05 September 2005

Buy the drinks on my own lovely Lee

I'm back from a couple of days in Cork, where I paid a long-overdue visit to the Franciscan Well microbrewery along the river on North Mall. It's an odd, pokey little place that lacks some of the pizzazz of some other brewpubs around the place, but they're clearly proud of what they do. Their Shandon Stout is a first class dry porter with complex coffee-and-chocolate flavours: rich, but very easy to drink (presumably because it is competing with Murphy's -- a beer with similar qualities). Their Rebel Red ale was a little disappointing: watery and a touch bland, taking its lead from Smithwick's, I guess. The Rebel Lager is an enigmatic one. It hits you up front with an intense and not-very-pleasant sour note, but then calms down for a smooth finish. It's one for quaffing rather than sipping, I think. Much more palatable is the Blarney Blonde, which contains fewer surprises. It lacks a strong flavour, but still has hints of that crisp grainy-corny taste of a good microbrewed lager, despite being an ale. Lastly, they do a token weissbier: Friar Weisse. It's properly orange and cloudy, but a little lacking in the fruit flavour I would expect. I suspect overall that they are trying not to offend or surprise a conservative clientelle with their house beers and I would say the place really comes into its own when the Easter and Christmas beers are on tap.

Cork is also home to a great beer off-licence called the Abbot's Ale House on Devonshire Street. I took a few interesting things away from there, on which I will report in due course, but I began by continuing my investigation into the beers of Poland, with two from the Staropolskie brewery. The plain green label is pretty good: full and round with a tight creamy head, though without the fruitiness of Okocim, but once again it is the stronger mocne lager that excels. Staropolskie Mocne can stand proudly with the best of Bavaria's stronger brews. It reminded me of Spaten's Oktoberfest beer in particular: rich, smooth and delicious. Rarely has alcohol been used so well to enhance the flavour of a strong lager.

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