27 February 2014

Baying for more

With Beoir's Beer of the Year for 2014 and a gold medal at Alltech under their belt, Galway Bay Brewery is not exactly short on laurels, but they certainly haven't been resting on them. This last few weeks has seen a new pub, Alfie Byrne's next to the Conrad Hotel in Dublin, bringing the estate to nine. And there have been several new beers.

It was at the opening night in Alfie Byrne's that I met Galway Bay American Amber Ale -- as a child of the pilot brewery it doesn't appear to get a proper nautical name like its full siblings. It's a little on the pale side for the style, more a dark orange than properly red, and it smells of... swimming pools? One mouthful in and my pint was confiscated by the management. Incomplete line-cleaning, it seems. A replacement was immediately provided. This had significantly less chlorine and a lot more mango in the aroma. At its heart is the big illicit buzz of dank hops: funky, oily and all-pervading. It gradually fades to a pine bitterness with a spike of gunpowder spice. This is a serious beer for serious hopheads but its dark malts make it approachable for normal people too. The biggest surprise came some days later when I discovered it's 7.4% ABV. It really doesn't taste as strong as that. Highly enjoyable, but handle with care.

Before the Amber arrived, the Next Big Thing in Irish beer was Two Hundred Fathoms, a 10% ABV imperial stout aged in Yellow Spot whiskey barrels and released in a limited run of just 900 bottles. I'm not familiar with Yellow Spot though am a big fan of its Green brother so this, coupled with rave reviews from other drinkers, had me very keen to get the waxed cap off. (A word to brewers on waxed caps, though: don't). Gloopy is the first impression, pouring like some diabolical combination of Tia Maria topped by Baileys. When the foam subsided I got in for a sniff, finding dry cocoa powder and a non-specific spirituous vapour. The first pull was hard work, intense viscosity meant a beer which put up a fight leaving the glass. Once in the mouth it explodes in several directions at once: there's the definite burnt-toast dryness of classic Irish stout, then the harsh ball-of-malt burn from the whiskey. More comforting dark chocolate follows and is the lasting impression, simultaneously bitter and sweet. My preference would be for some softer floral or fruit notes, but perhaps these will develop with age. More than anything, I'm reminded of Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout. That's the sort of league we're in. For all the weight, heat and complexity, it's actually pretty easy drinking, another feature it shares with Brooklyn Black Chocolate. It lures the drinker in to its dark world, hence the name, I guess.

Alfie Byrne's has dedicated a tap for special edition beers, named "The Vernon", after the pub Alfie himself ran, down on Talbot Street. That'll be the first place I look on future visits.


  1. like some diabolical combination of Tia Maria topped by Baileys

    It's Sheridan's!

  2. I want one of those pint glasses! Is that photo from Alfie Byrnes or do you have a stash from somewhere?

    1. What ARE you accusing me of? :P Yes, that's Alfie Byrne's in the top photo.