03 September 2010

Looks aren't anything

Session logoThe way Americans talk about breweries -- the physical beer-making bit -- can be quite jealousy-inducing. It seems to be generally taken for granted that breweries are visitable attractions, rather than merely functional workplaces. So, for this month's Session, Maine-based The Beer Babe has asked us to go along to one of our newest local breweries. Now, we're not short of new breweries in Ireland this year, I'm delighted to say. But you don't just roll up to an Irish craft brewery and expect the door to be open and the tasting bar set up. And you certainly don't expect it to be pretty.

Irish breweries look like this:

(White Gypsy)

or this:

(Galway Hooker)

or this:

(The Porterhouse)

You get the idea. None, as far as I'm aware, has ever won an architectural award. And it's only on special occasions or by prior arrangement that anyone other than the staff see the inside.

Fortunately for the timing of this Session, both of the newest breweries had such open days over the summer. Trouble hosted a delegation in July, and just a couple of weeks ago the Dungarvan Brewing Company (right) rolled up the shutters, fired up the barbecue, and invited some visitors in. They even threw in an historical walking tour of the town.

Production is running at full tilt at the moment, which is very encouraging. With the three main beers -- Helvick Gold, Copper Coast and Black Rock -- becoming increasingly well-established, especially locally, attention is turning towards specials and seasonals.

The first of these made a brief appearance at the open day. The brewery has been working with a restaurant in the next town over to produce a special beer and curry menu. From what I've heard, the first few have been huge successes and are about to become a regular occasion at O'Brien Chop House in Lismore. While I'd be very surprised if there were any complaints about the fitness of Helvick Gold to match spicy food, Cormac has put together a Lime and Coriander Wit. It had only just gone into the bottle, so was perhaps a little green still, but it packed a big sharp citric punch -- tangy yet with a definite fruity softness, reminding me of lemon meringue pie. I doubt it will have any difficulty cutting through even the hottest curry on offer. I hope to find out first-hand some time.

I'm also really looking forward to more seasonals and specials from both of the new kids, and even more to the next brewery bringing craft beer to the Irish market. Inishmacsaint Brewing Company is due to have beers at the Belfast Beer & Cider Festival in November. Can't wait.


  1. Interesting point. Gleaming, uber-brewplants all look good, but ultimately if the brewer is brewing dull, uninspired beer then it's all for naught. That lime and coriander wit sounds lovely, though. I've said it once, I'll say it again - we don't get enough ICB over here. I really enjoyed the Emerald and White Gypsy brews I sampled at a fest last year.

  2. If you want it, come and get it :P

  3. Let me assure you there is nothing glamorous about working in the Starr Hill facility - it used to be a frozen food factory. Lovely looking breweries are all good and well, but if the beer that comes out of them isn't any good then it's all a waste. The lime and coriander wit sounds vaguely familiar! ;)