Last summer I embarked on a wee tour around Ireland with some fellow biker friends. We do a tour every year and on previous occasions have visited the Isle of Skye, Inverness, the Lake District, Wales and Cornwall. However we’ve never done Ireland and I’m ashamed to say that I had never been as far south on this island as counties Kerry or Cork. Time to put that right we thought. And at the end of a great day’s riding why not try and source a half decent beer? Now of course we all know that whether north or south of the border, availability of good brews is not widespread and most pubs offer the usual bland multi-national dross whether in Coleraine or Clonakilty.
So here’s a little non-comprehensive review of what we managed to find on our way. While travelling through County Waterford we opted not to venture to Dungarvan Brewing Company as dark clouds were looming overhead and I knew of a great pub near our accommodation in Cork. We arrived late afternoon, changed out of our leathers and eagerly made our way to the Franciscan Well Pub and Brewery. As it was a Wednesday evening, the bar was quiet and our eyes lit up as we stepped into the place. Behind the bar are 3 tanks each holding 300gl and the beer menu, yes beer menu, has 7 pump brews made in-house as well as an extensive list of bottled ales. Blondes, reds, lagers, wheat beers, stouts, ciders and pale ales are all available. Heaven!
My first taster of the evening was Friar Weisse, a delicious 4.7% ABV German-style unfiltered wheat beer with citrus notes on the palate and a powerful aroma of banana and clove. Interesting mix. The ladies in the group loved it and although I’m not usually a big fan of fruit-based beers, I agreed with them. The banana was very subtle and not dominant in the taste. I could imagine a lot of folk sitting at a barbecue in searing heat supping a few thirst-quenching Friar Weisse.
My favourite of the night though was the 5% ABV Purgatory Pale Ale. Using Cascade hops from the USA it has a floral flavour, which leads to a deep bitter orange taste. Not unlike one of my local favourites Pig Islandfrom Ards Brewing Co. A great night’s craic was had in Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewpub. The beers are amazing, the staff are friendly and to top it all off they allow you to order in pizza so what’s not to like?
Another place of note is in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. Originally established in 1865, The Roadside Tavern do the most a-maz-ing food (order the bacon and cabbage or maybe the lamb and stout stew to see what I mean – it wasn’t Munster’s Best GastroPub in 2012 for no reason) but what really made me smile was they also have their own microbrewery onsite.
Set up in 2011 The Burren Brewery have 3 ales – Burren Gold, Red and Stout. Each is tasty in its own right but for me the best of the trio was Burren Red – slighty sweet with a spicy smokiness it stands head and shoulders above anything else of that category that you can buy in any bar in the area. If you’re in County Clare, pop in for lunch and enjoy a good yarn with locals and visitors alike.
The final place our group stopped into that had a varying array of beers was Galway city’s Bierhaus. With hundreds of Irish and worldwide beers to choose from you’re sure to find something to suit your taste. I was in a bit of a porter/stout mood that night so started off with a porter from Co. Kildare brewery Trouble Brewing. The unfiltered Dark Arts uses a good mix of black and chocolate malts and cleared the cobwebs away after a day of the odd torrential rainstorm and twisty Co.Clare roads.
That was followed by a smooth and welcoming bottle of the 5% ABV Knockmealdown Porter from Eight Degrees Brewing. A deep roasted coffee malt flavour exudes from this porter and although I’m not a fan of 33cl bottles (I prefer a pint) I felt it tasted better that the Dark Arts.
As I said at the beginning it’s not a comprehensive guide but a little taster of what can be found in a few counties down south. Maybe if you come across a good pub post your comments below. Next year we’re off to Scotland. Oh, in total I covered 1200 miles riding the Irish coastline on my beloved Honda CBR and raised £1,600 for a children’s charity in the process.
I’ll drink to that, sláinte!