Showing posts with label beer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer. Show all posts

Monday, December 11, 2017

Winter Kings by Eight Degrees. Royal Clash of the Oak. And the Holly.

Winter Kings by Eight Degrees.

Royal Clash of the Oak. And the Holly.
Ale (left) and stout, peaceful in the pack.

Quite a lot of talk about Brett C when Eight Degrees recently launched their pair of winter seasonals, a Belgian Pale Ale and an Imperial Stout, both part of the Ballyhoura Series.

Who the hell is Brett C? I googled it and found that he is a Melbourne, Australia based photographer who specialises in sport, fashion, event and people photography. 

We all know Eight Degrees have antipodean connections but this is the wrong answer. Brettanomyces is its proper name and it is a yeast that the brewery has used in each of these beers. Brett C, the yeast that is, is more likely to be noticed in the aromas than in the flavours and funky is the term regularly associated with it.

Mid-winter is a source of many legends and myths and the battle between the oak king and the holly king is the one you’ll see on the bottle labels. Various versions abound and here are two links you might explore when sipping these Mitchelstown gems.


The Holly King (wren) and the Oak King (robin)  https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/04/13/the-holly-and-oak-king/

Scott (left) and Cam, at work

The Oak King Belgian Pale Ale, 6.5% abv, RRP €7.95 (75ml bottle) 

This Belgian style pale ale has an amber robe. There’s an almost cider-y intro to the palate, gradually getting more complex before a tart finish. Sour maybe but not crab apple sour, perhaps the oak has rounded off any extremes.

Austere is probably the single best word to describe this sophisticated offering. Don't let the “austere” put you off though. This is one of the most interesting seasonal beers this Christmas and I may well be serving it as an aperitif in champagne flutes as suggested by the brewery.

Brewery tips: Serve well chilled in champagne flutes as an aperitif on Christmas morning, with a half-dozen oysters or some smoked salmon, or take it to the dinner table to pair perfectly with your turkey.

The Holly King Imperial Stout, 9.8% abv, €11.95 RRP (75ml bottle)

As black as a mid-winter’s night in a Ballyhoura boreen, though it starts with a tanned head that, like many a tan from a bottle, doesn't last too long. The intro to the palate is intense, treacle like in flavour or maybe it’s funk, but soon more traditional flavours, including coffee, take over. Some vanilla there too, all brought together, along with Brett C of course, during the sojourn in the oak casks (previously used for Pinot Noir). Strong start, strong finish, quite a player for the Christmas team.

Brewery tips: It's a hugely complex beer, so pour it into snifters and sip it slowly to end a meal with a slice of spicy Christmas Cake, studded with nuts and dried fruit, classic Black Forrest Gateau or a box of cocoa-dusted dark chocolate truffles.

* Both are packaged in 750ml amber champagne-style bottles and are available individually or as 2 x 750ml bottle gift packs (RRP €19.95). They are widely available, including at Bradley’s Cork; for more stockists and more info, click hereBeoirFinder App now available for Android and iOS .

* And while you're on the net, check out some of my favourite funk right here




Friday, October 27, 2017

A Sour Theme! This Weekend's Franciscan Well October Festival

A Sour Theme!
This Weekend's Franciscan Well October Festival
Rodenbach cocktail

Sour is a big topic in Irish craft beer at present and indeed is the core theme at this weekend’s 17th annual Franciscan Well October Beerfest.

Beer expert Barry Fitzgerald has been involved in 16 of the 17 and was our host at an opening tasting event in their upstairs bar on Thursday evening, following a warm welcome from Marketing Manager Kate Clancy.  

Barry reckons that over a 1,000 new beers have been tasted in this festival on the North Mall, “always a new experience”. “It is the longest continuously running beer festival in the country…. it has evolved into a tasting menu, all about flavour, and this weekend’s menu reflects that.”

There are some twenty-six imported beers, all special but some very special indeed, on the menu card this time, available by the pint, the half-pint and the third-pint. Barry picked three sours, by well established breweries, for the tasting session, three that you could profitably note if calling in over the weekend (the festival continues today, Saturday and Sunday, from 1.00pm each day).

