Friday, March 20, 2009

Real pumps and real ale

A number of pubs around Dublin have what appear to be hand pumps on the bar, positioned in view of all but utterly useless, serving only as a perverted tease to poor cask ale lovers like me. My latest encounter was in Gibney's of Malahide where these three prominent pumps sat upon the bar. I have no doubt they are left there as an attractive feature adding, in the mind of the average money grabbing Irish publican, an authentic air to the bar. Not that they would have the first clue what to do with a cask if it was given to them, but they almost seem to understand that things were not always as they are now, once beer was pulled from these archaic devices and it wasn't a few degrees above freezing when committed to the glass.

You can imagine my excitement when I got wind of the news that The Bull and Castle, that bastion of great beer and progress, planned to have a cask stout on for the St Patrick's Day festivities. I was optimistic that the cask would be emptied very quickly indeed but others in the Irish beer lovers group were not as bullish. I am glad to say that I was correct, the beer was gone is twenty four hours - quite an achievement in an Irish pub where cask ale does not exist. Fair enough, it was a public holiday and there were a great many tourists about the place but it was still very impressive. I managed to grab a pint just as the cask neared its end and was thoroughly satisfied with what I got. The stout in question was Leann Follain brewed by The Carlow Brewing Company. It weighs in a 6% abv so wasn't exactly a session pint but I still sank my pint quite rapidly and went for more. Dark roasted malt was to the fore made all the more enjoyable by the warmer serving temperature and perfect carbonation. It was just super to get a pint of stout in an Irish pub which didn't freeze your hand to the glass when you carried it back to the table. There were a number of teething problems with the set up that will no doubt be ironed out, but Geoff, the tireless and industrious manager of the bar, has assured us that more cask will be available in the future. Unsurprisingly the brewers he has spoken to are very happy to provide him with cask ale because it is far easier to produce than keg, dispensing as it does with all the filtration steps which strip the beer of some flavour.

This is the start of something fabulous in the Irish beer scene.

11 comments:

Adeptus said...

Thom, you have to campaign to have one of those promised casks there in the last two weeks of May for my next visit home.

Thom said...

I'll do my best. Which brewery shall I petition? I'm guessing Hooker.

Adeptus said...

At this stage I'll not be fussy, but yeah, that sounds good :oD

John said...

I sometimes forget how lucky I am on this side of the Irish Sea, I don't wish to seem like I'm rubbing it in here but my local has ten engines on at all times.

I've indulged in my fair share of CAMRA bashing but seeing a post like this reminds me things could be a whole lot worse.

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

Those handpumps were probably used in the 30's and 40's to dispense Guinness. Didn't Guinness go to nitro-keg in the 50's?

Thom said...

They're definitely antique. Guinness went nitro around about then and no doubt got rid of all the hand pumps in short order.

I just can't get my head around the disconnect between having these relics at the bar and all the beer being served freezing cold from kegs.

David Curran said...

Hooker was mentioned as the next cask beer by Geoff. My Hungarian mate kept ordering "Galway Whore" which lead to some confusion.

Tristram said...

The state of the Irish scene is woeful entirely, you just cannot get real beer from a tap here.

Galway Hooker which are from my town do not even have a cask ale here. Its enough to break your heart.

Thom said...

The boys at Hooker would be doing very well indeed to get a cask on anywhere near their brewery. I'd settle for a keg of it.

Also, Hooker doesn't work too well on cask. I've had the luck to try it side by side with keg and it doesn't hold up too well.

viagra online said...

I have a new bar and I would like to have on it these things, because I think that these are so workable to my bar.I think that the information is so interesting and cool.

Gary Gillman said...

This is very interesting. Nitro-dispense came in in 1959-'60.

There must be people living in Ireland who remember naturally-conditioned Guinness. Anyone say aged between '75-'85 who has always drunk Guinness would recall it. It would be interesting to read their recollections, e.g., did anyone notice or comment when the changeover was made and did the taste change?

Also, how was the old Guinness dispensed? I understand sometimes it was drawn straight from the cask but also that some Dublin pubs used a compressed air system, so it may have differed depending the pub.

Soon all the people will be gone who have this knowledge but surely it is not too late.

Gary Gillman, Toronto.