Over the Easter weekend, I was back down in Cork for the Franciscan Well's Easterfest beer festival. This used to be the largest beer festival in Ireland (Republic) but the more recent Dublin festivals have topped it in size. This was also the first year of the festival since the Molson Coors buyout of the Franciscan Well brewery, though I'm not sure about the pub itself which might be independent of the sale.
There is however a Sharp's bar in the little known upstairs bar, well little known by us visitors but no doubt well known by Corkonians. I counted 7 casks from Sharp's but not just for the festival, this is a regular feature I believe. Doom Bar, Cornish Coaster, Sharp's Special, Sharp's Own, Sharp's Ice, Black Rock IPA, Panzerfaust. I wonder if they will continue to have about 7 cask ales from Sharp's or will that be reduced? I would like to see some White Shield on cask and maybe even P2 or Monsieur Rock.
In terms of new beers to me, there was very little from the Irish market since I had recently been to two beer festivals already. I did get to try two new beers though.
From Metalman we have the latest in their Chameleon range (experimental brews). It's called Equinox and is styled as a Wheat Lager. I know of no other commercial wheat lager which made Grainne (brewer) very happy that she was a style breaker. No doubt, there are wheat lagers out there but certainly not in Ireland. Equinox is a little hard to describe. Think of a crisp and refreshing lager and a crisp and refreshing WitBier and then combine them and that's what you have. There's coriander and spice galore along with a sort of lemon citrus. On a strangely cold Easter weekend, it's a good beer but on a hot summer day, this would be hard to beat as a thirst quencher.
Also new (to me) was the return of White Gypsy's Mustang. This is an American style IPA with an ABV of 6.5% and packed full of grapefruit-citrus hops and an impressive caramel malt driven backbone. It's how I like my IPAs, bitter, fruity and chewy.
Also making an appearance was the new Galway Hooker Irish Stout. This is a beer they have been brewing for at least a year for Tig Neachtain where the stout is called Napoleon. They also had Opus II on tap which is their dunkelweiss. Since Galway Hooker plan on producing it normally rather than just for one pub, they are releasing it simply as their Irish Stout and no fancy name. It's a typical dry stout on nitro and better than most.
Dungarvan were there with their usual beers, though most of them with a difference this time. They were dry hopped with different hops than usual. I finally had a chance to try their Mahon Falls RyePA which was lovely.
Helvick Gold was dry hopped with Citra and I have never encountered the cat piss/ammonia aroma that Citra is famous fore like this before. It really did smell like I was changing my cat litter out. Thankfully it tastes of no such thing and the result is very refreshing indeed.
There was one new brewery there. Like Metalman, they are appearing before they have a physical brewery with the beer being brewed at the Franciscan Well at the moment. Seven Windows it turns out are those responsible for the wonderful Mi Dazza stout that appeared at the RDS last September on the Franciscan Well stand. They have another beer now called Sunbeam Pils which I only had a taste of. TheBeerNut had a little more and liked it well enough.
For me, the only one of the 7 Sharp's beers worth taking a serious look at was Black Rock IPA. It's a black IPA as you can guess. There is a very fresh hop aroma off this, like opening a bag of hops and taking a big whiff. It's sort of like a hop tea, very tannic and a little spicy with a little ammonia. It does start to get a little odd after a moment though with a real treacle like sweetness. Had I the time for more beer, I would have had a pint of it.
I did almost miss out on Panzerfaust until TheBeerNut came back all excited. I only had a sip of his and I recall it being interesting but I took no notes and by now I was buzzed enough to just not care. It turns out it's a Gose, a style that's practically extinct and not something I have had before.
With that, it was about 6pm and time to leave. I was staying in Cork so I could stay if I wanted but it was getting busy, I had everything I wanted and since the other guys had to get the train after 8, we went to the new Porterhouse bar at the Mardyke building. I had been there earlier for lunch but it was not open yet and I settled for lunch at the Woolshed next door.
Apart from heading to the Porterhouse for some decent beer, we were mainly there for the shuffle-board a bar game that's far too much fun in my opinion. The €5 charge per 30 mins will put some people off, though sometimes being beer bloggers has advantages with some freebies at the festival and free shuffle-board at the Porterhouse.
The concept is simple, you have a long smooth table covered in sand. You push the puck with your hand and it slides down the table. You want to get the puck to stop in a scoring area without falling in the gutter. I turned out to be rather good at it, though I progressively got worse, possibly down to drinking Chocolate Truffle Stout. Mobile phones don't make very good pucks either.
The bar itself is very nice with the typical Porterhouse copper pipes. Most of the porterhouse beers are available, though hop head was all gone. There was no TSB either though I think they do have a hand pump for it. The ceiling is a cool vaulted brick so you are really in what seems to be a cellar or old storage building and the food is excellent quality too.
After the guys headed off for their train, myself and my wife stayed for one more drink and then headed back to the B&B after a brief walk. I still had to drive home the next day so I was playing it sensible.