The first was from Belgium, a sour brown (8% abv) Goudenband (gold band) by Liefman in Oudenaarde; quite an experience. This is a mixed fermentation beer with re-fermentation in the bottle. “It is made by the year, is different each year, you can lay it down and it will last forever. This is the 2016, its first time in Ireland and may never be here again. We have just a small amount for the festival.”

“You notice cherry, but there is no fruit used in it, the flavour comes form the basic ingredients, the ageing and the wild yeast. It is winey, leather notes, very complex. If you like sour, this is a very good one!” 

Quite an amazing beer really, a real treat with a super balance, quite a sophisticated drink and a long long way from local sours that I've tasted recently. Much more detail on this beer here.

Next up was a UK/Norway collaboration between the Buxton and Lervig breweries, a gooseberry sour IPA at 7.00%, “brewed to celebrate friendship and a love of wild places”. The name of the beer is Trolltunga and you’ll get some detail on it here

There is fruit in this one as it’s packed with sour gooseberries, “cookers” as Barry said. And there was instant agreement as lips puckered up alarmingly around the tasting tables! This was really sour. “It is at the cutting edge of the new sours…wild yeast…open fermentation.” If you are getting in to sours, this is hardly the one to start with. As for me, I was in the minority that liked it. Then again, I sometimes get incredulous looks when I drink Campari neat. “How do you do that?”
Much different to the other two, which I also liked.

Back to Belgium then to complete the hat trick, Barry saving the best until last: The Rodenbach Gran Cru Sour red/brown at 6%, a blend of 1/3rd young beer and 2/3 of beer aged two years in large oak vats, giving fruity taste, complexity and intensity. Barry told us this Flemish Sour Ale has its own AOC. “It takes over two years to make (even the angel’s share happens here) and young beer is added to restart fermentation.”

“It is more like a traditional beer, the flavours primarily from the oak cask and the wild yeast.” It was certainly more approachable than the previous one and went down really well in the group. Lots more info on it here.  By the way, the festival list also features another outstanding beer from this brewery, the Caractere.

Upstairs at the Franciscan Well is where’ll you’ll find Ireland’s first and only brewhouse cocktail bar. Dean was ready to shake but he was determined to respect the Rodenbach which would be the base for our cocktail. For instance, even the detail of garnish was given due consideration by Dean who put aside the normal basil in favour of sage, considering the basil too aromatic for the beer.


So, to 60ml of Rodenbach, the mixologist added Tobacco and Honey rum, lime juice, Bermuda rum, Cotes du Rhone red, and ice of course. It was a superb finale to an eye-opening session in the bar which is soon to be re-named and Dean and company are determined that the cocktails will reflect what goes on in the brewhouse, getting as many as possible of their ingredients from the beer-making process. Sounds like a good plan. Here’s to checking it out, with Barry of course, during festival #18 next year!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Swagman Rocks in Sligo

The Swagman Rocks in Sligo

It’s a busy Friday evening at The Swagman in Wine Street, Sligo, and owner Dale Barber is on duty, as always. There are Australia flags (Irish too!) and memorabilia around the walls and ceiling but Dale is cheering Ireland this evening as they take on Moldova in the World Cup. The Australian has been in the news in the town over the past few days having cooly helped stop the robbers of a nearby phone shop.

Ireland score and there's a large cheer. Dale tells me that goal will be cheered in small towns across Australia. It is important to the diaspora, something that we don't always recognise in this country. Dale is sometimes puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm for the national team when things aren't going well and amazed by the contrast when we qualify for a finals tournament.

The no frills pub is a bit like the straight talking Australian from Tangambalanga (Victoria) where his parents had a busy pub offering food and drink and accommodation. And indeed, many years and countries later,  advice from his visiting parents helped him decide on buying the Swagman. Wife Sinead, whom he had met on his travels, came up with the name and so, the Swagman was born at the start of the decade.
Soul in a Bowl. Tequila, Lime,  Garlic and Beef Stew 

The Swagman has over one hundred craft beers and we enjoyed an ale from local brewers, The White Hag, as the conversation turned to food and its provenance. Dale offers a simple but very good menu, well sourced and served on white plates!  It is all about fresh, local and fair here, the fair meaning that it is well priced. And, aside from the Kangaroo offering, a nod to his heritage, the source is local because that represents his values.

