The Franciscan Well’s Easter beer festival has proved, by all accounts, to be a very popular beer festival, gathering most of the craft brewers of Ireland under the one roof (or marquee). This was to be my first visit to the festival, and I was advised to arrive early. So shortly after lunch time on a glorious Easter Saturday, I strolled up the quays, and reached my destination. Already, there was a scattering of people in the marquee out in the courtyard. As I didn’t see any fellow forumites on first glance, I turned my attention to the stalls, and decided to head first to the Hooker Brewery, to try their Galway Hooker. As chance would have it, two more ICB regulars were already there.
We sampled a pint, while chatting with the Brewer. A real refreshing beer, along the lines of an APA, with plenty of citrusy hop bite. After a second pint, it was decided to move on, or we may never taste another beer all afternoon.
Messers. Maguires I.P.A. got a sampling. While the 7.2% was really to the fore, the bitterness was a little underwhelming, perhaps because of the Hooker’s impact.
Next up was the UCC pilot brewery offerings. The Bock was well balanced, and very drinkable for a “6%+” beer. The students' Pilsner, was another drinkable beer, with a fruity, almost kolsch-like taste.
Next stop Lisburn, for Hilden Brewery’s finest. First off, they must be commended for the range of beers they brought down the length of the country – five beers in total, three of them cask conditioned. And a few polypins too!
Their signature ale, Hilden ale is well balanced. A good, solid, session ale. The Hilden Halt, described as an amber red, had plenty of sweetness, and yet again very drinkable for it’s strength. The final beer we sampled, the Headless Dog, brewed by Hilden’s sister company College Green, was (by a narrow majority!) our favourite of the three. A fine example of an English style bitter, with plenty of English hops.
As the courtyard was starting to fill up, we took a little detour into the pub to sample our host’s beers. A tasting tray of all six beers was landed in front of us, and quickly consumed. Each of their beers are very solid offerings that those of us who have frequented the pub over the years have come to expect. It is nice to see their beers popping up in more and more pubs too. The Blonde is an easy going true-to-style kolsch; the red has an abundance of caramel malt goodness; some velvety chocolate in the ‘Cork style’ stout; and both the Weisse and Rebel Lager, the former with a banana profile and kick of saaz hops in the latter could not be faulted. The stand out beer from the half dozen was the Boh Pils. Again there was saaz, complimented by the rich malt flavour, and a little diacetyl (Níall’s taste buds still working overtime!).
We were never going to make it to every stall, so hopefully Thom, who arrived later might be able to fill in some gaps. While it was good to see the Porterhouse represented, we were all well aware of the two beers they had brought, so their stall was bypassed.
Carlow brewing, on the other hand, were firmly on my ‘to do’ list. Along with their regular beers, they had brought Druid’s brew – a seasonal cask conditioned stout, only available at the festival. This was a velvety smooth stout, plenty of chocolate and coffee, with the roasted flavour mellower than their flagship stout. Definitely my pick of the bunch.
At this stage we had come full circle, and while Brian and Níall gave the Hooker one more turn, I decided to stick with the Druid’s Brew, before slipping away, happy with my lot, as the crowd really started to gather.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, sampling beers, meeting and chatting with fellow forumites, and brewers, all in a great setting on a glorious day. I’ve already pencilled their Octoberfest into my diary, while Hilden’s own festival in August sounds very tempting at this moment.
Below is the full list of Brewers and beers. Where available I have filled in our very crude markings out of ten, and finally our awards for the day:
Carlow Brewing Co.
O’Hara’s Celtic Stout 4.3%
Molings Red Ale 4.3%
Curim Gold Wheat Beer 4.3%
Druids Brew Stout 4.7% (Cask Conditioned) 8/10 Best Cask Beer
Hilden Brewing Co. Brewery of the Festival
Belfast Blonde Lager4.3%
Headless Dog 4.2% (Cask Conditioned)
Hilden Halt 6.1% (Cask Conditioned)
Silver Pale Ale 4.2%
Hilden Ale 4.0% (Cask Conditioned)
Galway Hooker Irish Ale 4.4% 8/10 Beer of the Festival
Porterhouse Brewing Co.
Temple Brau Lager 4.3%
U.C.C. Pilot Research Brewery
Festive Pilsner 4.6%
Bock Beer UCCinator 6.0%
Franciscan Well Brewery
Blarney Blonde 4.2%
Rebel Red 4.3%
Shandon Stout 4.3%
Friar Weisse 4.8%
Boh Pils 4.7%
Fairtrade Mongozo Banana Beer 5.0%
Pater Brown beer 6.0%
Golden Drack 10.5%