Franciscan Well – Cask & Winter Ale Festival 2014

It may just have been St Valentines day, but Janice and I didn’t celebrate this infamous holiday in the traditional manner, oh no, you know at this stage that’s not my style.

The day itself we went on a little pub crawl of the Galway Bay Pubs in Dublin, taking in the new bar Alfie Byrnes which is situated in the basement of the Conrad Hotel. Against the Grain on Wexford St. We then had a fantastic dinner in Bison, a 51oz Cowboy Steak (A Ribeye with the bone in) along with 5 sumptuous sides and a cocktail each for €50.

Cowboy Steak from Bison

  Of course we ended the night with Alan and the crew in Brewdock.

Alas, I digress, on the Saturday we went down to Cork, to visit the 3rd Annual Franciscan Well Cask & Winter Ale Festival 

For those who don’t know Franciscan Well is a Cork based brew pub and brewery who are massive supporters of Irish Craft Beer. Cask is really a niche within a niche of craft beer consumption in Ireland but it offers such a different way to enjoy some of your favourite breweries. There was also some of the newer brewers present on Keg, such as Otterbank with their amazing Farami, Rascals with their award winning Ginger Porter, and N17 with their Rye Ale.

Bru Brewery had 3 of their products on that day, I didn’t see the Dubh, maybe it ran out on the first night, as i’d had a sneak of it previously and its such a great stout on cask. I was really impressed with the which is their west coast IPA. Very bright in colour, a nice malt base that allowed the hops to do their thing with the piney citrus aroma followed by a smooth bitterness. Daire mate you can be truly happy with that as the feedback from everyone I spoke to was great. 

Bru Rí on the Cask Bar

2013 Dublin Cup winner Twisted Hop by Hilden was also here on cask, a lovely straw colour with a white head and great smooth flavour. Trent and Amber both by White Gypsy were both also really good.

Another real standout for me was Hop Magnet by Blacks of Kinsale, fresh off the back of their success at Alltech, they’d brought a fantastic Double IPA to the party. Not long ago Ireland was a wasteland in this style now we have 3 of these. At 8% this is not to be treated lightly, but it like Of Foam and Fury is eminently drinkable despite its ABV. The aroma was nice and you got a great citrus, clementine taste on the tongue as well. Sam already has two great permanent fixtures, be great to see this become the third.

As an aside to the beer, and the proper stone oven cooked pizza provided by Pompeii pizza. There was also a meet the brewer series. I only attented the talks by the utterly inspirational Sarah Roarty who outlined her journey from Industrial Chemist to Brewer, and what her motivations and aims are. Thankfully I didn’t make Sarah cry this time! A truly great story and keep an eye out for N17 Brewing coming to a pub / off license near you. 

I also attended Phil from the Mountain Man who held a great informative Q&A session. One thing is for sure I can’t wait to see your set up at the RDS this year and my offer to man the bar is still there (Better start growing the beard now, or at least get a decent fake one) We also got a sneak peak of the next Mountain Man beer, Crazy Horse, the 100 IBU is delish.

All in all a great day was had, we got the train back to Dublin that evening. I’m already looking forward to this next year where i’m sure it will as great as it was this weekend. Coming up shortly is the Irish Craft Beer Fest in CHQ in March and potentially a return to Franciscan Well for their Easter Fest.

Little Talks – National Home Brewing Club

Ok, so i’ve been meaning to get up to the Little Talks at WJ Kavanaghs ( /@WJKavanaghs) for a while now. The idea is basically they get a person in from a food/drink area to have a talk with people who are interested in that particular area.

This week it was the turn of the National Homebrew Club ( / @HomeBrewClubIRL) who were doing a live demo of homebrewing. Both an All Grain Brew, and a Kit Brew.

Firstly, the location, WJ Kavanaghs, I can not believe up til now i’d not been here before. This place is amazing. A very wide range of craft beer on draft, but also 5 Casks on the go. What a range. As we’d eaten in Bobo’s earlier we weren’t going to be eating here, but the menu looked really good. Its no wonder this establishment is known for its food as well as its drink menu.

We settled in with a couple of Purity Ale Golds, a lovely cask session ale, at only 3.9% was very drinkable. 

So Padraic and Declan from the National Homebrew Club got the very decent crowd to order and kicked off.  As I said above the idea was they were going to go through an All Grain Brew, and Kit Brew. From the get go Declan made it clear this was going to be an interactive session, ask as many questions as you wanted, and come up and have a gander at the kit in action. Declan was ably assisted by Padraic and James. Who both explained the processes involved. It was a kind of a bit like the old L’Oreal slogan, “Here comes the science bit” thankfully, after each “bit” it was simplified into Laymans language. 

What did I pick up from it, well essentially Kit Brewing is like making a cup of tea essentially, according to Declan anyway, i’m sure i’d find some way to stuff it up. And all grain is where you can take your skills, and develop your own recipes. Or even attempt to imitate well known beers. 

What I found very encouraging was the community feel of the event, I suppose that is natural when you’ve a common interest, but there was a genuine feeling to me anyway that if you wanted to get into home brewing, that this was a forum where you’d be welcome to ask questions, and learn from people who have more experience. Everyone was very welcoming I must say, and I am really looking forward to getting stuck in. 

I am also looking forward to coming back in five weeks to sample the goods! 

Littletalks though is a great idea, here is a link here that shows what they’ve had recently, and what they’ve got coming up.  

I’m particularly looking forward to next weeks one, a beer sommelier will be there, Phil Tavey, hopefully i’ll be able to make it. 

While there I also had a pint of Oxman, from the Brown Paper Bag Project. Cask conditioned, and this was the last cask of this limited edition run. It was a lovely brown ale. It was very very tasty, i’m going to have to pick up some bottles of this before its gone.

As for Kavanaghs, which is ran by the good people behind L Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter, i was very impressed, i’m very much looking forward to going back and having a few beers with some very tasty looking food. Thank you for your hospitality.