Showing posts with label Reel Deel Brewery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reel Deel Brewery. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Local Whiskey and Beers enjoyed during Mayo Prelude to Roscommon Stay

 Local Whiskey and Beers enjoyed during

Mayo Prelude to Roscommon Stay

The Connacht Distillery are proud of their Batch 1 as it is the first whiskey to come off their own copper pot stills. “ has been patiently matured for four years, when our distillers judged it to be ready for appreciation by whiskey lovers.This small batch, double distilled single malt is made from 100% malted irish barley, aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in Jerez casks.”

We were in Ballina, where the distillery is located, to visit relations and booked a tour. The tour is pretty routine, takes you through the process as you walk around the working distillery. You learn the pot stills are Canadian, the barley comes from Hook Head (County Wexford) and it is malted in Athy.

The three Canadian made pot stills

Following the milling and mashing on site, the spent grain goes to some happy local cattle while the wort, goes to the fermentation tanks and, with the addition of yeast, the whiskey begins to emerge. Now it’s on to the copper pot stills (‘think of them as kettles”) for either double or triple distillation. The whiskey is bottled onsite.

Soon we arrived in the cosy comfortable bar for the tasting. It wasn’t mentioned during the tour but the website tells us the timber floors were rescued from Boland’s Mill (Dublin), the very floors “upon which Irish patriots stood and battled British soldiers during the 1916 Easter Rising.”

Timbers with a tale

Our assignment was threefold but a much more comfortable experience than the battles of 1916. Under the logo of the Sea Serpent, we tasted three of the Connacht spirits: The Straw Boys Poitín, Ballyhoo Irish Whiskey, and the Connacht Single Malt Batch 1. 

The Poitín, at 45%, is a very smooth (no alcohol burn) and an easy drinking example of the native drink. The Ballyhoo, another smooth dram, began as a sourced Irish whiskey that “we bring to our distillery to further age and finish in used port barrels from Portugal”.

The bar at Connacht Distillery

It was good but I was really waiting for the Batch 1 and I wasn’t let down at all. Sweet, spicy and especially fruity, it is warming and full bodied with lingering walnuts and honey. The ABV is 47%. The RRP is €64.99 but if you take the tour you can get a 10% discount, though you may have to ask for it!

We were in Ballina, where the distillery is located, to visit relations before a two-day break in Roscommon. Our next stop was Swinford for a very comfortable overnight stay at the Deerpark Manor B&B. Very friendly hosts and an enjoyable breakfast as well, in a location convenient for us with Roscommon just a short drive away but the likes of Knock Airport, Castlebar and Westport aren’t too far away either.

We have, for a quite a while now, an ambition to visit the Mescan Brewery near Croagh Patrick but it just wasn’t possible on this occasion. However, that didn’t stop us from enjoying some of their beer in the lovely old pub, Mellett’s Emporium in Swinford, a ten minute stroll from our B&B.

It looked very well kept from the outside and when we spotted a sign for Mescan in the hallway, we went in without hesitation. Quite a good buzz there for a Tuesday night! And that Seven Virtues Lager on draught was just the job after a long day. Besides, we also got to enjoy the Jack the Lad Ale by the Reel Deel brewery from nearby Crossmolina.

In fact, it was craft beer all the way on this trip, as our Roscommon hosts, Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry, also had two beers on tap, the Little Fawn by White Hag and Scraggy Bay by Kinnegar.

The trip from Cork to Ballina took us about three and a half hours and was pleasantly uneventful. It should also have been 3.5 hours from Tarmonbarry to Cork but the return stretched to four hours. The major delaying factor came in the square in Thurles. When we entered, I spotted a person lying under a truck immediately to the right. Shock was the first reaction but later I read on a local radio’s website that the lady was unharmed so that was very good news indeed.

Also on this trip: 

Superb stay at the lovely Keenan's of Tarmonbarry Hotel

48 hours in Roscommon and neighbouring counties

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo. Visit to the Connacht Distillery

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo
Visit to the new Connacht Distillery
Connacht Distillery
Last weekend, after a drive from Donegal, we made it just  in time to take the 12.30pm tour of the new Connacht Distillery in Ballina, County Mayo. What else would you be doing on a Sunday morning!

Aside from a spanking new distillery, you need water, barley and yeast to make whiskey. Connacht get their water, clean water, from Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. Lots of iron and calcium in the water so it has to be demineralised before being used in the distilling process.

