Tag Archives: cork

Eight Hours in Cork

Once it was settled that we would spend a few days in Ireland prior to heading over to Germany, my task was to map out our brewery visits. With no plans to rent a car, our options were limited to the Dublin area or places we could reach via train or bus network. After a bit of research, spending a day in Cork seemed like the best option to add a few breweries.

Despite the first day over-indulgence in Dublin, Merideth and I managed to make our morning train to Cork. We welcomed the two-and-a-half hour journey for a bit more sleep. Arriving at Kent Station in Cork, the fresh air of the almost one mile walk to our first stop, Rising Sons, also helped in clearing the cobwebs from our heads.

A nice walk along the River Lee

Rising Sons was unlike any other brewpub we have been to in Ireland. For lack of a better word, it was very American. The large brick exterior was reminiscent of a warehouse but the building had, in fact, housed a printer who at one time printed all the check books in the country. The high ceiling, exposed beamed open interior was dominated on one side by the copper clad brewery behind a large window that backed the bar.

Starting light

Waiting for us at the bar was our friend and guide for the day, Dave O’Leary. Owner of Bierhaus Cork, we first met Dave back in 2008 during our Year in Beer visit to Ireland. One of the pioneers of the Cork beer scene, who better to hang out with in Ireland’s second city?

Still feeling the effects of the previous night, I ordered, somewhat out of character for me, a half of Sunbeam. The half being the out of character part, I caught Merideth giving me a ‘I’m married to this guy’ look when I said half. The 4.3% ABV Bavarian-style lager was a perfect hair of the dog beer. Merideth started with Grainú Ale, Rising Sons’ 4.6% ABV Belgian-style Summer Ale. She was a trooper though and ordered a whole pint.

Six years since we last visited Cork, five years since seeing Dave last, we caught up with him and the Cork beer scene as we nursed our beers. Starting to feel alive again, I followed up Sunbeam with Handsum, Rising Sons’ American hopped IPA. However, I still stuck with a half pint.

Already back in our minds that we had an evening train to catch back to Dublin, we finished our beers and decided it was best to move on.

If there is a commonality in the people we meet on our travels, it’s that many end up helping us with our quest. Whether it is research, transportation or guide, people are eager to participate in our beer adventures. Dave was no different.

He mentioned there was a newish brewery in Mayfield, an outlying area of Cork, that had an American connection. Too far to walk and too long a journey on public transportation given our short window, Dave volunteered to drive us to the amusingly named Cotton Ball. And we can’t thank Dave enough for this. Not only did we add a brewery that we might not have, Cotton Ball ended up being one of those very special brewery visits — it joined my love of beer and interest in Civil War history.

First pint of the day, Indian Summer Pale Ale

Up past Heineken Ireland we drove into a working class part of Cork. The sign advertising Stouts and Ales gave the Cotton Ball a look of your typical Irish pub from the outside. Entering the small front bar, I was somewhat surprised to be the only customers. Our trio settled up to the bar.

Both Merideth and I started with the 4.7% ABV Indian Summer Pale Ale. A wonderful citrus hop aroma greeted me as I took a big gulp of my first pint of the day. After a few more gulps, it was time to go check out the brewery. Pints in hand, we passed through the large dining room (that’s where all the people were!), down some stairs and into the large space located below. Here we were greeted by Eoin Lynch. Brewing started in late 2013, Eoin Lynch explained as we toured the five barrel brewhouse.

While touring the brewery, Dave brought up the American connection. Eoin suggested we go back upstairs and talk to his father, he would be able to fill us in. Eoin introduced us to his father, Jack Lynch. And the Cotton Ball story unfolded.

Jack’s grandfather, Eoin’s great-grandfather, Humphrey Lynch emigrated to America at age 15, settling north of Boston. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Humphrey enlisted, joining the 4th U.S. Light Artillery. Fighting mainly in the western theater including battles such as Chickamauga, Humphrey was discharged from the Union Army in 1865 at the rank of sergeant.

With Jack Lynch and a rare 39 star American flag

Returning to Ireland in the 1870s, Humphrey bought a public house in what was then called Baile na Mbocht. He named his pub the Cotton Ball, harkening back to his years following the Civil War working as a foreman in a cotton mill. Almost 140 years later, still owned by the same family, the Cotton Ball added the brewery.

Back at the bar after the history lesson, we all grabbed a bite to eat while enjoying the Cotton Ball’s wonderful Lynch’s Handcrafted Stout, both on nitro and off the shelf.

Returning to the city center, we had time for a quick pint at the Bierhaus (Dave’s beer bar) before heading to our last stop of the day. And Merideth bought her new favorite zippie.

Last stop

Space was a premium at the tiny Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House. Entering the tiny 25 seat restaurant, I wondered if we had ever been in a smaller brewpub. I think not. Greeted by the manager, Jerry O’Sullivan, he immediately started us on a tour of Elbow Lane.

