Dún Chaoin is the western most village in Ireland (the parish, which includes the Blasket Islands, is sometimes referred to as the next parish to America) and afforded us with a welcome opportunity to take a break from hiking the Dingle Way. compared with many of the towns on the outward portion of our hike, the town didn’t offer much in the way of conveniences; it was a good prelude for the next several days of hiking inland.
options for dinner when we arrived after a long and physically demanding (and breathtakingly beautiful) day of hiking we limited to: purchasing & cooking pasta in the hostel kitchen; hiking to the next town, some 30 minutes further along the road; or hoping the only pub in town still had makings for white-bread sandwiches. we opted for choice number three and stumbled down the hill to Kruger’s Bar, which was a nice change from the crowded and touristy a pubs in Dingle town. a younger woman was tending bar, chatting with a couple of regulars and a grandmotherly proprietor type, who contributed to the conversation exclusively in Gaelic. she may have even been on hand the evening in 1971 when the Campaign for the Revitalization of Ale (promoting real ale, real cider, and the traditional pub) was founded in the same room (now known as the Campaign for Real Ale, the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK).
we ordered our pints and white-bread sandwiches — ham & cheese for Andy, cheese & tomatoes for me — and settled down by a corner window with views of the water. not a lot of competition for seating (all those people who just drive around the Dingle Peninsula, me of several years ago included, don’t know what they’re missing). the grandmotherly woman got up and shuffled back into the kitchen to make our sandwiches which, frankly, were the the best white-bread sandwiches you could ever eat not just because we were hungry but because such a character prepared them for us.
while we waited, I considered the portraits tacked up along the walls — snaps from when film crews for “Ryan’s Daughter” and “Far & Away” visited Dunquin in the late 1960s and early 1990s, respectively. not much of a draw from them now, but certainly potent in their day. plan to watch both to see if anything looks familiar, or if it’s all been made into generic “Ireland” with a coastal flavor.
while we didn’t take the opportunity to stop and take a photo with the 100 km marker, we did make a pit stop and snagged a banana at the first cafe after the marker. along with, it seemed, everyone who’d set out from Sarria that same morning. people lined their packs and walking sticks up along the stone wall across the road from the cafe, which reminded me of The Way but without the threat of potential snatch-and-runs. no peregrino would want to carry more than they already had and this village was far enough from anything as to deter would-be thieves from making the trek.
after our regular afternoon nap upon arrival in Portomarin, we headed out to find food and to enjoy a pint of the local brew — Estella Galicia.
the “tour” of the Redhook Brewery was more of a tasting than a “tour,” but I suppose that was the case in New Glarus last year though not so much when we did the microbrewery tour of downtown Denver. I’d been to the brewery in Woodinville the last time I visited Seattle (to see Christin over an impossibly sunny November weekend while I lived in San Diego) and the primary change wasn’t so much in the offerings on the “tour” as my appreciation of those offerings.
after handing over our rumpled dollar bills and receiving our beer cap entry tokens in return, we were herded to the second floor of the building, overlooking the distillation and fermentation tanks which, not surprisingly, looked very much like those in New Glarus, though perhaps not as pretty. access was also much more restricted at Redhook and the bottling line wasn’t running (on a Friday) so there wasn’t so much hustle-n-bustle as taste-n-sip.
our “guide” was an acerbic type and shared his name with one of my companion’s siblings. he gave the young couple nearest the bar a hard time for whispering (loudly) between themselves and generally teased people as we made our way through six (or seven?) different tasters. already a fan of the ESB and Winterhook, I also discovered I quite like the IPA which departs dramatically from my reaction on the last tour (but comes as no surprise; mmm hops). and this time I knew enough to retain information about what IBU means (International Bitterness Units) and when I had drinks at the Vintage the other night the information on their beer menu made even more sense!
after successfully launching the brewery in central Seattle in 1981 by Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker (of Starbucks and Pete’s Coffee fame), and moving through locations in Fremont and Ballard, the brewery moved out to its current location in Woodinville in 1994. when it was one of the first tours I ever took, it was a novelty — not exactly a microbrewery, but a craft brewery sounded nearly as exciting and inventive. now, however, having been to so many microbreweries and knowing the difference between a craft brewery, a microbrewery, and a brewpub, touring Redhook and hearing their history (again) seemed somewhat less so. following a 2003 licencing agreement with the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and subsequent merger, Redhook started the Craft Brew Alliance which distributes to 48 states (excluding Utah; as our “guide” cautioned — to a room full of beer tasters — going to Utah is a “poor life choice”). Kona Brewing came under the Craft Brew Alliance umbrella in 2010 and they’re traded on the stock exchange. more to my point, I suppose, though is the fact that AB InBev owns 32.2% of the company and yesterday I read a piece (entitled “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer”) about how that merger has had detrimental effects on how some long-produced import beers. I’ve got no complaints about Redhook — it’s just much closer to the Starbucks model than the New Glarus or Lake Louie model, if you will. I enjoyed more than a few packs of ESB and Winterhook while I lived in San Diego but for now I’ll stick to my (more) local brews.