The malted barley, having come through the milling stage, meets up with the warmed water in the boiler tank. This liquid-y mix is called the mash and is put into the mash tun, another tank.  The sugar, from the barley, dissolves and is drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. The resulting liquid is called 'wort'. Lautering is the next process, in the third tank (the Lauter tun), and here the mash is separated into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain.
Now we are on to the three wash vats, all stainless steel. Here, the yeast is added and begins to act on the sugar in the wort, turning it into alcohol over a period of two to four days. This wash is low in alcohol, much the same as that of wine.

Our guide now enthusiastically points to their three gleaming stills, which were made in Victoria, Canada. They have different necks which influence character and texture etc. The first tank is called Wash; the alcohol evaporates up the neck and leaves this tank at about 20% abv.

On then to the Feint tank where the process is repeated and the alcohol increases, this time to about 35%. The final, the third, tank is called the Spirit. Irish whiskeys are traditionally triple distilled. When the Spirit has done its work, the liquid, still clear (no colour) has an abv of about 70%!
Ballina last Sunday (28.08.16)
You’ve heard of flying winemakers. Well Connacht’s distiller Rob runs two distilleries in Pennsylvania and flies over regularly to Ballina. He also sources the oak casks which are charred and impart flavour and colour and in which the Connacht whiskey will be matured. The casks are made in Kentucky and are ex-Bourbon. All bottling is done here, all by hand.

Like many new distilleries, Connacht makes some white spirits to get the cash flow going while waiting the mandatory three years (and a day) for the whiskey. They are planning their gin and there will be some interesting botanicals included! The Poitin was due to be bottled the day after our visit but we did get a taste of their smooth Straw Boys Vodka. This wheat based drink is good and smooth, with a hint of  pepper in the aftertaste. The Straw Boys are a Mayo tradition, a sign of luck if they turn up at your wedding. “They are all about fun and getting the party going!”.

You will have to wait until 2019 to taste their own whiskey but in the meantime, they have been putting their own finish to a bought-in whiskey. It is called Spade and Bushel (after the tools of the trade) and is light amber in colour, smooth and sweet, hints of caramel and a “great after dinner drink”. No bother agreeing with that. Be careful with it though. One thing that sets this apart is that it is a cask strength whisky with an abv of 57.5%! It comes in a 37.5cl bottle.
The Straw Boys love a party
 When their own whiskey comes on the market, it will feature a rather special logo, a Celtic Dragon with a bunch of corn stalks in his claw.

There is another distillery starting up in Mayo, the Nephin, named after the county’s famous mountain. This is different. They are creating peated single malts made in a small Mayo village using locally grown barley, locally cut turf and triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills, then matured in unique casks handcrafted in their own cooperage. Must call there the next time!

My base for the night was the Grand National Hotel Ballina. They have a rather large bar and I was disappointed, considering the amount of breweries around the county, that they had no craft beer. Luckily, I spotted a Jameson Whiskey menu on the counter and spent an enjoyable hour or two sampling.

The new Connacht distillery. A new Greenway, from Ballina to Killala, starts alongside it.
The favourite was the Powers John's Lane Release at €9.00 a glass. The drop of water, the only other thing needed, was free! There is an abundance of aromas - don't stick your nose into the glass - just hover above it; it is full bodied, spicy and sweet and has a lingering finish. Think this is my new number one!

And if I can't get it, I’ll go for the Yellow Spot 12 Years Old, another single pot still whiskey, another smooth sweet customer at €9.50 a glass. It is complete from start to long finish with a distinctive sweetness at all stages. Sophisticated and complex they say. And it sure is. Reckon the Mayo distillery, indeed all new distilleries, have a fight on their hands. Perhaps, the best way to go about it is to avoid the direct collision and find your own niche.

Great for us customers though to have the choice!
Beers from the local Reel Deal
Aside from pulling a blank in the Ballina Hotel, craft beers, especially in bottle, were easy enough to find during this quick trip to Donegal Town and Ballina. Kinnegar Brewing and Donegal Brewing were available in The Harbour Restaurant in Quay Street in Donegal. And beers from the same two breweries were enjoyed over in the Village Tavern in Mountcharles. Last call in Donegal was the Olde Castle where the restaurant were offering their own beer called, appropriately, Red Hugh, and brewed in the county.

Ballina had started well enough with a couple of decent beers, the Irish Blonde amber ale and the General Humber French fusion ale, both by Mayo’s Reel Deel and both available in bottle in the upstairs restaurant of the lively Bar Square in Garden Street. And then came the blank in the hotel. The joys of researching. Still the whiskeys were a considerable consolation!
Killala, known to M. Humbert