Craft Beer: No Mescan about
THERE'S not much that Mayo has in common with Belgium. Sure, you can throw the tag of sporting nearlymen at both, in some form or another, although at least the men from the west of Ireland have managed to get to odd tournament final, even if there is often an inevitability about the ending.
Beer, though, is one thing that unites these unlikely bedfellows and the inspiration gleaned from some of Europe's traditional master beer makers is being put into practice in Mayo.
Mescan Brewery have carved out a nice little operation brewing Belgian style beers in the shadow of Croagh Patrick. They take their name from the monk who was the personal brewer to St Patrick (quite something to put on the business card).
Many may flock to Westport every summer to wash down some seafood with a pint of the black stuff, but the good people at Mescan are busy coming up with Belgian styles with an Irish twist. Among them of the Westport Red Tripel, Westport Saison and Westport Blond.
Scarce enough in the north-east of Ireland, I managed to snag a bottle of the Westport Blond recently. It's a 4.8 per cent golden ale in a 330ml bottle and as the name suggests, pours a golden colour in the glass with the characteristic fluffy white Belgian-style head.
Best to consider the glassware before decanting to allow for the extra froth. The beer itself ticks all the boxes of a traditional Belgian blond - the bitterness is not overly pronounced, and it has some nice floral notes and hints of pear and sweet malt.
It has a crisp and clean finish, making it an easy drinker with most foods - even chips with mayo.
Not content with making Belgian-style beers, Mescan are also offering members of the public the chance to learn to brew them.
They are holding a one-day Belgian brewing course on April 1, where you will get the chance to have a tasting session of some Belgian beers before getting some hands-on experience in the basics of brewing.
Having attended a similar course at Kinnegar in Co Donegal, I can say that for those with an interest in beer, these sorts of course are a great experience as you get to see 'where the magic happens' and talk directly to their brewers and get a sense of their passion for the craft.
Check out the Mescan website at mescanbrewery.com for more details.