at Merry's Gastro Pub
Relatively, Ireland is a small place. The whole country would fit snugly into the state of Indiana and boasts a total population of just 5 million people. To the casual observer, from the outside, Ireland appears fairly homogenous, but scratch the surface and a fiercely parochial island is revealed. Maybe it is due to its size or that it is a postcolonial island, but the Irish people boast an immense pride of place. The Irish abroad can often be identified at a distance because they boldly wear the Gaelic football or hurling jerseys of their local parish team, and acquiring property is a national obsession.
Place and identity in Ireland are marked by geography, and this geography is reflected in Irish place names. Irish, Norse, Gaelic and Norman words for hills, forts, harbours are the building blocks for the names of townlands, villages and towns. If you spot “clon” (as in Clonmel or Clondalkin) in a place name, there used to be a meadow in the spot. “Bel” comes from the Irish word béal meaning mouth and so we find Belfast at the mouth of a river. Place names can be broken down to reveal the history of what a place originally looked like and the activities that took placed there. It was inevitable that as the craft beer industry in Ireland grew, we would see Irish place names reflected in the names of breweries and beers.
I have always had a fondness for eating or drinking a thing named after a place in its homeland; a Hamburger in Hamburg, buffalo wings in Buffalo and a pint of Dungarvan Brewing Company’s Copper Coast Red Ale in Dungarvan, a pretty coastal town and harbour in County Waterford, on the south-east coast of Ireland. It is home to a cracking food festival which takes place in April each year and a brewery that brews deliciously consistent beer.
Dungarvan Brewing is a family affair, at the core of the operation are head brewer Cormac O’Dwyer and his sister Claire, the brewery’s marketing director. The brewery was founded by the duo and their partners, Cormac’s wife Jen Uí Dhuibhir and Claire’s husband Tom Dalton, in 2009. At the time there were fewer than 10 craft breweries in Ireland and the Irish economy was diving into a recession from which it would take us a decade to recover. Irish craft beer was shiny and new, though, and Dungarvan Brewing was at the forefront of this nascent industry, as such tasked with introducing and finding a new customer base for locally brewed, well-crafted beers.
Their commitment to producing well made, bottle conditioned beer keeps me coming back for more.
In the early years it was a struggle to educate people that the “floaty stuff” at the end of the bottle was a totally expected by-product of naturally carbonated, bottle conditioned beers.
Claire practiced her patient expression and lost count of how many people contacted her to let her know they thought their beer was faulty. Bottle conditioning takes time and skill and when done correctly, as with all Dungarvan Brewing produces, this effort is rewarded by delicious beer with soft carbonation and a yeasty complexity. I adore Dungarvan’s Copper Coast, with malt, caramel and nutty flavours balanced by bold hops, making it moreish and sessionable.
I taste a lot of beer, and while I enjoy the academic exercise of beer judging and assessing, I often wish I didn’t have to wade through the mediocre to find the good. That’s why I simply love to drink this beer, and each time I do, it serves to remind me that great beers are made by lovely people.
Years after first encountering Dungarvan Brewing beers I’m very happy I can now call the people who make this beer friends, and last month I took a trip to visit them. I had the pleasure of good company and few pints beer in Merry’s in Dungarvan, a local pub for which the brewery brews a superb house beer. Traveling back the next day, I took the long way home following the coast named after the historic copper mines in the area. The views are stunning and I was blessed with winter sun shining brightly on that clear crisp day. Excellent beer, good friends, all the craic, and stunning scenery; for me, this neatly sums up Dungarvan!
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.