Tag Archives: county 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.