The annual Cask & Winter Ale Festival at Franciscan Well in Cork kicks off tomorrow. It's a few years since I've been, but I'm travelling down on Saturday to see what's what. Limited time means limited drinking opportunities so I've been going out of my way lately to try some new Irish specials on tap in Dublin which I'm expecting to be on the festival list, just so I don't feel obliged to drink them on the day if there's other stuff I want. It's all about choice.
A cask of the new stout from Black's of Kinsale appeared in Porterhouse Temple Bar yesterday. Model T is 6.5% ABV and I was smitten from the first sip. It has all the ultra-smooth, yet slightly dry, chocolate-cocoa of the best strong stouts, with that extra dimension of spice that only seems to come with cask serve, and even then not always. The ace in the hole is its hopping: fresh and green; gunpowder and sherbet; strawberries and spinach; all blended together beautifully with a mellow maturity. It tastes like a beer that has not been rushed at any stage of production. While I don't want to come over all Don Draper, Model T will make you fall in love with stout again.
A tough act to follow, so just as well Metalman Heat Sink got in before it. Wait, that sounds unkind. Heat Sink is a good beer, a smoked chilli porter they were pouring on cask in L. Mulligan Grocer when I dropped in last Friday. I confess the smoke passed me by completely, though Tim assured me there's plenty of smoked malt in here. The chilli is little more than a tingle on the palate and a catch in the throat, but it builds nicely if you take the beer in big gulps, something the clean and simple dry porter base makes very easy.
Possibly not at this weekend's festival, but also on tap at Mulligan's on Friday, was The Piper: the second beer from Four Provinces, brewing at Trouble. It's not all that different in colour to its predecessor, The Hurler, being rose-gold rather than copper. It arrived very cold from the keg and I initially found it rather dull for something claiming to be an IPA, the flavour made off with by crystal malt and carbon dioxide banditos. But peep behind the toffee and the fizz and there's definitely a proper fresh-hop resinousness in the background. Only in the background, unfortunately. I kept waiting for the hops to open out and really make their presence felt, but they never become more than decoration in what ends up being quite a plain, thin and fizzy reddish keg ale. The Piper is a bit of a tease.
So that's my pre-festival homework done. See you in Cork.
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