This was my first beer festival of any kind, don’t forget I’m a beginner, so we arrived quite early. Well, at 11 am actually! I had encouraged two mates along, let’s call them Beer Goggles and Beer Mat. Beer Goggles would join us later so Beer Mat and I forged ahead. The weather was great and after chatting to the donkeys on the way up we headed towards the marquee. Brewers were still setting up so we went for a wander over to the house and came back after a half hour or so. There were a few more people around and we watched carefully so as not to get the procedure or etiquette wrong and show ourselves up as newbies. We got our glasses and took the plunge.
First went to Whitewater brewery. I had cask Clotworthy Dobbin, a red ale style of beer, after seeing it recommended somewhere while Beer Mat had the Belfast Lager. I took a big gulp and wow! It was fine, fresh and fruity with a hint of something else. Maybe butterscotch? The other difference of course was the gassiness, because it was from a cask you get fine, light bubbles that tickle the palate and don’t scrape your throat. One word, superb.
Beer Mat’s lager was good too with a sharp clean taste. It tasted really hoppy to me and not too bitter. As a lager drinker he enjoyed it
Next we moved on to Beál Bán from Beoir Corca Dhuibhne. It’s a cask conditioned pale ale from two pubs in Kerry who wanted to offer their customers something different. Now it was probably unfair to have this after the Clotworthy Dobbin but something had to come next. It looked pretty good with a cloudy, orange colour accentuated by the midday sun. First taste was refreshing and easy to drink. Beer Mat commented that it reminded him of a Weisse beer and I know what he meant. Mine seemed quite carbonated for a cask beer while Beer Mats seemed less gassy. It had a slightly watery quality which did not appeal to me and a strange chemically after taste. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed but both Beer Mat and I both came to the conclusion it would be better with food.
We decided to take a break while we waited for Beer Goggles, the other beer beginner in our group, to arrive. We checked out the food on offer from the stands located conveniently close by. As well as two coffee stands there were people selling, sweet and savoury crepes, hotdogs, burgers and steak sandwiches among other things. We grabbed a couple of posh hotdogs and wandered back towards the picnic benches in front of the beer marquee commenting on what we thought a beer expert (anorak?) would look like as we scanned the ever growing crowds. I came up with the following list.
Beard, Glasses, Long shorts, Receding hairline, Scruffy appearance, Slightly chubby, Note book, Camera.
I thought this an amusing list until Beer Mat pointed out the fact that I ticked all of these boxes. I quickly shut up after that.
Beer Goggles arrived as we were finishing or food and we quickly headed back into the marquee as he was keen to catch up on lost time.
I had a hankering to try a stout and seeing as I was very familiar with O’Hara’s from my home town I went to Messrs Maguire stand and immediately spotted Imperial Stout on cask so it seemed the natural choice. I could get the smokey smell before I even got my nose near the glass. Sooty, thick, full of flavour with little bitterness. This is how a stout should be. ‘It’s like smokey bacon’ said Beer Mat and I could see where he was coming from. I even got a slight sweet after taste. Superb. If only I could get it at home……
Beer Goggles tried the plain from the same brewers and it was equally good. Just smoother and creamier with less smokiness.
Beer Mat had gone to the other end of the marquee and returned with a Temple Brau from The Porterhouse. He gave me a sip and I put it on my list to try later. It was refreshing with maybe a fudgy taste? Maybe that was just after the Imperial.
Hilden Brewey was next up to the plate and I liked the look and sound of the Headless dog . It was also a headless beer but maybe that’s the joke? I hope it was anyway. I have to say that this was very disappointing. As Beer Goggles said, it tasted of nothing much but after taste of……..well we weren’t sure. It had a watered down taste and just seemed pointless when there was so much nicer around. Maybe it was just lost on our undereducated palates.
Next up was Galway Hooker and make no mistake this was good. The words well crafted seem to spring to mind as it was balanced, mild and tasty. A bit like a good English bitter thought Beer Goggles. A fresh tasting beer like this is something you could deal with all night. I placed it in the back of my mind for further recall when I go to Galway in October.
We decided we needed a break again so we went for another bite. After grabbing a Steak burger and a crepe for vegetarian Beer Goggles, we wandered through the food market and I tried a chili jam among other things. I picked up a few ingredients for another love in my life, eating.
I hit The Fransican Well Brewery next and seeing how I am partial to blondes I tried their Blarney one. It was ok but nothing special a bit watery and lacking bite, taste and depth. Beer Mat had the Rebel Red but fared no better. It was tastier but again just ok. I began to wonder had the Chili affected by taste buds severely.
The Kinsale Lager stand seemed busy enough so I decided it should be the next port of call. This I liked. It had a delicate flavour and was slightly sour but this seemed to suit it. Nothing special I guess but again if it’s a choice of this or some of the other offerings here today well….
I guess I hadn’t noticed the crowd but Beer Goggles pointed out that there seemed to be more women here than men. He was right of course, and lots of kids too. I occurred to me that this wasn’t the day I thought it was going to be. I didn’t spot too many beer geeks apart from us. It seemed to be a family or even a girly thing. It was better, smarter with more of a buzz than I had hoped. I suddenly realised I was enjoying it.
I went back to Messers Maguire to try the Pils and I wasn’t disappointed. I had thought it might be a bit watery but no, it was soild with a nice full flavoured taste. Lovely fine bubbles and a great colour. Nice one. Messers Maguire didn’t let me down all day.
Beer Goggles went to Whitewater for the red ale and declared it very good. It was fruity and tasty but lacked length. Beer Goggles is a wine buff so perhaps has better language than me.
Time was pushing on and so was my stamina and internal alcohol meter so I knew I would only manage one more glass. I remembered the Temple Brau that Beer Mat had earlier. I thought this would be a perfect end to the day. I was right. It had a cleansing quality, a pureness of taste I hadn’t had before. It had that fudgy, hoppy taste I got earlier. It had been a good choice.
I went to Whitewater to pick up a couple of bottles of each of their beers but all they had left was the lager. Disaster. The only saving grace was that they say their beer will be available down south by the middle of the month. I picked up an Irish Ale from Hilden to give them another chance. Messrs had nothing for sale but they did give me a bottle of Bock free of charge! Although he did warn be the gas might not be right in it. More about those when I taste them.
I guess that’s it really. We had an eye opening day and even flirted with the idea of coming back up on the Sunday. A late bus and missing our train by 2 minutes put that idea out of our heads.
Roll on the next one. Galway?
It's just occurred to me that because I didn't try O'Hara's from my home town you might think I don't rate it. I do. I will do the others soon too.