Both Seasons in Two Days

I think it is said that Ireland has two seasons; rain and no rain. During our time in County Cork, we got to experience both seasons compacted into two days.

YiB-6On Monday, we left the rugged west coast of Clare for the hopefully sunny environs of County Cork.  Our first destination was Glandore, a town in West Cork that we particularly enjoy. And sun was definitely needed because what we like to do is sit outside and enjoy a few beers.  Yes, it is possible to sit outside in Ireland and enjoy a beer.

The weather on the drive south was touch and go… light rain mixing with heavier rain, but mostly just clouds.

When we left Blarney – we made a quick stop at Blarney Castle – and started driving west, it was evident that our offering to St. Brigid was working; at least for this day. Clear blue skies could be seen in the distance and that was what awaited us in Glandore.

On the stretch of road overlooking the bay, there are two pubs with outdoor seating across the road. So, after 4+ hours of driving, we were able to enjoy a pleasant lunch and a couple of pints of beer.

And better yet, the Glandore Inn had the large bottles of Guinness, so I didn’t add to the nitro tally, which is already much bigger than I had considered before the trip.

After our lunch, we headed back east to Cork City, which was the main destination of our visit to this part of Ireland.

We had three tasks to complete in Cork City:

1. To revisit the Franciscan Well brewpub, which we last visited in 1999
2. Visit The Bierhaus, a beer bar in the city
3. Do the Beamish tour

Under still pleasant skies we accomplished #s 1 and 2 on the first evening.

Franciscan Well is located on an alleyway along North Mall on the Lee River. The one and only time we visited this brewery was in 1999 and memories of that time, besides it being down an alley, are slim.

The bar area looked familiar, but there was also a very nice outdoor seating area that we don’t remember from nine years ago. Armed with our taster set, we found a nice quiet corner to relax.

We tried five of their beers, the highlight being the lager and the red. And as Merideth said, it was nice to drink something that wasn’t Guinness. You might think that is blasphemy for traveling in Ireland, but there are only so many pints of Guinness you can drink before you want some variety.

Located a few blocks down from Franciscan Well on Popes Quay is The Bierhaus. I was told by a member of the Irish Craft Brewer message board that this was a place we had to visit. And they were right.

The beer selection at The Bierhaus is world class by Irish standards and ‘really good’ to someone who lives in California. The best Irish craft beers are served along with all your favorite Belgian and continental beers. And if you have a hankering for a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, you can get that too.

The Bierhaus will be celebrating their second anniversary in August and here’s to many more.

Tuesday, we got the other end of the weather spectrum…rain and lots of it.

Our main task of this day was to do the Beamish tour. Well, they don’t offer a tour of the brewery for insurance reasons, but you do get to sit in their hospitality room and drink pints and watch videos. And the best thing, besides watching the health and safety video, is you get to pour your own beers.

We stuck to the Beamish beers. We could also try the beers they brew under license: Miller, Fosters and Carling, but why would we do that?

I tried the Red Ale – that is all I have to say about that – but the Beamish Stout is as enjoyable as a pint of Guinness. If I had to compare the two, I would say that Beamish has more of a toast flavor.

There has been a brewery on the Beamish site since the 1600s. But the Beamish Brewery, founded in 1792, might be approaching it’s last days. Recently, their parent company, Scottish and Newcastle was purchased and butchered by the two beer giants Heineken and Carlsberg. Heineken, which already owns Murphy’s in Cork, ended up with Beamish as well… maybe.

The Irish equivalent of the FTC is looking into the sale and is expected to rule in October. While Heineken has promised to continue brewing Beamish Stout, it is hard to believe that they would keep both breweries in Cork open.

After the tour, it rained cats and dogs and we ended up back at The Bierhaus. When you find a good thing, keep going back.

Nitro Challenge Update: Our visit to Cork was helpful in slowing down the early blistering pace. We are now up to 32 pints.


Toodlin’ in Doolin

YiB-6Saturday, Chris and I drove to Doolin, County Clare. Doolin might be our favorite place in all of Ireland. A certain travel personality, whose initials are ‘RS’, describes it as ‘touristy’, but we decided that “international” is a better word for it. There are a lot of tourists, but not the usual ‘eat at McDonalds while in Europe’ kind. People from all over the world come to Doolin for the hiking, biking and other adventuresome things to do in the West of Ireland. Of course we met a few cool people while there over the weekend.

Saturday evening, we started out at Gus O’Connors, probably the most popular pub in Doolin and our sentimental favorite. We intended to play some Scrabble, have a few pints, and enjoy the Euro 2008 match between Russia and the Netherlands. However, the manager decided not to show the match because it would interfere with the dinner crowd. We were actually going to do both, eat and drink, but alas, we headed to McDermott’s pub so that we could watch the game.

