Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Home away from home

I've been busy of late but have not neglected these pages as much as it would appear because my last post corrupted itself and held my entire blog hostage. I had to delete the blighter to get things moving again. I'm told it has to do with pasting from MS word. Damn you Word.

The weekend of the 11th of April had me and other Irish beer enthusiasts in Cork for the Franciscan Well Beer Festival, a showcase event for the best beer in Ireland and a rare opportunity to have Ireland's most talented brewers all under the same roof. It was a super day punctuated with excellent beer and great conversation. Highlights included yet another win for the boys at Galway Hooker for their hoppy pale ale and beer of event for the Carlow Brewing Company's Druids Brew - a one off cask stout produced especially for the event and much anticipated each year. I had the good fortune to chat tech stuff with the students of the University College Cork micro brewery who had a refreshing Swiss Pale Bock on. It smelled quite distinctly of green apples so perhaps some more conditioning was in order, but it proved to be a refreshing beer despite the high alcohol level. It appeared that the brewers at the university are itching to make a commercial venture of the 10 hectolitre set up in the college grounds but the professors will not allow them to do so because the operation of a brewery, they fear, will get in the way of studies. It wouldn't be the first time that beer got between a student and his/her books, but perhaps no quite in this way.

Ireland's latest beer adventure was represented by The White Gypsy Brewery from Tipperary. Set up by Cuilán Loughnane of Messrs. Maguire fame, this new business has a number of beers on offer the best of which was an English style IPA. This beer had the distinctive Messrs Maguire malt character that I find very appealing along with a decent measure of earthy hops. It was very drinkable indeed but perhaps deserved more respect than the flavour suggested because at 5.2% abv too much could be consumed far too quickly. Nestled within the walls of The White Gypsy Brewery lies another smaller one by the name of Barrelhead. Bull Island Pale Ale was on offer from them but needed a little work as it sported the slightly sickly sweetness of diacetyl which ruined any chance of fully enjoying what could have been a solid ale.

Last weekend gave me reason to head to Cork once again for the Irish Craft Brewer, Brew it Yourself 2009. Once again the Franciscan Well played host, but this time Ireland's sma
llest breweries were represented, namely the home brewers of Ireland. I loaded my car with a few cases of Pilgrim Ale and Old Smoky and dished the stuff out with gusto to the enthusiastic patrons of The Well who dropped by to learn how to brew for themselves. My beer was in bottles but two other lads had a very professional looking keg dispense set up which really impressed the home brew uninitiated. On the whole those who sampled our beer and had a chat with us were very impressed with the quality of the beer on offer, and we did much to dispel the idea that all home brew is noxious stuff, best not sampled in any great quantity. For my part I chatted with a mixture of younger people (mainly men) who were interested in starting up for the first time, but also a number of older people who brewed a number of decades ago and are keen to take it up again.

It was very enjoyable day and we can but hope that we did something to both encourage home brewing in Ireland, but also generally increase appreciation for beer crafted in small quantities whether that be 25 litre batches in an enthusiasts home, or 2500 litre batches from the fine microbreweries operating in Ireland.

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