Dale is something of a gardener himself and indeed would love to do more on that front but that would take from his work at the pub. He speaks enthusiastically of picking your own in the tunnel and almost poetically when describing the fresh taste of home-grown tomatoes or indeed of any fruit or vegetable. And of course, much of the produce from home is used here in the Swagman where you can expect a daily special called “Soul in a Bowl”, a roast of the day, and pizza (making pizzas is another of his accomplishments!).

The two of us and Dale were keeping an eye on the match but as it approached half-time we had to leave. We had a dinner reservation nearby and would, as always, honour that. But it would have been good to stay and eat and watch the rest of the game in this pub with soul. Instead it was firm handshakes all round as we headed into the street.

While The Swagman has a rustic, maybe outback, feel, the newly opened Anderson’s on the banks of the dark Garavogue is a creature of the 21st century, inside at least. It is plush and colourful and lively with a cocktail menu on the counter. 

But some craft beer as well and that harks back to the origin of the building which once housed a brewery owned by the Anderson family and called Lough Gill. Their Anderson’s Red Ale was the biggest selling beer in Connaught in the 19th century and that original brewery closed early in the 20th.  The exterior has been retained.

Earlier, I had visited the new Lough Gill Brewery (just a few miles away) and was told the story. The new brewery (2016) started by making their take of the Anderson’s Red Ale and it is on sale around the town and also, right here in the revamped old building, there is a tap. I very much enjoyed that Ale here in Anderson’s, the purpose of my little pilgrimage.  


Before I headed off for another dinner, I also drank, for the first time, an offering from Dublin’s Five Lamps, a very enjoyable Liberties Pale Ale. Didn't see their Monto Red on the taps. Maybe, one bit of red is enough in Sligo town.


Other pubs with grub on the Sligo Food Trail include: Fiddlers Creek, Hargadon's, Harrison's, and the Strand Bar.
See also: Lough Gill Brewery
 Strandhill Food Festival
Sligo Cafés
Embassy Steakhouse
Rugantino

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Skipper’s Next Port? Bon Voyage

The Skipper’s Next Port? 
Bon Voyage
Seafood Gratin

For the last eight years or so, The Skipper restaurant has been moored at Ventry, overlooking the nearby Atlantic Ocean. And fish from that ocean, delightfully cooked, has drawn customers here from near and far. 

But, aside from one or two farewell parties, dinner on September 30th may well prove to be the final fling for The Skipper, at least in this location. If a move is a must, and it looks like it, then owner-chef Paddy Chauvet, better known as Paddy The Irishman, may well turn up somewhere else on the peninsula, though Dingle town itself doesn't seem to be in the running.

But there were no tears, out-front at least, last Saturday night week, lots of humour among the front-of-house if anything. And the blackboard was, as always, in use. The pier is only 100 metres away and so the menu is subject to frequent change. If you're a meat-eater, you'll be catered for - Boeuf Bourguignon was on the menu. And there was even a Vegetarian Dish of the Day.

The wine-list seemed a bit run-down, there were red marks indicating “all gone” but there was still enough on the exclusively French list to satisfy most tastes. As it happened, I left the wine and picked a local beer, the delicious Beal Bán from the West Kerry Brewery which is less than three miles away.

The use of fruit pieces in the salads was a bit unexpected, CL first to be surprised when she started her Smoked Salmon Salad. It was excellent, the fish perfect, the leaves fresh as can be and nicely dressed and the melon and grapes provided an extra dimension.

The wind was blowing hard outside and my Seafood Bisque starter was nicely warm and full of flavour, and wouldn’t have been out of place on a seafront café in Marseilles.
Ray wing

Service was excellent here, casual but efficient, and always a chat or a joke and soon the mains were arriving. I picked the Ray Wing, not usually found on Irish menus.  It came with a caper cream sauce and rustic potatoes, leaves and fruit pieces of course. Quite enjoyable and, like most dishes here, well priced too.

CL's pick was the Seafood Gratin, a rather pedestrian name for what turned out to be a lovely dish. The gratin was presented in two large scallop shells with rustic potatoes, leaves and fruit pieces. All the leaves by the way were as fresh as could be and well dressed.


