Some final thoughts.
Galway seems to me to be a city of contrasts. A mixture of old and new both in the buildings and the people. New shopping centres stand beside medieval buildings and old men sit drinking Guinness at the bar while the youth of the city, and other countries, drink lattes in the trendy bistros. Parts of the city are covered in litter and graffiti while most areas are clean and tidy. The locals go about their daily business as the foreigners buy Oirish souvenirs from other foreigners behind the tills. You are as likely to hear a strong mid-western American accent as hear a west of Ireland one. Perhaps more likely.
All this tourism is obviously good for the community in economic terms but I can't help feeling it's a bit like selling out to the lowest common denominator.
Did I fall in love with Galway? Well, no. It's a nice city no doubt but it seemed to lack a heart or a soul, I'm not sure how to describe it. It's like many Irish tourist conscious cities, Kilkenny is similar, there's something missing.
I feel that most cities I've visited in Europe still have that soul, that inner beat, that feeling that grips your heart and mind. Maybe it's just because I am a real tourist there where as I was just a semi-tourist in Galway. It will take a brighter mind than me to figure it out.
I'd still go back to Galway, just to see if I was wrong. In a way, I hope I am.
On The Great Irish Beer Festival
The debate could go on forever as to whether it deserves the word 'Irish' in the title. One side of me says that there should have been a better selection of beers from Ireland. Galway Hooker and Whitewater via Bierhaus were the only ones I saw. From what I've heard, this is because of the charges for a stand plus percentage of turnover the organisers wanted but I've only heard one side of the argument so it's a bit unfair of me to comment. I guess it depends on whether you attach the word 'Irish' to the 'Festival' or the 'Beer'. After all, The Wexford Opera Festival probably didn't have many operas written in Wexford. Syntax can be a deceiving thing.
Anyway, no matter what way you look at it, anything that pulls people away from mainstream, poor quality beers can only be good in the long term so I think it's a positive thing. It was relatively well organised (apart from the seating). For a novice like me it was a good way of trying beer without having to go to a many different places, not to mention the fact that we could share bottles and not appear like cheapos. We also got a chance to talk to some of the suppliers, which helps with understanding the beers and beer trade.
Would I go again? I'm not sure. It would depend on the beers available next year but I would recommend anyone who's starting down the beer journey that I'm on to go to it.
It's no fun drinking and appreciating beer on your own. Well I guess what I mean is that it's better with a few like minded individuals. You can debate about the taste of the beer as well as the usual banter that beer drinking stimulates. Then again that's true of many things in life.
Another lesson I learned was not to judge a pub by the amount of beer it stocks. Sheridan's was my favourite pub by far and it probably had the smallest selection of the three 'beer' pubs we visited. (It still had a great selection though!)
Life's to short to listen to s**t from bar staff and be deafened. I can get that anywhere.
Surround yourself with good friends that will put up with you when you're blathering on about something they have no interest in, because they know you will do likewise. Good people will always be more important than good beer.
Here endeth the lesson.