Ireland and Wales Preview

We are finally making our first big beer trip of 2009, a journey to Ireland and Wales. Originally, the idea was to go over to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day but an Irish friend told us to wait and come over for Easter.

Easter is when the ‘best’ beer festival in Ireland happens in the city of Cork. Put on by the Franciscan Well Brewery, the Easter fest is the largest gathering of the Irish craft beer community on the calendar.

And this trip keeps evolving. At first, we were going to spend the whole time in Ireland. But the offhand comment by the friend a couple of weeks ago, “haven’t you seen it all…” got me thinking. Though we haven’t ‘seen it all’, maybe something different was in order. My first thought was Cornwall. Another Celtic nation, Cornwall has been on our list of places to visit for years. Unfortunately, Cornwall is not that easy to get to from Dublin.

But Wales, a short three hour ferry ride from Dublin, is virgin territory for us. If we spend the whole trip in Ireland, we can only add, at the most, three new breweries. But with six days in Wales, we will be able to add hopefully a dozen new breweries to The List. Our knowledge of Welsh brewing is limited to Brains Brewery and its sponsorship of Welsh rugby. We are really curious about the Welsh brewing scene.

After a few days of getting acclimated and seeing friends in Dublin, we will cross the Irish Sea to Holyhead, our gateway to Wales.

Our time in Wales overlaps with the National Cask Ale Week in the UK. We have the opportunity to attend a kickoff event at Kilverts in Hay-on-Wye. While Merideth is not too excited, any chance for a real ale event has me salivating.

We will also be climbing, weather permitting, the highest mountain England and Wales, Snowdon. At a mind-boggling 3,560 feet, the round trip journey takes five to seven hours from what I have read. Hopefully, there will be some beer at the top.

Returning to Ireland on Good Friday Eve, we will be confronted by a soon-to-be dry country. Good Friday is one of three days in the year that the pubs and off licenses are closed. And even the grocery stores get into the act by roping off their alcohol section. Luckily, it is only for Good Friday.

Staying in Wexford, we will have the dual responsibility of getting some pints in us as well as hitting an off license to stock up for Friday. On Good Friday, we are off to Cork. Since the pubs are closed, we will do a few touristy things, like visit the Kennedy homestead.

The main event of our trip, Franciscan Well’s Easter Festival, takes place in Cork. And the festival is actually on Easter Sunday. It will be a good opportunity to sample Irish craft beer all in one place as well as hanging out with our Irish friends again.

Cork is also home one of our favorite beer bars in Ireland, the Bierhaus. And, from what I hear, there is a new one too, Abbot’s Ale House that we will have to visit.

We will return to Dublin for one more day before flying home. It should be a good trip. Seeing friends and adding breweries to The List is what beer travel is all about.