And there was fruit too in the dessert but different! We were unlucky that the French Apple Tart was off so shared the Raspberry and Strawberry Fool. We wouldn’t go back especially for that but would certainly follow The Skipper around the peninsula for his superb savoury stuff. And more so, if they leave those back-breaking church seats behind! Bon Voyage, Skipper!


See Also:


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Taste of the Week. Mescan Westport Saison

Taste of the Week
Mescan Westport Saison

This is a Belgian style beer, brewed near Westport, and is our Taste of the Week. It is the kind of beer that, once it hits the palate, makes you take notice. You may also want to note that it has an ABV of 6.2%.

I came across it in Westport a few months back and so I didn't hesitate to buy it and three companions, including a lovely white, when I saw them in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork, the other day. They are not the cheapest, this 330ml bottle for instance, is priced at €3.95. 

The Westport Saison is a great one to cut the thirst, is more fizzy, with clove and citrus notes. Very well balanced too and you don't really notice the high alcohol. But do sip rather than gulp!

Saison beer is a Belgian style brewed, in the good old days, for seasonal workers. Reckon I'd appreciate one (or two) after a hard day’s labour or even after an idle day.

Mescan, by the way, was St Patrick’s brewer and no doubt the odd conversion was facilitated by a jug of his brew. The bottle conditioned beer is still cloudy! 


Their Westport white is superb. And I also have their Red Tripel and Westport Extra to try.

Monday, August 28, 2017

An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.

An Ale of Two Families.

Brewery Lost in a Bet. 
L-to-r: Bridget Smithwick, Alan Smithwick and Ian Hamilton (brewer).

Deauville, a long-time magnet for Europe’s rich and famous, was all abuzz for the races in August 1918, even though the Great War was still being waged. One Irishman had set his sights on an aristocratic French fillé. He had opposition from a Venetian count. Sullivan, a gambler rather than a brewer, bet the family brewery on a horse to impress the Frenchwoman. He lost and, not fancying a duel with the count, had to settle his debts.

In Kilkenny, as a result of the wager, the Sullivan brewery (established 1702), eight years before Smithwick’s, was taken over by their rivals (“in a kind of a white knight rescue”) and the Sullivan name vanished from the enterprise. Another hundred years on and, in 2014, Diageo moved the production of Smithwick's to Dublin.
Pierce Brosnan, another Irishman whose name pops up in Deauville

But the Sullivan story has been revived over the past year or two with the emergence of a new Sullivan brewery, backed by the two intertwined families, the Sullivan’s and, yes, the Smithwick’s (keen to keep Kilkenny’s brewing tradition going). 

And, already, their Maltings Red Ale has been declared the “best Draught Ale in the World” at the International Brewing Awards, also known as the Oscars of the beer world. They are the 1st Irish Brewery ever to win this competition that hosted over 1,200 beers from 50 countries. Isn't that a nice welcome back for Sullivan’s?

Sullivan’s were represented in Cork City Hall at the weekend for the Franciscan Well Great Irish Beer Festival. Bandon educated brewer Ian Hamilton said their ale can be found in Ireland, England and Scotland. C & C is their distributor but Sullivan’s “is totally independent”. 


I had missed out on a chance to sample the ale on a recent visit to Kilkenny so was delighted to try it in the City Hall. It is a delightful refreshing beer, with a ruby tinted colour, lots of flavour, yet very well balanced with an ABV of just four per cent. Three darker malts and three hops are merged here, so there’s a lot going on. Yet, it is so well made and balanced that it is easy drinking and easy to see why the judges went for it at the International Beer Awards in the UK.

Well worth seeking out. And if you are in Kilkenny why not visit their Taproom, an outlet for the Smithwick partnership with direct descendants of the Sullivan family. Together with Ian Hamilton, one of Ireland’s most eminent contemporary master-brewers, they are bringing artisan brewing back to Kilkenny. It’s not just beer at the Taproom. You can have a pizza from their wood-fired oven and other tasty dishes as well. Prefer to eat and drink outdoors? Well, they have a fully covered outdoor, heated seating area. Details here
Ready to roll at Cork City Hall
See full account of the Beer Fest here

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Great Irish Beer Fest. Beer, Cider, Food, Music

Great Irish Beer Hall

Beer, Cider, Food, Music
Michael Cowan of award winning Mont
Headed to the City Hall at the weekend for the Great Irish beer Festival. Some twenty brewers were listed so that meant a huge choice. While each exhibitor displayed their menu, there was no overall list, such as you’d find at a wine-tasting. 

