15 May 2014

Mixing it up

Shane Long talks to the Dublin Ladies Craft Beer Society
A footnote to Monday's post on the Franciscan Well Easter Beer Festival today. Founder Shane was keen to show off the new education centre that they've put into the upstairs bar, the walls decorated with flavour wheels, brewing diagrams and tutored tasting instructions.

Last year the bar was dedicated to some special cask beers from Molson Coors stablemate Sharp's, and it was the same this time, only with a bigger range and shinier handpumps. With all the Irish beer available downstairs I had only one small taste of one of them: Six Hop, a 3.8% ABV bitter which tasted terribly dull and biscuity for something that uses the H-word in its name. How big a batch did they put the six hop cones into?

The 'Well itself had a couple of new releases downstairs. One is called Eggenstien and is a 5.5% ABV pale brown German bock. It tastes quite inoffensive, striking the right balance between rounded grain flavours and the grassy tang of noble hops, but the smell of it really got to me. I struggle with German noble hops at the best of times and this beer just reeked of the green nettle acridity that turns my stomach. I'm sure it will have its fans among the bock-drinking community but it was just too full-on for me.

I try to avoid writing about beers that are simply blends of other beers. Some of the more geek-focused continental breweries are a little too fond of doing this and I don't feel obliged to provide space for their mixes. However, I'm making an exception for Franciscan Well's Spring Fusion, also available at the Easter Festival. This is a straight saison blended with the brewery's longtime flagship Rebel Red. The result is a fascinating combination of crisp tartness next to totally incongruous red ale toffee and caramel. It shouldn't work, but it does: at once palate cleansing, thirst quenching and comfortingly warm.

Of course, The Franciscan Well are not merely confined to Cork these days. The long reach of Molson Coors and their PR team brought beers and brewer to Dublin last month for an evening's ligging in the opulent surrounds of House bar and restaurant on Leeson Street. After a 4km walk in the warm Spring sunshine, the free Blue Moon on arrival was the nicest Blue Moon I've ever tasted. Mind you, sucking the orange slice was even better than the beer. We also got a try of the new seasonal Summer Honey Wheat. It's pretty poor, as it goes, much like the other Blue Moon seasonals: an aroma consisting of no more than a trace of sugar, and a flavour to match. Some minor honey stickiness is just about detectable on the finish but very little else is going on. I'd swap back to regular Blue Moon in an instant.

Also on the preview list for the evening was Chieftan, an IPA which looks to be joining the permanent draught line-up. It's 5.5% ABV and is another one of those dark oily pale ales, like Porterhouse Hop Head or JW Sweetman Pale Ale. This is, of course, a good thing. The hop combination is Tettnanger, Magnum and Citra, though it hides this at first, presenting burnt caramel and toffee in the aroma to begin with. This dark malt theme continues in the first sip, some almost coffeeish notes come into play, quickly followed by a dank green funk of the sort found in many an amber ale, and bringing to mind BrewDog's 5AM Saint in particular. Rather than bitterness, there's a sharp citric piquancy, followed by a long resinous, palate-coating finish. Those who prefer their IPAs to have a bit more fresh zing to them might rather think of this as an amber, but either way it's a good beer and a welcome addition.

On the above evidence, Molson Coors Ireland seems to be strongly outperforming its American and British brethern.


  1. Great posting again, telling it as you see it. But a 5.5% bock, have the troika been informed!

    1. Bock's one of those not-really-a-style styles though, isn't it? I see it more as a thing that can be done to any lager.

  2. The Sharp's was indeed terrible. I'd hoped to try the Chieftan, but I ended up not getting so much as an elbow on the Fran Well bar. A saison did make its way to me alright, and that was nice..

    1. The straight saison wasn't available when I was there but I think it has shown up in Dublin since. Looking forward to trying it.