We finally reached the culmination of our trip, the Easter Beer Festival at Cork’s brewpub, the Franciscan Well. Held on both days of Easter weekend, the fest is the best gathering of Irish brewers and beer.
Ten breweries from both Ireland and Northern Ireland were set up in the Well’s expansive beer garden pouring dozens of beer ranging from Kölsch-style to Imperial Stout. In a country where beer travel can be challenging, it was nice to have most of the country’s breweries gathered in one place.
Arriving at opening time on Saturday afternoon, we were joined by several hundred fellow Irish craft beer fans in savoring the beers.
Hilden Brewery, from Northern Ireland, had a nice array of handpumps, which immediately caught my eye. I tried their beer for the first time at the beginning of the trip at the Porterhouse’s craft beer festival. I quickly zeroed in on Ireland’s Call, their St. Patrick’s Day brew. At the fest, you can order a pint or half pint. My first inclination, since it was going to be a long day, was a half. But the brewer encouraged me to get a pint and a nice pint it was.
Merideth, of course, bee-lined for her favorite Chocolate Truffle Stout from the Porterhouse. She would go through a few of them over the weekend.
There were plenty of new beers to try and try them we did. Galway Hooker’s Dark Wheat, Franciscan Well’s Phúca (a spiced Christmas Ale), and College Green’s Headless Dog were some of the brews we tasted for the first time.
The newest entries on the Irish craft beer scene were also on hand. White Gypsy, from Templemore in County Tipperary, debuted its beers at the Easter Festival. Started by Cuilan Loughnane, who also brews at Messrs Maguire in Dublin, White Gypsy made quite a splash with a 5.2% ABV India Pale Ale. An English IPA, the brew had quite a hop bite to it; so much so that I swore Cuilan was using American hops. He’s not.
The other newcomer debuting in Cork was Barrelhead Brewery. Based in Dublin, it is presently brewed on White Gypsy’s kit. They brought Bull Island Pale Ale, a solid debut beer. Not currently available for sale, the Pale Ale will be a great addition to the Irish beer scene when it’s available.
At the festival, we met up again with our friend, Beer Nut John and several other members of Irishcraftbrewer.com. During the month of March, ICB conducted a poll of its members to vote for their favorite Irish beer. The results of the third annual Irish Craft Brewer Awards were announced at the festival on Saturday.
The Grand Prize winner was Galway Hooker’s Irish Pale Ale, a beer we have been enjoying and plugging for a couple of years now. A well-deserved award, congrats go out to Aidan and Ronan for their wonderful brew.
Also awarded at the festival by ICB was Beer of the Festival, a vote in which we were able to participate. This went to Carlow Brewing’s Druid’s Brew, a ‘Velvet Irish Stout’ on cask. Only available at this festival and Great British Beer Festival, Druid’s Brew was “transcendental”, as a friend would say. Given that we are missing GBBF this year, I made sure I got my share of Druid’s Brew.
As the day evolved into night, my beer rotation became set to my favorites of the festival. Galway Hooker IPA, Carlow’s Druid’s Brew and White Gypsy’s IPA.
The most humorous event of our Saturday involved Druid’s Brew, Merideth and the clothes John was wearing. I have known Merideth for 26 years and in all those years of drinking beer with her, this was a first. As we were all chatting, Merideth suddenly had a violent twitch or something and tossed half her beer all over John. She was embarrassed and apologetic. But after the initial shock was over, we all got a good laugh out of the incident.
Dumping a good beer on a good friend is pretty much the signal to wind down an evening. We said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel to rest up for Easter Sunday when we would do it all again.