The Donegal leg of the Athlone Beer Club adventure began on Portsalon Beach with absolutely no beer at all. We had a short walk and got our feet wet just to work up a bit of a thirst.
Rob got a bit carried away with the whole getting your feet wet thing.
We saw many strange and wonderful things.
Then it was time to set sail for Rathmullan House.
The whole purpose of the trip was to visit the Kinnegar Brewery and they have a wonderful tap room in the cellar of Rathmullan House. After checking in to our very fancy rooms we made our way there to meet Libby and Rick from Kinnegar to make arrangements for the following day’s visit and have a quick pre dinner beer. I opted for an Otway, their current special European Pale Ale. It was the perfect beer for a hot evening. I was strictly forbidden (by my wife) from taking pictures of my food but I can only say it was excellent. I had a monkfish curry myself which went really well with the Scraggy Bay IPA. I thought the lobster, had by three of the group was great value at €25. There was a really nice atmosphere in the restaurant and the staff were very helpful.
After a really tasty Rasberry Creme Brulee I hardly had room for beer but I struggled manfully on having a Devil’s Backbone Amber Ale.
I loved the tap room. It reminded me of some of the cellar bars I’ve been in on the continent. The walls are adorned with beer facts and trivia.
The colours tied in with the labels on the bottles and on the taps nicely tying the whole image together.
Then some of us went for the Yannaroddy Coconut Porter. The coconut is subtle enough, perhaps it would be more apparent if it was served slightly warmer. This was a subject for hot debate on into the next day. It was time to head up to the very comfortable residents bar then where the beers were in bottles.
One of my favourite Kinnegar beers is their Rustbucket Rye Ale so that was my penultimate beer of the evening. I very cheekily asked the barman if he would chill a well traveled bottle of Pliny The Elder for me and he obliged. We finished the night with a share of that.
The great thing about sharing is bouncing off each other and we all got something different
from it. We agreed it was a good way to finish the night.
The next morning I woke early and went for a walk with my wife on the beach in the soft rain before a big breakfast. We also strolled through the walled gardens where a lot of the fruit for the breakfast buffet is grown. You don’t get much fresher than that. They also produce an award winning range of preserves so while checking out we picked up a few of those for presents. We were a little sad to leave such a beautiful place but we rounded up the beer lovers and made for the brewery.
That’s where it all started. Rick and Libby brought us a short walk down the road to the new facility.
They told us about the journey they are on and the plans to expand further. They are at capacity right now and are aiming to double their production. It sounds like it’s going to be hard work with 4am starts being mentioned.
We were brought upstairs to the malt storage space. They always grind their own malt in order to ensure that it’s fresh and the right size for their needs.
Again it sounds like hard graft! Downstairs we were shown the brewing vessels, it was a brew day so everything was running full steam and the room was quite warm.
We were invited to take a look into the vessels and warned not to touch, as they were very hot.
The beer is carbonated during primary fermentation using a process the Germans call ‘spunding’, which doesn’t impress the Camra brigade very much. That didn’t seem to be a problem that keeps Rick awake at night.
The beer is then stored under pressure in these tanks.
Before being bottled rather laboriously using this contraption.
Rick then popped open a few bottles of Scraggy Bay.
And he also let us try a Saison he is experimenting with at the moment.
It’s nicely funky, I thought it could be a cousin of Black Donkey’s Sheep Stealer. We had a great chat about the Irish beer scene and then it was time for us to move on. We were all very grateful for the extremely informative tour. Thanks to Rick and Libby from Kinnegar and the staff of Rathmullan House for their warm hospitality. I really recommend following in our footsteps, tell them Simon sent you. Sláinte!