McDermott’s was actually the suggestion of Maureen, one of the bartenders at Gus O’Connors, who we see every time we go to Doolin. I finally decided to ask her how long she had worked there. She tried to tell me that it was her third night. I told her that I knew that was wrong because we had been coming for years and she eventually admitted that Chris looked familiar. More incredible than saying Chris looked familiar was that she has worked at Gus O’Connors for 28 years!!!

We had a great time at McDermott’s watching the game, eating and drinking. We shared a table with a couple from the Czech Republic. They have been living and working in Cork for three years. We explained our difficulty with the Czech language and we all agreed that our experiences in Czech would be better if we had some native speakers to help us out. They may be moving back to Czech in the future, so we exchanged e-mail addresses just in case we plan another trip there.

YiB-6Saturday, a winter-type storm hit the area. A steady gale force wind blew all night and the rain came down in buckets! Maureen said it was hardest she had ever seen it rain there.

Luckily, we made it in and out of the pubs in between bursts and we never got caught in it. However, a local gift shop was not so lucky and got flooded. It is located at the bottom of a slope. The rain was out of control and everything washed down the hill and into the store. The fire brigade even came to pump out the water. They had not yet reopened when we left Doolin on Monday.

Sunday brought more unsettled weather but to make the day more of a struggle, we seemed to run into eejits wherever we turned.

At breakfast, we heard the Irish guide for a group of Americans say that the ferry ride out to the Aran Islands would not be too rough and not to worry. I believe the quote was something about a car ride would be bumpier. Okay, the one time we went out to the Aran Islands, the crew handed out barf bags because there was a storm raging. With few exceptions, all passengers utilized these nifty clear plastic bags and that day was not nearly as stormy as Sunday’s weather.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a follow up on how the ferry ride scored on the barf-o-meter, but my guess is that it was high. The guide’s comment led one American woman to state, “It’s a sea storm.” Well, yea, you’re on an island!


We survived breakfast and headed out to Biddy Early Brewery in Inagh to drink some beer and to do some filming.

On our way to Biddy Early, we made a quick stop and tried to do something about the weather. All over Ireland, there are holy wells where people wish for everything from being cured of a disease to wealth and prosperity. There is one such well, dedicated to St. Brigit, a few minutes from Doolin. We did give an offering to St. Brigit for good weather, so we’ll see if she shines on us.

YiB-6When we got to Biddy Early, three Irish lads were sitting at the bar. These guys proceeded to play video clips on their phone and play a selection of music including “Eye of the Tiger” multiple times at loud volume. And the best part, they did it while drinking a Baileys, a cider, and the third guy was drinking Budweiser with a straw.  And they burped loudly, too.  Oh yeah, and the ‘Budweiser with a straw guy’ sprayed air freshener into his mouth. Some would call it local color but we thought they were local eejits.

We kept hoping they would leave, but alas, they waited us out and we surrendered and left. Unfortunately that was one of the worst experiences I have had at a pub. We didn’t get any filming done, which is not too much a loss since the owners are trying to sell the place and it’s in a bit of flux.

YiB-6Sunday night, our last night in Doolin, ended on a good note. Back at Gus O’Connors, they decided to play Sunday night’s football match between Spain and Italy. We took our seats at the bar and spent four hours watching football, listening to Irish music and enjoying conversations with the other punters.

For those interested in our little ‘nitro challenge’, we have already amassed 23 pints of nitro beer. Of course, I am responsible for a lion’s share of these, since Chris is drinking the bottled Stout wherever he can find it.

Sunday night, the weather seemed to be clearing up a bit and we were hopeful that the weather would continue to improve as we traveled south to Cork on Monday.


Off the Tourist Path

YiB-6Last week, I finished a book on the history of the Guinness Brewery. In talking about the death of Arthur Guinness, it mentioned where he was buried… in County Kildare just outside of Dublin. Of course, a light bulb went off in my head. I had the bright idea that we should visit his grave.

The odd thing is that the grave of one of the most well known Irishman in history is not sign-posted, nor is it very easy to find information on it. But armed with the name of the graveyard and a town, I was able to locate its proximity on a map.

YiB-6So after landing at Dublin Airport yesterday, we picked up a rental car and embarked on our quest to find the grave of Arthur Guinness.

Although we did get off the wrong exit, it was quite easy to backtrack on a country lane that paralleled the Grand Canal. We found the graveyard within a few minutes of leaving the highway.

Located on a quiet stretch of road, the graveyard sits on top of a hill surrounded by fields. After wandering around for a few minutes looking at gravestones, Merideth found what we were looking for… Arthur himself.

There was a great sense of satisfaction in successfully completing our first task of the day.

The second task of the day was to get to Roscommon, a town not on most tourist agendas, despite having one of the finest examples of an Anglo-Norman castle in all of Ireland.

So why were we in Roscommon?

If anyone remembers my December post “Dublin Discovery“, I mentioned how much I loved this beer called Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale. When I tried it in December, I knew I wanted to visit the brewery. And Roscommon is the home of the Galway Hooker Brewery.