More difficult then to find a particular pathway through that amount of beer. Who had the sours? Who had the stouts? Did they bring them? Were all the recent award winners here?

It would have been made a little easier also if there was a measure smaller than the half-pint (€2.75). On the other hand, if you knew exactly what you wanted, all you needed to do was fill your glass (€5.50) to the pint mark!
Beer Hall!

I had targeted Sullivan’s from Kilkenny for my first call. That worked out well and there’ll be a separate post tomorrow on their lovely award winning red ale.

Indeed, there were award winners all over the hall, including local brewery Rising Sons who are having a great month: “August 2017 has been an incredible month for us, winning 5 Gold Medals at The World Beer Awards 2017.”

Not too far away in this bright room, with the tables and seats, was the Mont stall and they too were celebrating a World Beer Award as their lager was named the Country Winner (Ireland) for “Czech Style Pilsner Lager”. 

Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow) is the public face of Mont, Ireland’s “super-premium Pilsner lager”. They use pure Wicklow Mountain spring water, the finest barley malts, Hallertau, Saaz and Cascade hops.

Michael said they are a dedicated lager brewery. “With the very soft Wicklow water we have, our super-premium lager is better than the main stream piss and we are trying to improve lager’s image with a big concentration on packaging.”

Their Bohemian style Pilsner has “an Irish accent” and an ABV of 5.1%. You can quickly taste why it is picking up awards. There is quite a backbone to it, full of flavour and hop character and a superb dry finish, great balance all through. “Moreish” as they say themselves.

Just to compare, I took a token over to Eight Degrees - they were in the darkened room - and got a glass of their Barefoot Bohemian,  “an unorthodox lager with complex biscuity malt, soft rounded bitterness and a twist of spice from the noble Saaz and Hallertau hops.”  
This crisp and lovely Pilsner doesn't quite have the heft of the Mont but, at 4% ABV, is perfect for a session. And it has retained its popularity since the summer of 2012 when the Mitchelstown brewery introduced it as a seasonal beer. 

The Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer is another beer that has surprised its creators. This hybrid, “capturing the best of ale and lager” was supposed to be a seasonal but goes on and on.

After that we welcomed the Shoot the Breeze, a 4.5% ABV California Common, just introduced by the Franciscan Well. “This light hazy amber beer has a distinct fruit background as a result of our own unique twist!” I'm a big fan of the Well's core beers and the Chieftain, Friar Weisse and Rebel Red completed their line-up on the night.

Time now for stout, after all we are in Cork. And the Cotton Ball make a terrific stout, Lynch’s, in the traditional creamy style. But there’s no shortage of substance, coffee and caramel and a dry finalé, behind the silky smoothness. A pleasure indeed to sink one of these.

Two heads are better than one, according to Jameson, talking about their Caskmates, which has emerged from a collaboration between themselves and the Franciscan Well Brewery. 

First, the Well used whiskey casks to brew two beers,  Jameson Aged Stout launched in 2013 and Jameson Pale Ale launched in 2014. The stout-seasoned casks were then returned to Midleton and this whiskey is the result. It has worked well and Jameson are now engaged in similar ventures with some US breweries.

No alteration to the usual Jameson smoothness in Caskmates. Maybe there is a hint of hops there but, back in the dark room, I wasn't paying full attention as I sipped and chatted as the music played. It is a modern easy drinking fruity whisky with a long sweet finish. Quite a lovely finalé to my excellent evening in the City Hall. For the music fans, the night was only beginning, 

* My favourite beers, from the fraction that I sampled, were: the Mont Pilsner, Lynch’s Stout, and Sullivan’s Red Ale.

See also: An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Taste of the Week. Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing

Taste of the Week
Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing
Cascade-ing at Cork Summer Show
A lovely pint from Brian.



Cascade is a relatively new addition to the Cotton Ball Brewing Company’s  portfolio and I made its acquaintance at the Cork Summer Show at the weekend. It’s a beauty and our Taste of the Week.

It is a well balanced celebration of the hops of the same name, a single hop beer with terrific flavour, slightly spicy too but with flavour galore and the ABV is just 3.8%. Well done guys, a superb Pale Ale for the summer sessions and indeed any session.


