For the August Bank Holiday weekend, Pauline took me to Donegal to celebrate my birthday. Technically that's this coming Saturday but we will be in Belfast for the Beoir AGM so we held it a week early. On Friday, we headed up to Letterkenny because we were to visit the Kinnegar Brewery in nearby Rathmullan on Saturday afternoon.
|House Wine and Taproom|
In my almost 37 years, I had never visited Donegal for leisure, only a couple of times for work so I had no real idea of what to do in Letterkenny. Only one spot was on the BeoirFinder app and it was called The Brewery Bar but Tripadvisor said it had no craft beer. When I arrived, I found that was the case but the bar itself was nice and appeared to be in an old copper kettle. So I checked out Kinnegar stockists on their website and found one that serves draught called House Wine and Taproom. We had passed by there earlier, it was attached to a nightclub called Voodoo so we had given it a wide berth, We finished our Hop House 13 and headed back down the street.
On walking up the stairs, we were met with a closed door which said ring bell for access. We hesitated, wondering was it private or did we need a password? The door opened and we were invited in. What we found was my idea of heaven. A cosy pub with 2 rooms. One had the bar and an intimate seating area and and then through two sets of double doors was a further seating area and stage. On stage was an excellent singer playing the guitar and doing some wonderful covers in a confident and easy going manner. I just checked their Facebook page and his name was Adam Dolan. Here's a video of him singing from their FB page. We sat close to the bar and just listened and talked. The beer range was excellent with three Kinnegar taps and then a load of bottles from all over the country. We had already eaten which was a shame because there was a lovely cheese board and other food items available.
The whole atmosphere, layout and experience made this bar one of my favourites in the country. I would go so far as to say that it's worth visiting Letterkenny just to go to this bar. It's a lot bigger than it seems at first glance too as there's a stairway up to a much larger seating area. Slightly less intimate than downstairs but still full of comfortable seating options. We were the last to leave as they were closing up. I have of course updated the BeoirFinder app by removing The Brewery bar and adding House.
The next afternoon, we set off for Kinnegar which is about 25 minutes north of Letterkenny in Rathmullan. The brewery is just outside of town, down near the end of what's basically a dirt road and is easily missed. It's set on a bit of a farm with stables/horses as well as cats and dogs of course. Rick and Libby live in the house next door to the brewery building which itself is an old smithy. apparently the immediate area used to be a little village.
Their old semi-automatic (pretty much manual) bottle filler is tucked away as it's no longer needed. They could sell it if they wanted but a reason to keep it is that it can handle 750ml bottles if they want to do small batch specials in the larger receptacle.
Their shiny new compact bottling machine is far more convenient as it fills and labels the bottles. It still requires manually loading the bottles and then packaging them but it suits their needs perfectly.
Their shiny 10HL brewkit sits in the corner and seems well laid out. Unfortunately they weren't brewing on the day as Rick was in Dublin at the Beatyard festival which by all accounts was fantastic.
Upstairs is the grain storage room which also acts as Rick's office. There's a thick layer of dust up there which I doubt his computer will thank him for and possibly not his lungs either.
You can see the layers of grain dust on his old Mac and his Mac book isn't in much better shape but this would be where Rick runs the business and likely formulates recipes. I'm guessing that last part as he wasn't there to confirm.
Would it surprise you to know that a small brewery down a lane way in Donegal is one of the most awarded in Ireland? Kinnegar has won many awards in its 3 years of existence and in fact their Flying Saucer won the Beoir: Champion Beer of Ireland in Killarney a few months ago.
After I was finished looking around, I helped Libby put up some benches and tables to accommodate a couple of tour groups she had coming. They arrived while I had a few samples and after a introducing myself and Beoir, we left for a pub that Libby recommended.
It's called the Olde Glen Bar in a little village called Glen and it's just the most charming looking building on the outside which you just hope it's is lovely inside.
Thankfully it is stunning inside. The bar is full of old signs and nik-naks and it clearly gets a lot of tourists if the random world currency is anything to go by. There were even a couple of literal cowboys at the bar. Their horses were tied up out back. The bar has a number of rooms with cosy areas, open fires and even a rather impressive beer garden area.