I arranged for us to meet up with the brewer, Aidan Murphy. It was very generous of Aidan to accommodate us on a Friday afternoon when he was finishing up a brew.

We were able to sample the beer straight out of the fermenters and I have to say… Wow! It was even more hoppy and wonderful than I remembered… an amazing brew. Definitely seek out this beer when you are in Ireland. Check out the Irish Craft Brewers website; they keep a list of pubs that serve craft beer.

Thanks again to Arthur and Aidan for making Day 1 of our trip pretty special.

To view all the trip images click here.


Year in Beer – Ireland Preview

YiB-6The time around summer solstice might be the best time to visit the Emerald Isle. “Why?”, you ask?

Well, in June, it doesn’t get dark in Ireland until well past 10pm, meaning there are more daylight hours to drink beer. And believe me, daylight makes a huge difference in your beer drinking stamina. Check out the picture. Taken without a flash, the time was approximately 10pm.

This Year in Beer trip is the follow up to our Dublin episode. In that episode of One Pint at a Time, we showed you some of our favorite places in the Irish capitol. For the YiB, we will show some of our favorites in the rest of Ireland… well, as much of ‘the rest’ that we can accomplish 8 days.

YiB-6And we have a special theme for the trip… “Nitro-Free Ireland”. Chris got the idea for this from a discussion on the Irish Craft Brewer website. There is a practice in parts of Ireland of drinking room temperature pint bottles of Guinness. Yes… room temperature – not cellar temperature – the bottles of Guinness sit on the shelf behind the bar. People believe this is the true original way to drink Guinness. To make the trip more interesting, we will attempt to forgo all nitro-poured beers, which will be easier for Chris than me because I love anything on nitro. We will donate $5 for every nitro pint we drink to the Angel Project in Carmel Valley. They put together a “store” with everything from food items to clothes to toys to help needy Carmel Valley families out at Christmas.

On the trip, we will hopefully visit the following breweries:

  • Galway Hooker in Roscommon (new for us)
  • Biddy Early in Inagh
  • Franciscan Well in Cork
  • Beamish in Cork (new for us)
  • Carlow Brewing in Carlow
  • Macreddin Brewery in Macreddin Village
  • Porterhouse in Dublin
  • Messrs Maguire in Dublin (Chris is going to wear shorts, so we hope that they let him in. More on that story another time.)

While only two of the breweries are new, we haven’t been to Franciscan Well and Carlow Brewing in almost 10 years. It will be interesting to see how these ‘old time’ Irish craft brewers have changed over the years.

YiB-6On top of the breweries, we will also show you some of our favorite pubs across the country.

Gus O’Connor’s in Doolin is famous for Irish music and is probably our favorite pub in all of Ireland.

The pub to the right – which not even Chris can remember the name – is in West Cork and might have the best view of any pub in the country. Plus, you get to carry your pints across a busy road to the outside seating area.

Other highlights will include:

  • Visiting the town of Dripsey, which boasts the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. The parade goes between the only two pubs in the village and measures a lengthy 26 yards. If we can manage the whole distance, we will have a pint in both pubs.
  • Visiting a dolmen with the largest capstone in Ireland, weighing in at 100 tons.
  • Us doing goofy tourist stuff… well, Chris doing goofy touristy stuff.

We will be spending one day in Dublin before we come home. And like the creatures of habit we are, we will be going to the same places we showed you in December. OK… maybe Chris will find one new pub to try and maybe we’ll show you our favorite music pub… maybe. Also, Boyzone is playing. We never miss an opportunity to see Boyzone.

New beergeek.TV Episode & Happy New Year!

We already have posted the first episode of “One Pint at a Time” from our just completed European trip.

We traveled to Dublin, Ireland to show you what our second favorite European city has to offer in a episode aptly titled “Dublin”.

For all the episodes of “One Pint at a Time” go to beergeekTV.

In the episode, we visit the Guinness brewery (again!) and show you some -but not all – of our favorite places to drink a pint or two in Dublin.

And since, I have your attention, we would like to take this moment to thank everyone for their support in 2007 and to wish you and yours a great year in 2008.

We look forward to bringing you more and bigger beer adventures in 2008 so stay tuned…

♦ I would would like to take a moment to personally thank Oliver, the American Airlines supervisor at Dublin airport, for helping us get home on Christmas Eve. Our flight from Dublin to Chicago was delayed causing us to miss our connection to Los Angeles. We didn’t relish spending Christmas Day in either Chicago or Los Angeles and he understood our desire to get home. Despite the chaos at the airport, Oliver took time to get us rerouted (and even went and found our checked bags to re-tag them) so we did make it home to see our family on Christmas Day.

Also, I should thank our nephew, Will, for driving to San Jose to pick us up. After almost 24 hours of traveling, I am not sure I would have been able to do the hour and half drive home from San Jose airport.