Somewhere along a remote, wind-swept coastal road, according to this description the Globe and Mail, we’re going to make our way to the two-room brewhouse of where brewers Adrienne Heslin and Paul O’Loingsigh (above) use well water that is “fresh and limey and perfect for dark beers.”
We’ll poke around, we’ll talk beer, and then we’ll drink a porter that, writer Bent Archer once described, “was to Guinness what Guinness is to Bud.”
That is high praise, and it is exactly why I’m headed to Ireland – to taste and discover an exciting, emerging craft beer culture.
Meanwhile, read on for more on the beer scene in Dingle, Ireland, and check out the often-overlooked style of Irish Red Ale.
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Brewery Tour – West Kerry Brewery
We’ll head out to the Wild Atlantic Way to visit this very small “real ale” brewery, where the beers are cask-conditioned and locals call it by its Irish name, Beoir Chorca Duibhne.
Established in 2008, the seaside brewhouse uses traditional methods to produce some decidedly un-Irish beers, including a dry hopped IPA, an imperial black ale and a dark red bitter. After our tour, we’ll stop in next door at charming Brick Pub (Tig Bhric) for a comfortable tasting session.
Distillery Tour – Dingle Distillery
As a new distillery (owned by the same folks behind Porterhouse Brewing), the first products from its pot still were gin and vodka – both rated very highly. But by the time we visit, this four-year-old distillery will be producing its very first whiskey.
How will it taste? Well, Dingle brought in one of Europe’s top whiskey experts for advice: John McDougall, credited with shaping the flavors of Scotland’s Laphroaig, Springbank and others.
- John Benny’s – Owned by traditional musicians who play nightly, the seafront spot is known for Glenbeigh oysters and Tom Crean’s lager from Dingle Brewing.
- Dick Mack’s Pub – Named the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year, it also pours the full variety from West Kerry Brewery.
- West Kerry Porter – British beer writer Roger Protz once wrote that he would drive all the way across Ireland just for this aged dark, smoky ale.
- White Gypsy Imperial Russian Stout – A complex, smoky dark beer from nearby County Tipperary.
IRISH RED ALE
Hundreds of years before Arthur Guinness made his famous stout, Ireland was famous for its red ale. Poets rhapsodized about its strength and character. Believers told the tale of Conn of the Hundred Battles who, 2,000 years ago, learned the names of those who would succeed him on the throne from a beautiful, dreamlike maiden who served him ladlefuls of ale as red as blood.
These days, unfortunately, beer freaks often skip past Irish red ale because it’s faded into a style without any distinctive edges.
It is neither hoppy nor particularly malty. It is satisfying, not provocative. The official Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines offer yawn-inducing descriptors like “moderate caramel flavor,” “light grain flavor,” “medium bitterness,” and “easy-drinking.” Another guide unhelpfully describes Irish red ale as “an Irish ale noted for its reddish color.”
“It’s innocuous, not super hoppy or roasty,” Kevin Reed, director of brewing operations for the Rock Bottom brewpub chain, once told me. “It’s comfort beer.”
Let’s blame it on Coors – in particular its George Killian’s Irish Red. Ostensibly based on the 19th-century original from Enniscorthy, Ireland, it’s as ordinary as toasted Wonder Bread.
Lately, though, Irish craft brewers have been bringing back the style with authenticity. Franciscan Well Rebel Red is getting great reviews and it recently picked up a bronze medal in the World Beer Awards. Ironically, the brewery is owned by… Molson Coors.Share