Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival

Are you a fan of that famous aphrodisiac that shoots back like a shot? Ever considered trying the heavenly combination of oysters and Guinness? In general, do you like the idea of gorging on a plethora of local seafood. Then you came to the right place. When I noticed that Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival 2017 happened to be taking place during my time on this island nation, well, I just knew I had to be there. From that point on I planned my trip around the event. I wanted to spend a weekend slurping back oysters chased with Guinness to my heart’s content.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Not my first plate or pint, but one of the many!

Friday

It was Friday night. The hour of 7 was approaching. Lined up in anticipation with the scent of steaming shellfish carried on the breeze. The vendors readied thenselves for the onslaught of attendees eager to pluck, slurp and eat pounds of molluscs. Making my way inside the tent no longer resembled a mere venue tent. A stage and dancefloor were directly in the center which immediately drew the attention as traditional Irish river dance was the opening welcome. Tables to either side filling up quick, a booth from Kelly oysters with non-stop shucking happening behind and at the far end, the fully stocked bar. An Irish quintessential.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Complimentary taster coupons

Before line ups became a waiting game, I grabbed my complimentary pint of the black stuff and sample plate of 3 oysters. One solo, one with a slight squeeze of lemon and splash of Worcestershire (my favourite), while the last got a drizzle of mignonette. Pulling up a stool, I quickly indulged in my first taste of the deadly duo that is oysters and Guinness. I don’t know if Arthur Guinness had this in mind when developing the mighty stout or, if they came together naturally and the oyster just spread its shell, but this was a match meant to be. The sweet salty brininess followed with a swig of the rich creamy brew just flowed like leaves on a gentle breeze. Effortlessly and elegantly. Lucky for me, the taps flowed too and the oysters seemed endless.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Mussels, Clams and Razor Clams

Oysters were not the only indulgence though. Three more booths, one inside beside the bar with an extended line and the other two outside. It seemed they just couldn’t steam molluscs fast enough. Once at the front of the line, the decision was easy. A mixed plate consisting of mussels, clams and razor clams and they were not shy. Piled high, a mountain of shells filled the paper plate and of course, the delicious Irish brown bread I’d fallen in love with for soaking up all those juices. Phenomenal. I barely made time to breathe as I plucked the morsels of flesh from their shells. I had to make sure I saved room for a taste of famous Irish smoked salmon which I got from the booth inside as the line slowly diminished.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Smoked Salmon

The crowd grew around the stage. The band stopped and the enthusiastic master of ceremonies announced the national oyster shucking competition was about to begin. This would decide who would represent the emerald isle in the world championship, the main event the following day, as well as bragging rights for the year. I didn’t stay for the final judgement that evening. I knew I would be watching tomorrow as 22 countries went head to head.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Seafood Chowder with Brown Bread

Saturday

2pm, Saturday afternoon. I skipped lunch in anticipation. I knew there was plenty more too eat. Upon entry, I made a beeline for the seafood chowder from the booth inside. Something of a constant I have seen all over Ireland. It was comforting for the cool dreary days that are a main topic of discussion throughout the country and today was one of them. I gathered my days complimentary oysters and pint and continued eating until I just couldn’t fathom another mollusc. Then, I ate some more.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Carefully picking their 30 of 32 oysters to be shucked.

Geared up and ready to go, the International Oyster Shucking Competition was about to be underway. From a basket of 32 of Kelly oysters, competitors sorted and hand-picked 30 personally favourable looking ones. Time was not the only factor here. While speed played a vital role, presentation was just as important. The oysters needed to be showed the respect they deserved. They had to be presented like a plate you would pay the exuberant price for in a restaurant. No shrapnel of shell, properly organized and separated from the shell ready for slurping back, it was surprisingly intense. Done in 4 separate heats, brine sprayed on the front couple rows and shells flew.

Patiently awaiting for the results, I feel all competitors proved they could shuck a mean oyster. As they took the stage one more time, the air thick with anticipation, the judges had spoken. Lithuania took the speed round indisputably, but that guaranteed nothing for the top three places. Canada, with their first entrance into the competition grabbed 3rd place, Ireland taking 2nd. For the 1st place winner, his speed helping, Lithuania was the world champion for 2017 at the 63rd Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
A finished board of oysters ready for judging.

As the festivities wore down with the sun, I snuck in my last six oysters for the day totaling nineteen. It was over for me, but the weekend continued. That night was a masquerade party, followed by a more family friendly afternoon on Sunday. I only hope I can return in the coming years to attend this annual festival. Not only to take in the local food culture, but to once again watch the fierce competition and most of all, indulge in shellfish gluttony. If you’re in this beautiful country in September, do yourself a favour and go. It would be crazy to miss such a great event.

To learn more about the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, click

Have you ever attended an event like this? Let me know in the comments below!

If you're in Ireland in September you'd be crazy not to go to this Festival of Seafood!

 

 


5 thoughts on “Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival

  1. ‘Love it Jason!

    I haven’t attended an Oyster Competition, but I did book my holiday around a famous oyster fishing village in France – Cancale -Brittany!

    The oysters would come straight from the sea and you could have them for 50cents a piece. It was delish. Imagine my joy when I discovered that the very fancy French Department store in Berlin, sources it’s oysters from the very same fishing village – Cancale! Mind you, it’s €5.00 for 4 pieces, but who’s counting?!

    I looooove seafood, and I’ve been to Galway before. ‘Such a friendly place, and the neighbouring Aran Island is just amazing!

    I don’t like Guinness or any other “strong flavoured” beers, but I’ll certainly think about going back to Ireland for the next festival.

    1. Thanks a lot!!
      I was surprised how lively the event actually was, but I guess with enough beer, food music and competition , it’s bound to be a good time.
      I love seafood too, and it was great all across Ireland! Guinness I couldn’t get enough of while there lol, but luckily there is lots of other options!

      I would really like to travel some of France in the future to discover the culinary delights. That village sounds great… cheap oysters for the win. Even at the festival they weren’t terribly cheap!

  2. Ah, what an eventful day! Interesting to see all the competitors shucking the oysters. As a lover of oysters, I’d definitely check this out next time.

    1. It was definitely a great event, especially if you’re a lover of oysters! Not that an excuse is needed to visit Galway, but it’s a great addition to your time there for sure!

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