Once a year, presumably for some dodgy tax write-off reasons or bizarre sexual kink, the Galway Bay Brewery fills a coach with its Dublin customers, drives them to Galway and, against all reason, brings them back again. I went in 2014, when the brewery was still out the back of The Oslo in Salthill, and signed up again this year to see how things had developed at the new site in Ballybrit.
Quite extensively, it turns out. A super-shiny new Italian-built brewhouse and tanks has just been commissioned and the aim is to turn out 12,000hL in 2016, bringing them into the big leagues of Irish microbrewing. It was easy to see how the rapid-fire one-offs from Galway Bay come in such quick succession.
New for the day was Goin' Out West, a double IPA by new head brewer Will Avery. It uses a super-simple (and sustainable) hop combination of Columbus and Chinook but makes very good use of them, giving lots of fresh mandarin: sweet candy in the middle and a more acidic tang on the end. It's quite dry but there's a definite warmth, fitting its 7.8% ABV. Best of all the bitterness is low allowing the hop fruit to come through -- exactly like its equally-clean stablemate Of Foam & Fury. It's always nice to meet a double IPA that isn't trying too hard to impress, but does anyway.
After considerable hospitality of the barbecued sort, and a sneaky taste of some new specials (thanks Tom!) we made for The Salt House and instantly destroyed the enjoyably quiet afternoon a handful of punters were having in there. For me it was a rare opportunity to grab something from Soulwater, who've been busy since I first met them in February. On cask there was Cosmic Cow, their milk stout, this version (allegedly) with extra almond. I can't say I found any almond flavour ('cos there wasn't any: see comment), nor much distinctive lactose for that matter. Instead it's a basic but decent cask stout, creamy and smooth, mostly quite sweet with just a very slight roasted edge on it. Easy drinking too, which is just as well as we were back on the bus in short order and off out to The Oslo.
The main draw here was the Micil poitín distillery which has been set up where the brewery used to be. Decent stuff, too: an all-malt wash, flavoured with bogbean. Cheers to Pádraic for showing us around. The final new beer of the day was Super Smash Bros, a Citra-hopped, 5.3% ABV IPA, brewed by one of The Oslo's staff on the Galway Bay pilot kit. It's pale yellow and unattractively murky but oooh that aroma, all pineapple flesh and mandarin pith. Janice, beside me, said it smelled of kiwi and insisted I write that down so here it is. The fresh fruit continues right into the flavour, intensifying as it goes, to become a heavy dankness by the end of the pint. And there's a touch of savoury yeast, but not nearly as much as the opaqueness might suggest. All-in-all surprisingly complex for a SMASH, and worth scaling up if there's enough Citra left.
After that it was just a question of loading up with bus beers and making for The Brew Dock and a late-night pint of Via Maris.
Cheers to Andy, Jenna and all at Galway Bay for the grand day out. There'll be more on here from this brewery soon, without doubt.
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