Whilst driving around on the Ring of Kerry, I stopped off in Killarney in County Kerry for a few days. The food and drink scene in the town is amazing and makes a great base to see places like the racecourse, the castle and the national park nearby. However if I got time to visit a brewery (if there is one in the area), then I have to check it out. Killarney Brewing Company is based on the main road south of the town (Muckross Road on the N71 – also on the Ring of Kerry), and from the outside, it looks like two or three buildings rammed together and gives off a warehouse look (but a colourful one). However the magic is inside the building.
A little bit of history first. The guys who founded the Killarney Brewing Company back in the 1800s took over the building which was the old Killarney Mineral Water drinks facility. It was a bit run down I hear but after a bit of tender loving care, the building now hosts one of Ireland’s new top independent craft breweries and taprooms.
The tour. For the first time in a brewery tour (and I have done a few), the tasting of beers is first to get visitors into the mood. I sure love a good old Irish brew (this is what I call a beer…a brew. In my home country a brew is a cup of tea but for me, in Ireland, a brew is a beer!). There were four beers to taste and all the beers here are named after local myths and legends.
The first was the German amber beer which I noticed the toasty malt taste straight away. The beer was smooth and as soon as it goes down me, the aftertaste was just perfect, not too heavy and was just right. I do like my amber beers and this is one of the best ones I have tried in Europe. The beer here is named ‘The Banshee of the Kenmare Road’. The legend behind it was that one evening when the moon was out, a few people were driving their car passing the abandoned Derrycunnihy Church. Their car radio went silent. Then the driver looked over his shoulder to see a ghost appeared on the back seat of the car next to a passenger, only to disappear again moments later. After speaking about this, the driver found out that a few decades ago, a similar looking ghost, a lady in fact, was thrown from a car and hit her head against the ground and died close to the very spot where the driver saw the ghost on the Kenmare Road.
The second beer is a Belgium type ale which the brewery used malts and brewing techniques from the country. I can taste the fruity aroma from this beer, a sort of pear, melon and apple flavour, which also added is a bit spicy from the hops they used. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I did enjoy this Belgium style ale. This one is called Spailpin Saison and legend is not so much of a legend, but fact. This type of ale is called a Saison which is produced in the Belgium countryside since the 1700’s. Each farm had its own recipe which contained hops and a few spices. Brewed in the winter and the farm workers could enjoy the beer in the summer months the following year while they were working on the hops for the following winter. The Spailpin (just to clarify), was a seasonal farmworker in this part of Ireland and they were poorer than most people around here. They would travel from farm to farm during the harvest months with their families just to earn a living, put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
The third beer I tried and I was quite fortunate to try it (due to the festive season coming up after my visit), is a Belgian Dark Ale known as Christmas in Killarney. The colour of this ale kinda ranges from a light brown to a dark brownish colour. The taste has a hint of caramel and chocolate (I have to admit, didn’t really notice them too much) but I noticed there is a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. The ale isn’t too cold and is a great one to drink during the winter months. The actually taste is smooth and goes down like a treat. There isn’t really much of a legend to the naming of this ale, just an Irish thing of Christmas is a time to be at home, with family or friends and raise a glass of beer to all things festive.
The fourth beer is my favourite. Known as the Devil’s Helles Lager, this one is a pale, golden brew which has been fermented coldly and conditioned for a fantastic crispy finish. There is a honey and malty aroma to this lager, to which, goes down like a treat. I drove to this part of Ireland from England and I took loads of bottles of this lager back home. That is how much I loved this beer. The legend behind the name, there was a battle between the Devil and Thor (a viking mythical character). Thor threw a lightning bolt upon a devil (ok, maybe more than one bolt, he was going crazy, throwing lightning bolts one after the other). The Devil got cheesed off so he retaliated by tearing up the earth and hurling it back. The resulting basin filled up with water and is now known to locals as the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
I had the beer tasting in the tap room (which is the main room as soon as visitors come through the main entrance but I have been told most of the time the tasting takes place after the tour with some story telling), which is also where visitors can grab a pizza to eat whilst having a pint of the finest local brew.
Upstairs was the actual talk on the beers, how they were produced, especially the fact that the beers produce here use the natural water from nearby Mangerton Mountain which is also known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl as mentioned earlier – the water flows from the summit here before going into a lake, Lough Guitane then the water is taken from there to the brewery). The tour guides are from this area, so listening to them with the Irish accent, some witty humour made this talk interesting. Their knowledge is amazing, not just on the beers but the history of the area. The tour also has a video shown (which is not boring guys, totally love the way it was made) in the video room.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short time here at the Killarney Brewing Company and learnt a lot. However I enjoyed tasting the beers more and loved the lager so much. As I said, I even went to the local shop and took lots of bottles home with me. Even when I was in the restaurants or bars in the town, if they had it on tap, I was drinking the lager there. I rate the lager very highly. I just wished they sold it here in England. I think another trip to Ireland is needed.
A personal note from me – my time at Killarney Brewing Company was sponsored by the company. The opinions in this post are my own and is totally honest. I would like to thank the staff for making the tour an enjoyable one.