Wednesday, 31 October 2012

#92: Franciscan Well October Beer Festival

Cork played host to the annual Guinness Jazz Festival this past weekend, so the city was packed to the proverbial rafters for the duration of the Fran Well's beer festival. I knew the event was popular, but I was completely unprepared for the fighting for standing space activity of the place. Perhaps I'm getting old, but I was very put off by the whole thing. It's difficult to enjoy a night out when you're so terribly antisocial. Anyway, below are the details of my own very short stay at the festival.

I&G Winter Treacle Porter
My first of the night was Innis & Gunn's Winter Treacle Porter, their seasonal for this time of year. I've had mixed experiences with this brewer in the past, but the name of this beer alone is what pulled me in. It poured black as you'd expect with a sugary sweet nose reminiscent of the Floreffe Melior I had a while back. Candy, cloying sweetness was the order of the day but unlike that particular beer, there was a touch of bitterness at the end to spice things up. Alcohol heat was just about noticeable too, but all in all it's a beer for the half-pint glass at most. I like sweet, but when I can't actually taste the malts, things aren't going great.

Poperings Hommel Bier
For the next one I went to the brilliantly selected Belgian bar, and opted for a Poperings Hommel Bier. Grainy, floral hops opens the taste on this one, before a nice sweet malt fullness unexpectedly takes control before returning to the lighter, fruitier characteristics of the beer to finish. Bitterness is lower than I'd expected, and there's an element of the wheaty farmhouse ale to this beer. In fact, I'd place this somewhere between a spicy Belgian blonde and a lovely wheaty Wit.

As I scanned the rest of the taps I spotted Piraat, and I couldn't resist another go. Notes on that beer are aplenty on this blog. Suffice to say it was as gorgeous as ever.
Upstairs, my better half went to try the bottled ginger beer they'd gotten in. Chalky's Bark is an accompaniment to their fennel beer Bite, and true to the suggestion, it was certainly bark rather than bite. There's plenty of nice herbal and spice qualities to the beer, as well as a hint of fruitiness, but there's none of the hot ginger notes you need in a good ginger beer. I was glad of the Piraat in my hand at this stage.

Lindeman's Framboise
By now, the bustle was getting to me, and I decided to throw in the towel. On the way out, though, I bought and sampled one more beer - Lindeman's Framboise. I was very excited about this beer, what with it being my introduction to the style. The first thing I noted was how much I loved the appearance of the thick pink head on top. The taste opens beautifully and not unlike a foamier, thicker version of the blackcurrant cassis popular in the Netherlands. It's very fruity, very sweet and surprisingly refreshing, before quite literally turning sour at the finish. It's not at all a bad taste, in any way, but for the uninitiated it's just weird.

I must stress that the only reason I didn't enjoy this visit as much as I should have is that I'm generally opposed to loudness, merriment and large social gatherings. The organization, promotion and range of beers was incredible, and for that the Franciscan Well deserves some serious praise. I'll definitely be coming to their next festival, and I strongly recommend you do too.

For me, it'll be a quiet afternoon trip next time.


  1. Man, I haven't had Hommelbier in ages. I used to love it. So warming, yet properly hoppy.

    Next up should be the 'Well's Winter Ales Festival in late January or early February. I'm hoping to make it down this year after missing it last time.

    1. You're right, I was surprised by how warming the Hommel was. This was my first festival experience, and while I acted a bit like a grandad, the selection was brilliant.

    2. I totally share your dislike of overcrowded festivals, for exactly the same reasons. Normally I'd be in as soon as the doors open and gone by 8 or 9.