09 August 2017

Achill: sound?

A little background before I start in on today's reviews. There has been a brewery on Achill Island in Co. Mayo since last year. Its beers don't get very far from it so I hadn't had a chance to try them when one showed up on The Fine Ale Countdown podcast recently. The guys didn't log a formal review because the bottles they had were considerably less than fresh, but they were not fans of what they found, to say the least. For my part, I doubt that a good beer will magically transform into a bad one in a matter of months: it should still be possible to discern its original nature regardless, so I did not have high expectations for Achill Brewery's work after listening.

And then came the Killarney Beer Festival in May. Achill had entered two beers and collected a medal for both of them. Medals are not given out like sweeties in Killarney so both must have been beers of real merit. My curiosity piqued, I secured a bottle of each from the competition leftovers (cheers Kellie!). Unlabelled, of course, which is why my pictures today don't have bottles in them.

To begin, after all that, Achill Sláinte, 4.4% ABV and described by the brewery as a lagered ale. It's a medium gold colour with just a very slight haze. The crackling white head doesn't remain in place for very long. Its aroma is sweet and quite fruity, which doesn't bode well, though there are no real off flavours on tasting. The problem is there isn't much else, however. It's crisp and grainy, with maybe a tiny hint of bubblegum in the background and minimal green noble hop bitterness. There's a lot of the feel of German brewpub lager about it: it has that raw and rustic simplicity. It's inoffensive, though. Like with German brewpub lager, I would happily drink it if it's the beer available in the place where I'm drinking. And I think that's the point of Achill beer.

Second of the pair is Achill Dearg, a red ale at a very traditional 4% ABV, though in a not-so-traditional 33cl bottle. It's a handsome clear dark copper colour, the head generous to begin with but fading fast. Given the ABV I guess I shouldn't be suprised by the thin mouthfeel, but there's also a sourness to this that suggests all is not as it should be. That turns the red ale fruit, usually all summer strawberry, into a tart brambley mix of blackberry and redcurrant. This recedes a little as it warms, and a more typical roasted grain flavour emerges from the background, but Dearg isn't a good example of an Irish red ale. It needs more body, and dare I say more sweetness.

While better than expected, and relatively technically proficient, neither of these would be on my awards platform when put next to other Irish beers. There are definitely much better lagers and even reds out there.


  1. Very interesting. I still haven't tried them. Or if I have, I didn't know it at the time.

    1. I don't think I'd have given medals to any of the other beers in the Lager or Dark categories where these won, so people with tastes other than mine were definitely judging.