There is a picture of Humphrey Lynch, the original owner of the Cotton Ball and grandfather of current owner Jack, on the brewery's bottles. His is a fascinating story and includes fighting in the American Civil War and dealing in cotton (hence the name for the pub he bought on his return to Ireland). More here.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A City by the Sea. Exhibition at St Peter’s





A City by the Sea. 
Exhibition at St Peter’s



Is this the oldest outdoor advert in Cork?
 The Cork Harbour Festival Week has come and gone, and a very enjoyable week it was, but the exhibition A City by the Sea at St Peter’s in North Main Street goes on and is well worth a visit.


A large number of info panels illustrate, mainly in words, the city’s relationship with the sea, the good things and the bad things, tourists and invaders. And food and drink of course, flowing in and flowing out, and that was the thread that I noted on my read-about.

And the first thing I see is Bertha’s Revenge! The exhibition, curated by Turtle Bunberry, had many helpers and there, in among the librarians and historians, I spotted the name Justin Green (of Bertha’s). Well done to all.

And then I spotted another name, my family name. Apparently, in the 4th century, the Uí Liatháin ruled the region and had colonies in South Wales, also Devon and Cornwall. Must go and see my cousins sometime!
Brian Boru Bridge. Although no longer opening, the bridge is an important reminder of the history of the river and quays.
Did you know that in 1273, Richard Wine was the Mayor of Cork. Indeed, in the following centuries, many Cork mayors were closely connected to the French and Portuguese wine trade.

The Flight of the Wild Geese begins in 1691 when 14,000 Jacobite soldiers, along with 6.000 women and children, set sail from Cork for Europe. The mainly Catholic exiles, many of them merchant families, included the Galwey family who became prominent wine merchants in the Loire.
Fitzgerald's Park, site of the 1902/3 exhibition
Among those who fled in Penal Times were the O’Murphy draper family. Their daughter Marie Louise, also known as La Petite Murfi, became mistress of Louis XV. Legend holds that her fortune helped the Murphy family establish their brewery a century later! A revealing portrait of Marie Louise now hangs in the Alta Pinakothek in Munich, a city well known for its beer.
Cruise liner at Cobh
 In 1756, France and Britain were at each other’s throats in the Seven Years War and “the Great Ox-slaying city of Cork” emerged as the Royal Navy’s preferred supplier for beef, pork and butter.


Less than a hundred years later, that beef boom was long forgotten as famine struck. In 1847, the USS Jamestown warship arrives in the harbour with 800 tons of food and clothing. The commander is shown around the stricken streets of the city by Fr Matthew.
The Firkin Crane, a  reminder when Cork led the world in butter.
In 1859, Sir John Arnott, originally from Fife in Scotland, is elected mayor for the first of three times. He is a well known and successful businessman. He was involved in shipping in Cork and Passage, founded the Cork racecourse (later Henry Ford built on the site), the Arnott shop and a brewery (St Finnbarr’s).

By 1861, the Cork Butter Exchange becomes the largest butter exchange in the world. Exports peak in the 1870s.
 By 1880, the spectre of famine rears its head again. It is a borderline case but enough to see more help from the USA. Five hundred tons of provisions and clothing arrive on the sloop of war Constellation and the distribution of supplies is supervised by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Outward bound; passing Cobh
 In 1902, the Cork International Exhibition took place in the Mardyke. Harutun Batmazian, an Armenian exile, is an exhibitor and his Hadji Bey’s Turkish Delight is such a treat that he stays and opens a shop in the city, a shop that lasts for decades. Though it is no longer made in Cork, you can still get the treat (produced now in Kildare). We'll finish on that sweet note.



Monday, May 8, 2017

48 Hours in Westport. Sightseeing. Eating. Drinking.

48 Hours in Westport. 
Sightseeing. Eating. Drinking.
Keel Bay
Taking the long way round is a regular habit when I'm on the road and so, to get to Westport from Cork, I head to the Galway village of Leenane, at the inland point of Killary Harbour, as I want to drive from there to Louisburgh by the spectacular Doolough route.

