Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Well Well

I know very little of my own about the brewing scene in Ireland. Fortunately the Beer Nut has his finger on every brewing pulse Ireland has and it is through him that I learn what little I know. I do though glean that the scene there is hotting up, with new beers and breweries sprouting up through every crack in the pavement. Or so it seems at least.

One brewery I do know of is Franciscan Well and when they asked me to come along to the London launch of some of their beers, I jumped at the chance and thus it was a couple of Thursdays ago, I presented myself in the other Smiths. The one in Spitalfields that is, not the better known one in Smithfield. Assembled bloggers (I only knew one) and press types were treated to three different beers and accompanying food. I won't attempt to describe the beers in detail, but all were presented by Des McCann, Molson Coors Beer Champion for Ireland and also described by owner and founder Shane Long. For those interested, Shane founded the Franciscan Well in 1998 on the North Mall in Cork City on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery and Well. Shane himself was primarily a publican (and still is) now turned brewer and having had the opportunity to chat to him for a while, not only is he a thoroughly engaging guy, but rather an enthusiast for the Irish Brewing scene.

The brewery was taken over by Molson-Coors in 2013, but as far as I can tell, Shane still runs the show, albeit overseen on behalf of the parent by Sharp's Supremo, Stuart Howe. They are rather proud of their Rebel Red - an Irish Red Ale -but its caramel and CO2 combo did little for me. Much more to my liking was the Chieftain IPA. Slightly sweeter than a normal IPA, but designed for local Irish palates, Shane called it an Irish Pale Ale. Best of all for me was Shandon Stout, a minerally, deep, dark beer, made luscious by nitrogen presentation and with a slightly bitter-sweet, mineral/metallic finish. I had a decent chat with Shane who explained that the Cork water,(untreated as far as I know) gives the mineral and metal taste that typifies Cork beers. I'll take his word, but I assume that the water for the other beers is treated in some way, as they tasted rather clean. We went on to discuss Guinness which Shane rather likes, though his view is that its good features are ruined by serving it at ice cold temperatures. My own conflicting view that the recipe had been so neutered over the years and the ice cold pour was meant to disguise it, was given a non committal "Well. Maybe". He still thinks it a good beer ruined by presentation. There you go. Either way, chatting to him was an absolute delight. His enthusiasm was boundless.

On the way out we were given a large, shiny, black box by the Molson-Coors PR people.  So large and ungainly, that there was no easy way to carry it. It was also extremely unbalanced by its contents, which were revealed after I'd walked home, stopping to rest my arms frequently, to be a four pint container of freshly poured Chieftain IPA. Worth a slightly uncomfortable walk.

It made a great accompaniment to Question Time and E liked it too.

All three beers are available in London it seems, or the launch was pointless.  Hospitality was courtesy of Molson-Coors


The Beer Nut said...

Shane is a great guy and very much a godfather to Irish craft brewing.

Possibly related to the water thing, but it's quite likely that all three beers you tasted were brewed at Sharp's, not Franciscan Well. They're making FW beers at both sites at the moment at least until the new industrial-sized FW brewery is built.

Tandleman said...

They didn't mention that BN!

The Beer Nut said...

Funny that...

ABrewHaHa said...

back in 2009 when in Cork I felt an urgent need to visit Franciscan Well. After sampling a few beers I decided that the beer didn't travel well.

Sue said...

I've been to Franciscan Well in Cork and was impressed by the friendliness, knowledge and enthusiasm of the bar guys, the place itself and the beers, of which you can buy a 'flight'. I think there were 7 beers on the day I visited, which made for a very pleasant afternoon.

Paul Bailey said...

Molson Coors were one of the sponsors of this year's European Beer Bloggers Conference, held in Dublin, back in June. On the last night of the event we were treated to a a 4-course beer dinner hosted by Franciscan Well Brewery.

Franciscan Well founder and brewer, Shane Long, kicked things off by sharing his thoughts on the advancement of the Irish Craft Beer market. Unfortunately I can’t remember too much of Shane’s talk, as not only had I stopped taking notes at this stage, but I’d been drinking pretty solidly since lunchtime, and things were slowly sinking into an alcoholic haze!

There were some very good food and beer pairings though, with all the beers being chosen from Franciscan Well's portfolio. The morbidly curious can read more about the evening here, but I for one was very impressed with the brewery and its range of beers.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

The FW brewpub is actually rather an unremarkable pub that only really comes into its own in the summer with a great outdoor smoking area with its own pizza oven.
But Shane Long has been putting on great beer festivals for years and should take credit for bringing the craft beer revolution to Cork city long before it became fashionable.
Earlier this year I finally persuaded my local landlord who has been in his pub for 36 years to get some Rebel Red in - the first craft beer ever to appear in my Cork suburb town of 15 pubs.
It has been flying out the door ever since as punters relished the choice of something other than stout,lager and chemical cider.
Small acorns,etc etc.