavor experiments, there are some ingredients that must be included in beer and ale, “but we try to be innovative.” She said heather, meadowsweet, wild garlic, nettles – “whatever is growing locally” – are sometimes added in search of a unique taste. Nothing is wasted; grain used in the brewing process is fed to the farm’s animals.
Brewing beer, Caroline commented, “is a combination of art and science.” She and Iain brew twice a week during the busy season. “It takes so long to brew and so long to ferment,” she said. Each brewing makes about 750 (about 198 gallons) liters of beer.
The West Mayo Brewery, she added, has been doing “extremely well. We have lots of repeat business.” For more information on the company, visit westmayobrewery.ie
ACHILL ISLAND BREWERY
They might be the new kids on the block, but that hasn’t stopped the Achill Brewery. The Bunacurry, Co. Mayo, brewery rolled out its special brew on
Achill Island and other spots around Co. Mayo this summer with more locales soon to come.
Two years ago, Malcolm Cooney, his brother Dermot, and their English cousins, Daniel and Anthony Keating, began discussions about creating a craft brewery. They found the perfect spot - a derelict building in Bunacurry - and began extensive renovations, hired a Canadian master brewer (James Groves), worked out a design for their black and gold label, secured black bottles in the Netherlands, and were all set to go.
The Keating brothers, Malcolm said, own an English company that supplies generators to companies and, for the past 10 years, Anthony has been building Keating Super Cars.
The Achill beer, Malcolm added, is more of a lager than a craft beer and is brewed from water sourced from Bunnafreeva Lough on Achill Island, malted barley, wheat, hops, and Irish carrageen moss from along the shores of the island.
There are currently two flavors, but Cooney said the company hopes to have three eventually, “and probably more.” When the company is at full capacity, they hope to produce 1.8-million bottles a year. “But you have to walk before you can run,” he said. The eagle on the label is a nod to the Golden eagles that once thrived on Achill Island but haven’t been seen there since about 1912.
For more information, visit achillbrewery.com
There are craft breweries all over Ireland. Along the Wild Atlantic Way alone - that coastline stretch from Donegal to Cork - some of those breweries include: Kinnegar Farmhouse Beers in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal; The White Hag, Ballymote, Co. Sligo; Reel Deel, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo; Galway Hooker, Oranmore, Co. Galway, which is ten years old this year; Galway Bay Brewery, Galway; Dingle Brewing, Co. Kerry, and Blacks of Kinsale, Co. Cork.
There are also several breweries you can visit if you travel a bit off the Wild Atlantic Way, including Black Donkey in Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon; Mountain Man in Macroom, Co. Cork, and 9 White Deer in Co. Cork. The old favorites are still wildly popular in Ireland - Smithwick’s, Guinness, Murphy’s, and more. It would be safe to say you probably will not go thirsty in Ireland if you fancy a pint.
It’s always interesting to read results of polls in The Irish Times about the “best of Ireland” in assorted categories. We read that The Burren Smokehouse and shop in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, topped a recent list for best food and drink. We don’t always agree with these polls but do agree that the Smokehouse is a great shop with delicious smoked salmon that is available in Shannon duty free, so we always bring it home to make the trip last a little longer.
Best craft and gift shop honors went to Betty in Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, described as “a shamrock and shillelagh-free gift shop.” We’ve missed that store but we know of many other great “shamrock and shillelagh-free” gift shops around Ireland, including O’Reilly & Turpin in Westport and The Beehive in Keel, both Co. Mayo. No doubt there are many, many others that fall into that non-tourist category in other parts of the country.
Some of the other Times’s poll winners included: Leitrim Design House, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, for innovative ‘art wall.’ (I bought a limited edition print by Michelle McKee there this spring, so I have to agree with that listing – it’s a great shop.) Customers can sign up for learn-to-make days there too.
Also, Old Mill Stores, Leap, Co. Cork, for out of the ordinary home wares; Irish Design Shop, Dublin 2, for innovative Irish design; Nest in Kenmare, Co. Cork; Real and also Kiln & Loom, both in Belfast, and Castle Antiques, Clarecastle, Co. Clare, with 40 antique dealers under one roof.
LADIES’ PINK TOUR
The second annual Pink Tour 2016 will take over five links courses in Ireland’s West and Northwest from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1.
The program includes three nights at Mount Falcon Estate, Ballina, Co. Mayo; welcome dinner, presentation lunch, two nights and two rounds of tournament golf at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort (which has two championship links courses) in Downings, Co. Donegal, and a night at an airport hotel in Shannon, Dublin or Belfast; full Irish breakfast every day; practice rounds at Carne Golf Links, Enniscrone Golf Club, and Donegal (Murvagh) Golf Club; lunch at Carne & Donegal Golf Club; all transfers by luxury chauffeur-driven coach, team and individual prizes.
Several tour companies are offering this tour so check out the internet.
When you try one of Ireland’s many craft beers, shouldn’t you accompany the brew with delicious raw oysters? It’s a must - so start at the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival (Co. Galway) that runs from Sept. 9 to Sept. 11.
If you miss that event, there’s always the world’s longest running oyster festival, the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25. The Galway fest includes celebrity cook-offs, music, street entertainment, parades, and more.
Autumn is a great time of year to visit Ireland with festivals and country fairs in many parts of the country. Enjoy your trip.