22 February 2010

Tribal imbibements

Friday saw me in Galway where one of the ICB lads had arranged a visit to Ireland's newest brewpub, Oslo in Salthill. Straight off the train my first stop was Sheridan's on the Docks -- a cosy watering hole where the beer list is conscientiously chosen and the macro taps are overshadowed by huge fonts for Budvar, Staropramen and Galway Hooker. It was a pint of the hoppy local that quenched my thirst before I moved on.

Destination two was a new pub for me. The Salt House is part of the chain which includes Oslo, and I was lured in by the promise of cask White Gypsy ale. Sadly, while the engine was in place, the tap was dry and I made do with a pint of Porterhouse Oyster. The pub is a narrow and compact boozer offering free wi-fi and a fantastic range of beers. The guest tap was pouring a deliciously spicy Messrs Maguire Weiss and I had that to accompany the burger I brought in from Mustard, a nearby restaurant under the same ownership. The Salt House is open from 3pm and is managed by James: a kiwi beer fanatic with a robust approach to customers seeking the bland usuals he doesn't stock. It's a definite must for drinking in Galway.

On then to Oslo, in the centre of Galway's seaside suburb of Salthill. This is on a much grander scale, stretching back from the front door along a long bar to a large saloon at the back. Windows here offer a peek at the stainless steel vessels of the Bay Brewery where John the brewmaster plies his trade. They don't have a kegging setup as yet so the beer is pumped directly from the bright tanks to the bar. Two beers are on offer at the moment: Bay Lager and Bay Ale. The former is probably going to come as a surprise to the unsuspecting yellow fizz drinker: it's orange and cloudy for one thing and tastes very dry and crisp. There's a touch of oxidised cardboard in it and I got a mild appley vibe as it warmed. Bay Lager is a work in progress, I'd say. The red Bay Ale is a far more rounded product. It's very much malt-driven and is full of sweet biscuity notes, though the hopping is generous too, adding a lovely fruity dimension to the finish -- definitely one of the better examples of the Irish red out there.

From the wide bottled selection I got a chance to try the 16-year Ola Dubh. It's not very different to the one aged in 12-year-old whisky barrels, but the phenols are more pronounced. It's tasty, but I think I prefer the milder incarnation. I wonder does the marker-pen taste get bigger and bigger with the ascending age of the barrels? If so, I dread to think what the forthcoming 40-year edition will be like.

The group adjourned to The Salt House afterwards for a few Hooker nightcaps and Galway was still partying when we turned in.

It was great fun and I'd like to thank Tom who arranged things and all the crew at Oslo and The Salt House for their generous hospitality. Oslo will be hosting the first Brewers on the Bay festival of Irish craft beer this May Bank Holiday weekend. It promises to be a fantastic couple of days.


  1. On the Ola Dubh you lose that phenolic marker pen/nail polish remover after the 18, it's something I quite like however, it gets replaced by more char, sea salt and other qualities too numerous to list here!!!! Give it a go

  2. Thanks Melissa! I will if I see it.

  3. Sounds like a great trip, good to see Galway get its own brewpub

  4. Why name it Oslo? Does it signify something cold and expensive?

  5. I'd been wondering about that myself. I must find out.

    The introductory offer has pints at €3, so not far off Norwegian specialty beer prices, right?

  6. Anonymous6:30 pm

    Multiply by 2 or 3!

  7. Wow -- 2 or 3 pints for €3! Must get back to Norway soon...

  8. The bar is on the site of the old Oslo dancehall. In the 60's the name would have been very exotic (not that I'm suggesting Oslo is not exotic or anything :)

  9. Thanks Níall!

    Only on the ocean-battered Galway coast would people think Oslo was sexily exotic. Miniskirts and blue legs whipped pink by the salt gale...