What’s a trip to Ireland without a visit to Guinness Brewery? Honestly, this isn’t the beer-bias speaking, Guinness is a world class tour. Of course, just like any brewery you are going to have a history of beer, as well as a history of Guinness itself, but there is so much more to this trip. In the middle of the meeting room/gift shop, in the floor there’s the the actual 9,000 year lease, safely encased below your feet. I wonder who got the raw end of the deal on that agreement? Now, if you take a moment and look up, you will see a glass column stretching straight up to the ceiling. This is the world’s largest pint glass, at Guinness it’s go big or go home…with a pint.
The first floor takes you through the workings of brewing beer, and as you work your way up there are many interactive features. You will learn about the original patented yeast strand, see an indoor waterfall, listen to talking pictures and visit a museum of kooky art and animatronics. Your ticket allows you to explore your senses such as smell and taste too. One room allows you to take in the effervescence of the individual ingredients. Soon thereafter, you are given a sample glass to enjoy the finished product. That’s not all, however, soon you are able to visit the cooper’s corner, where you can see an old video on the the dying art of barrel makers, an sip some coffee at the cafe. You then have a choice, learn how to pour a perfect Guinness on your own, print your certificate, and explore some more; or you can head to the highest bar in Dublin and have your pint poured for you (don’t cheap out on me Dodgson). At this point, if you have worked up an appetite, as any normal person would after a few hours, take your pick of three restaurants set to fit most palates. This was a great tour, and a highlight of Dublin.
Another nice spot to try, if you’re into the whole local brewery scene, is Rising Sons brewery. This is a great little place to sit down and enjoy a pint, or more. Located in Cork Ireland, it looks like any restaurant form the outside, but when you enter, it’s not your average pub. The atmosphere is different here, because the patrons who frequent this watering hole appreciate good craft beer. It’s a full bar, so if beer is not your fancy you can drink what you prefer. Behind the bar is the brewery itself, and there’s a plethora of beer to choose from. Honestly, there’s something for most taste buds, and if you are unsure of what to try, the bartender is more than happy to customize your order to your liking. They have your local pub food as well. The staff are amazing, when I said I was looking for some local whiskey, one staff member took me for a walk in the neighborhood to find rare spirits, she even marked a map if I chose to explore further. Truly a fun and friendly spot.
When in Cork County, you must visit the quaint river side town of Kinsale. This town appeals to the foodie in all of us, and soon (probably already) they will have their own brewery. Technically they do have their own brewery, Black’s Brewery, but it wasn’t open to the public when we visited. Kinsale has everything from seafood to chocolate; coffee shops and bars. Many of these cater to the vegetarian and gluten free patrons.
My two recommendations include the Lemon Leaf Cafe and Koko Kinsale. Koko makes all things chocolate, from 100% dark to the sweeter milk chocolate creations. They have candy bars, truffles, purses and shoes… who needs a glass slipper. Lemon Leaf Cafe has a hearty menu set to satisfy any of your dietary restrictions or indulgences. I had the B.A.L.T sandwich, which is made with “Irish smoked bacon, avocado, organic leaves & fresh tomatoes with mayo on Artisan bread.” My wife had a delicious house special made up of salmon cakes and a poached egg. All around satisfaction, and a great place for our final visit to Ireland.
The Lemon Leaf also has some great local beers available, and that’s where I was introduced to Black’s brewery. According to Untappd, they have made about 62 beers. Unfortunately I only had the chance to try one of them in my short stay of Kinsale. They specialize in the growing trend of IPA’s (darks and doubles included), but they also have stouts, a barleywine and lagers. My first experience was the Kinsale Pale Ale. This is a 5% ABV ale, described as “An exciting fusion of Cascade and Citra hops inspires tropical & citrus flavours that are beautifully balanced with the malty sweetness. The taste dollops a smack of citrus onto the palate grapefruit and lime alongside more sweet pineapple and tangerine a decent little malt body fairly creamy, with definite biscuit and cake-dough sweetness and straw overall very well balanced. Clean and crisp citric bite to finish on, which lingers for a while alongside the sweet tropical fruit notes.”
It paired well with my B.A.L.T and I found the nose to be a bit farmy (not a bad thing). Overall it was balanced with a complimentary light malt and hop flavor. It’s finish was reminiscent of sweet citrus and slightly dry. Not a bad introductory beer. If you get the chance, look them up and seek out their brews.
Whenever you find yourself in one of these small Irish towns, a great place to try is the small local grocery store. Talk to the locals about what you are looking for and they will belt off a list of suggestions. One of these suggestions was to try a beer from West Kerry brewery. I picked up their seasonal Winter ale, and this too was an impressive craft. This is one of the “heavier” beers I was able to try in Ireland, at a whopping 5.7%. While not as heavy as the beers I am used to entertaining, it was actually quite warming. It had that sweet malt nose you might expect from a good brown ale. This too was a balanced beer, with a roasted malt flavor with a light smooth taste. While not filling, it had a good full body.
So that’s it! Of course there is much more to experience and explore in Ireland, these are the foodie and beerie highlights of my trip. I highly recommend the trip, and 5 days just isn’t enough. If i get the chance to go back, I will be more than happy to share more experiences with the local cuisine and brews. Until next time, keep trying something new!