It's all in the title. I actually missed this festival last year, so was determined to be in attendance this time round, even if it was just for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.
I was hungry when I arrived, so started the day with some irresistible Pompeii Pizza (please set up a permanent shop guys), accompanied by some Barrelhead Galaxy, what I can only assume is a single hop pale ale at 4.6%. The aroma offers nice tropical hops, namely passionfruit and pineapple by my, er, assistant's reckoning. I found more citrus pungency, but either way it's an enticing aroma. The palate follows in a similar vein but doesn't quite pack the punch suggested. It's all waxy orange and bubblegum sweetness atop a fairly thin body. Not a world-beater, but incredibly easy drinking and a real treat with the pizza.
Not so good was the same brewer's Sorachi Zuki, which was running from keg. It pours mahogany in tone and produces a strange aroma of burnt toast, coffee cake and a little bit of grassiness. The taste has all of these flavour characteristics with the added 'bonus' of stinky rubber boot. Not totally unlike the dirty Thornbridge Wild Raven I had at last year's Octoberfest; some TLC for the lines is in order.
After being denied the spritely lemongrass hoppiness I was expecting from a beer with Sorachi in the name, I was back on the market for bright and hoppy. This brought me to Brú and their IPA, Rí. I had tasted their stout previously, and found it enjoyable if forgettable. No such half measures here, as the buttery full body carries plenty of juicy bitter fruitiness, with grapefruit and pine maing their essential contributions in what is being called a West Coast IPA. The biscuity malt backbone doesn't impose itself too much, allowing the lively citrus peel hops to dance freely around the palate. I detect some Citra at work, but I could of course be mistaken. What's for certain is that this is a properly punchy IPA that does very good work with its ~5% ABV.
Moving up the scale, it was certainly Double IPA time. Black's of Kinsale had their Hop Magnet on cask and after the top-notched-ness of their previous two permanent releases (as well as the presumably top notch specials they did after getting funded) expectations were high. Well, for me anyway. The aroma is nice and fruity but beyond that I'm unable to deliver much detail, muted as it was. The palate takes shape better though, with a big hit of sweet and zesty mandarin and pine right at the front. It fades quickly to some slightly syrupy malts thereafter, resulting in a pleasant and drinkable beer but not as effective an experience of DIPA as you'd hope for from such an accomplished brewing operation. If it gets bottled I'll be first in line to try, hopefully it will have been tweaked by then.
We ended with my only dark beer of the day, Otterbank's Farami, a coffee stout. At 6% this is a wholesome affair, offering aromatic notes of those Café Noir biscuits that nobody really likes. In this instance, though, it's a welcoming smell. Roasy warm coffee and chocolate notes are the bulk of this heart stout, with sweeter caramel mocha notes coming towards the end. After each swallow there's a lingering bitterness on the inside of the cheeks leaving you in no doubt as to what just happened. Great stuff, I look forward to seeing more this in Cork.
And that was it. A short stay as always, but with so many casks and no real schedule for the weekend, planning for certain beers was just implausible. My only regret is passing up Rascal's Ginger Porter. Next time...
Hats off to the Franciscan Well for another fine festival. Roll on Easterfest!