Pushing some tables and chairs away to access a door at the back of the restaurant, we entered the tiny brewhouse. I immediately recognized how the place could be so small, a Braumeister system. An all-in-one brewery, all grain brewing system, we had seen one of these before on our last trip to London, but on a much smaller scale. While in that system, the basket could be lifted out by hand, Elbow Lane utilized the biggest kit available, 250 liters. Lifting the basket required a winch. With this Braumeister kit, Elbow Lane produces five house beers.

Touring the conditioning tanks upstairs, Jerry explained that the goal was to achieve just-in-time brewing as much as possible. One of the benefits of such a small brewery to tour, Merideth, Dave and I were quickly seated at the bar ready to try their brews.

Sample flight at Elbow Lane

Beers ranged from Elbow Lager to Angel Stout. All the beers were solid, especially the 4.4% ABV Stout whose strong roast character I imagined pairing well with some of the bigger meat dishes. The star was Arrow Weiss, a 5% ABV Bavarian-style Wheat that recently won Best in Category for Wheat Beers at the Killarney Beerfest. The prominent banana/clove character reminded me that in a few days we would be in Germany.

The food menu looked pretty amazing but our appetites failed us at this crucial moment. We stuck with a couple of small bites, Olives & Spiced Fried Chickpeas and Pigs in Blankets, as we moved through the sample flight.

It was now early evening and our train’s departure back to Dublin was looming. We thanked Jerry for his hospitality, and after thanking Dave profusely for being our tour guide for the day, we parted ways.

With three breweries added to the List, we walked back to the train station with a bit more bounce in our step then we made the opposite journey from earlier in the day. We can’t thank Dave enough for taking the time to chaperone us around his city.

Heading back to the train station after a great day in Cork.

View all the images from Cork

An Irish Easter

What an Easter treat!

Easter Sunday was a glorious day in Cork. The sun was shining and the weather warm, maybe the nicest day of the trip.

To be honest, I was a little worried about how to act on such an important religious holiday in a Catholic country. Going to a beer festival seemed a little odd and the last thing I wanted was to be branded a blasphemer on Easter Sunday.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Unlike Good Friday, which was dry, Easter Sunday was wet; very wet indeed as the following day was a bank holiday. Plus, two Heineken Cup quarterfinal rugby matches, one involving the Irish team Munster and the other Leinster, were on tap for the day. The Irish are mad rugby fans and the matches guaranteed a serious party.

It’s true!

Before we headed to the festival, we had a brewery tour. One of the breweries at the festival was the Pilot Research Brewery at University College Cork (UCC). The festival is their one public event of the year. On Saturday, Merideth met and chatted with one of the students, Alex, a PhD candidate in the program. He was kind enough to offer us a tour before the festival on Sunday. We were excited because not only could we add it to the list but we had never been to university research brewery before.

I think it is a 10 barrel brewhouse

What happens at a university research brewery you ask? They really don’t research beer. Rather they study the ingredients that make up beer. Part of the University’s Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, the brewery is a vehicle for analyzing proteins, enzymes, etc. The department has other tools, such as a bakery, where similar type research is being done. Alex went into much more detail, especially about his research, and we did our best to understand.

Chris with Alex, our tour guide.

Alex, like most of the students in the program, is from Germany. And it turns out, he worked with the hop breeder we met on our Hallertau tour in September.

As for the beer, we were able to drink a very nice lager. We also tried two versions of a non-alcoholic drink made from wort. I didn’t quite understand the process of how it was made. A soda-like drink, one was cranberry flavored and the other mandarin orange. Both were quite refreshing and delicious. As for the important question…yes, the program students get to drink their research.

Pouring a pint of Hooker

After the brewery tour, we headed back to the Franciscan Well for day two of the festival. We arrived an hour after opening and the crowd was sparse. Was the small crowd due to Easter? Not at all. Once the rugby matches ended, in which both Irish teams were victorious, the Irish streamed into the Well and the party started in earnest.

Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday. We chatted with our brewer friends and ICB friends. We also met some young students at UCC who do beer reviews on Youtube. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of their show.

Our beer rotations were also very similar. I stuck with the Galway Hooker IPA, Carlow Druid’s Brew and White Gypsy IPA, while Merideth focused on her Chocolate Truffle Stout from the Porterhouse.

The happy beer travelers on Easter

As the hours passed and nightfall came, it was time to wrap up another chapter of our Ireland adventures. We have been traveling to the Emerald Isle and drinking Irish craft beer for a decade now. We witnessed the ups and downs, seeing breweries, good and bad, come and go. But we left the Easter Beer Festival and Cork with a good feeling. Something special is brewing in Ireland and we have been there to see it.

 

Celebrating Irish Craft Beer

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.

A nice crowd on Easter Saturday

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.

Northern Ireland was represented by Hilden

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.

Ireland’s newest brewery White Gypsy

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.

Ronan and Aidan of Galway Hooker

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.

Best beer at the fest

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.

dumping a beer on a friend is an Irish tradition

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.