Leenane
By the time we reached Leenane or Leenaune (you will see quite a lot of spelling variations of place-names in both Galway and Mayo), we were feeling peckish. The well-known Blackberry was still closed (at 12.15pm) so, after a stroll, we dropped into the nearby Sheep & Wool Centre for a bite. 
And we got a right good one.  They had a Soup and Sandwich offer. For €7.75 we each got a big bowl of soup and a sandwich. And not just your usual veg soup but a Tomato and Roasted Pepper (there was a choice of at least two soups). Great choices (12) also of sandwich fillings and dressings (7). 

For instance, I had tuna with salad and pesto on brown bread while Clare had chicken, roasted peppers, red onion marmalade. So they are not dishing out the same old same old. We thought the quality was very good as was the price.
Aasleagh
We noticed the Blackberry was open and busy as we walked back to the car, Minutes later, we passed the Carraig Bar, the last pub out of Connemara and then, all of a sudden, we saw the Aasleagh Falls in off the road. Walked in for a view and then drove on.
Doolough Famine Memorial

The beautiful Doolough area was, in 1849, the scene of one of the darkest events of the Famine. On a bitterly cold day, some 600 people in Louisburgh were seeking food or a ticket to the workhouse in Westport. They were told to contact the Poor Law officials who were, for some reason, in Delphi, about ten miles away. Some died overnight and the rest struggled over hills and mountains (no road then). The officials rose from their lunch and told the people they could do nothing for them and ordered them back to Louisburgh. No one knows how many died by the wayside.

Still incredibly sad, after all those years.

The Reek
 It is of course a short journey by car and soon we were passing through Louisburgh and on our way to Croagh Patrick. We had no intention of going to the top but did get about a third of the way up. It is rough enough with lots of big rocks and smaller loose stones but the views out over Clew Bay are magnificent, even on a cloudy day.

We stayed in the excellent Westport Plaza Hotel that night and enjoyed a lovely meal in their Merlot, a destination restaurant. Visited the bar afterwards. Didn't see any craft beer on tap. But they did have a fridge full of Mescan beer, 330ml bottles of local excellence!
 Mescan, by the way, was St Patrick’s brewer and no doubt the odd conversion was facilitated by a jug of his brew. The beer is still cloudy! Their Westport Blonde (5.5%) is superb.

But it was their Westport Saison (6.2%), more cutting, more fizzy, with clove and citrus notes, that I really enjoyed. Saison beer is a Belgian style brewed for seasonal workers. Reckon I'd appreciate one (or two) after a hard day’s labour or even after an idle day.
Westport House

 Day two was mostly an Achill Island affair. The sun came out and the lure of the Atlantic beauty was irresistible. We did the main drive, all the way through to Keem Bay. There were detours, of course. We took the loop to the south on the way out, the one to the north on the way back.


There were many stops to admire the stunning views over the cliffs and the seas, though the first stop was at the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley castle, near to the lifeboat station.
The Pirate Queen's castle in Achill
For lunch, we dropped into the lovely Craft and Coffee shop called the Beehive in Keel. The food was excellent and very well priced (as it had been in Leenane). For just less than twenty euro, we each had a Chicken Bap (with a lovely salad) and tea, all served on beautiful ware by Shannon Bridge Pottery (Offaly).


Just made it back to Westport House about an hour before closing. The house, by the way, now has new local owners who have promised investment and improvements. We had a quick enough look-around upstairs and downstairs. Even visited the dungeon though spent more time in the extensive wine-cellar (now unfortunately empty, aside from a few old wooden markers).

Achill, above and below

We wouldn't be short of wine though when we visited the excellent Black Truffle Bistro in the town centre for a smashing dinner, a dinner that included one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten.

Time then for another taste of the local brews and we headed up to the lively McGings. I passed the night - we had music by DramaCode later - with Clifford's Connacht Champion, or 3C for short, a refreshing golden ale (4%), one of the beers from the Clew Bay Brewery. 


Westport House, in the wine cellar
CL settled on a very nice and refreshing Achill beer, made using water from a local corrie lough and Carrigeen moss. 


Each beer came in its own proper glass; McGings don't do things by halves. Staff there are brilliant, very helpful if you are not acquainted with the beers (they include Franciscan Well Chieftain Pale Ale in their selection). The perfect end to another good day in Mayo.