|From the Franciscan Well Facebook page.|
This day last week, I hopped on a train at 11 am and arrived in Cork at 1:45 for the 3rd annual Winter Ales and Cask festival at the wonderful Franciscan Well. I popped in to a pub beforehand to meet up with some Cork friends we have not seen in ages. Damn babies get in the way of everything. I arrived at the festival at about 3 pm. There were two beers gone from the Friday, Barrelhead pale ale and Trouble Sabotage, both of which I have had so only a minor loss.
I started off with the two Metalman Chameleon beers I have not had yet. Bräu (left) is a lovely and refreshing pseudo lager that by all accounts is going to be a regular. A hint of honey to balance the spicy, grassy saaz hops they threw in the cask. It's an excellent summer beer.
Garnet (right) is a little different. It looks like a red ale and indeed contains the malt profile of one from what I can tell. However they hopped it heavily with New Zealand hops and Japanese hops: Pacific jem and Sorachi ace. And in case there wasn't enough in the boil, they bunged them both in the cask too. The Chameleon range is spur of the moment brewing at its finest. It was hard to get through the bitter hops to the beer below but I really enjoyed it. I think a slight twinge of metallic notes spoiled it somewhat, something I expect from Kentish hops. I look forward to trying this again if it appears. The infamous (in Ireland among a select few) Metalman Pale Ale (beoir beer of 2013) came on when the garnet ran out. I skipped it since it's regularly available in Dublin on cask and is always wonderful.
I then had the Jameson cask aged version of Shandon stout, though perhaps you need to call it a different beer since it's 7.8% as opposed to the 4.2% of the regular beer. I had a half of the Jameson version and a full pint of the regular Shandon on cask a few minutes later to compare. At first I had a hard time seeing what the Jameson did for the beer other than an oaky vanilla but when side by side with the regular offering, I think it becomes a lot more obvious that it's a bit special. By all accounts the original cask at the launch was the better beer and it's a shame I missed it. Personally I think I would be happier with the regular Shandon on cask (not nitro kegged). The Jameson aged Shandon almost made my beer of the festival but is a worthy runner up.
Next up I grabbed some similar pale ales. It's nearly impossible to tell them apart. A rocky and slanting table in a beer garden during a beer festival is not the place for a blind taste test, however tempting, so I just went ahead and drank them. From left to right, we start off with the Well's own Alpha Dawg, their 5.9% IPA and I think this is the first time I have had it on cask. This is a much better offering than the bottled version. I think they took note of the "needs more hops". A lemon citrus hop bite in the end topped off a lovely IPA. It they bottle it again, I hope they dry hop it first. Also from the Well is an old favourite of mine. Purgatory changes from year to year and it seems the years it comes out dark are the best. Not this year then from the look of it. It was better than I expected, like Alpha Dawgs little brother. I always enjoy Purgatory but I found myself looking back to Alpha Dawg.
And finally on the far right, the best till last I think. Trouble Brewing's Ór, yes you heard me right! For me, beer of the festival was Ór. Now don't get me wrong, regular Ór is a fine beer but it's like a stepping stone for macro lager drinkers to the craft beer world. It's inoffensive and downable. If I was having a beer tasting session, Ór is a good one to start with because there is little hop character to interfere with the taste of the other beers. So why is it beer of the festival? I don't know, maybe it's just so unexpected. They seem to have dry hopped the crap out of the beer for a start and it was able to stand up to the other two which are always much more hop forward than Ór. I just loved it and could have had it all night. I hope to see more of this appearing in Dublin's (and indeed the country) ever increasing number of cask ale pubs.
That was all the new stuff to me, though most I have had before in different serving types. I have included a copy of the beer list for anyone interested. I had to leave before 8 to get the train back to Dublin. That's the time it starts to get busier at these events and there was little to no beer left for Sunday. Not sure what they did.
If I had one criticism of the event, and it's one that comes up at some of their beer festivals is the advertised all day BBQ. For one thing, there was none. They had pizza, and excellent pizza it is too but only from 4PM. Knowing this was likely, I ate at the pub before the festival so Pizza at about 6ish was at the right time for me. They do usually have a BBQ at the larger Easterfest which is on next month.
The only other slight criticism, and this is more down to the breweries is that unlike in previous years, there was no actual winter themed ales so it was really just a cask festival. It was good enough for me though.
|From the Franciscan Well Facebook page.|