Showing posts with label Craft Beer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Craft Beer. Show all posts

Monday, November 28, 2016

Franciscan Well's Shane Long: Now, we can!

Franciscan Well's Shane Long: Now, we can!


Shane Long at the launch

No shortage of craic in the Franciscan Well pub on the North Mall last week when the local brewer officially launched their new can range in Cork. Three of their favourites, all tried and tested, are available in the new format: Friar Weisse, Chieftain Pale Ale and Ireland’s number one* craft beer Franciscan Well Rebel Red

The announcement marks the first time Franciscan Well, which is brewed in Cork, has canned any of its beers and also the first time that Friar Weisse or Chieftain IPA will be available for purchase in off-licenses.

Founder of Franciscan Well, Shane Long (right): "The decision to move to a canned format reflects the growing trend internationally, whereby more and more craft beers are sold in 330ml can format. This is something that has been prevalent in the U.S. and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case as we roll out craft in a can for beer-lovers here in Ireland, making our award-winning range of beers even more accessible and readily available.” The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable.

All brewing and canning will take place at Franciscan Well’s new brewery in Cork City. The brewery opened last year, allowing for operational growth and further expansion for Ireland’s leading craft beer brand, while staying true to Franciscan Well’s proud history and identity as one of Ireland and Cork’s favourite craft beers. The nearby North Mall brew-pub and home of Franciscan Well will be used an innovation centre, while remaining a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

There was a pre-Christmas feel to the bar as we walked in to be welcomed with a choice of cans, of course. Must admit we both picked the Chieftain, a favourite here since it was launched. And later, I switched to draught and again couldn't resist that Chieftain! Next time, though I renewed acquaintance with the wheat beer, Friar Weisse, with is distinctive colour, aroma and flavour. The Friar (left) was one of my early Well favourites and, after the other night, it is going back on my short list.

It wasn't just beer on the night. The place was packed and there was music galore and no shortage of pizza either. Pompeii Pizza have a permanent place here and I saw why when I ordered one of their offerings, with  Chorizo and Mushroom toppings (€11.00). Enjoyed every little bit.

Check out the pizza, the music (including trad sessions), the tours and tastings on the website here. The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable. And keep up to date on their Facebook place.




*AC Nielsen ROI On-Trade MAT to end August 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Franciscan Well 16th Annual October Beer Festival. Some of the very best!

Franciscan Well October Beer Festival 
Some of the very best!


Is was all that jazz and all that beer too in Cork last weekend. My first outing of the weekend was to the Franciscan Well on North Mall where they had installed a great line-up of top class world beers, quite a few of them “rated amongst the top beers in the world”.

But where to start at this 16th annual October Beer Festival? Hard decision to make when you see some twenty or more taps in front of you. And that was just outside. Many more inside, including their own excellent beers. And they also introduced their own Craftail Bar. This is upstairs and is called the Stave and Chime and the cocktails are based mainly on Jameson whiskey and Franciscan beers.

But back to the outdoor heated beer tent where a decision had been made for our opening duo: Moinette Bio and Nicotto. The Nicotto (6%) is a Japanese style beer made by the Barcelona Beer Company, made with Sorachi (a hop of Japanese origin) and also includes green tea, jasmine and tangerine peel. A really superb beer, clean and fresh.

The Moinette Bio (7.5%) is, as you’ve probably guessed, an organic beer, really well balanced between mellowness, fruitiness and bitterness. This well struck combination is a real thirst quencher, more mellow than the Nicotto, another clean beer that finishes with a hint of clove.

Two good ones to start and the next pair, Rodenbach Caractere Rouge and Biere de Miel, continued the very high standard. The Rodenbach (7%) was possibly the stand out beer. It is billed as a red/brown sour and it is sour but also packs amazing fruitiness. The beer is macerated with fresh cherries, raspberries ad cranberries and, after that, is matured in oak barrels. Rodenbach have had a great deal of practice as the brewery was established in 1836.

The Biere de Miel (8%) is a honey saison. Don't let the honey put you iff. You’ll catch a pleasant whiff of it in the aromas and a delicate presence on the palate but this is a well balanced refreshing dry beer, again some clove on the finish. All good so far!

There were beers there from the UK, Germany, Spain (our 1st one), and the US, but we were mainly on the Belgians and that was the case with the next two. One was the St Bernardus ABT 12 and the other the Houblon Chouffe.

The Barnardus (10%) is a quadrupel, full of complex flavours, great fruit and with a superb finish. It is regarded as one of the best beers in the world and would put many a wine to shame. In this context, quadrupel means it is stronger than a tripel which is stronger than a duppel!

As it happens our Houblon (9%) is a tripel IPA and another very good one. I must say, the beer descriptions on the Franciscan Well leaflet were pretty much spot-on and I agreed one hundred per cent with their take on this well balanced tripel: big malty body, distinct dryness, and expressive estery fruitiness.


And to finish? I had been thinking about two from the dark side until tempted by a cocktail from upstairs: the well named O’Sullivan’s Sour. O’Sullivan was the chieftain that gave the land to the Franciscan monks back in the day and, of course, the Chieftain Pale Ale is in the lovely mix. It is made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, grenadine syrup, and topped off with the IPA. Colourful and delightful, a lovely end to a very interesting and rewarding session indeed.



Friday, October 7, 2016

If Any Beer Can, Franciscan Well Can!



If Any Beer Can, Franciscan Well Can!
Ireland’s favourite craft beer now available in can

During last weekend’s Dingle Food Festival, I called into the craft beer tent, at the back of Geaney's Bar in Main Street, last Saturday afternoon and was immediately at home as the first stall was that of the Franciscan Well. They were showing their new cans, three of my favourite beers all wrapped up and looking good and shiny.


But I delayed testing the cans as they also had the beers on tap and we enjoyed a Rebel Red (by now a veteran, a veteran that has stood the test of time!) and Chieftain IPA. By the way, I noted the Rebel Red was very popular in Dick Mack's pub during the previous evening. The Rebel and the Chieftain are now available in cans along with the Friar Weisse. The cans will be sold in retailers and off-licences across Ireland, with selected bars also stocking the products.

The announcement marks the first time Franciscan Well, which is brewed in Cork, has canned any of its beers and also the first time that Friar Weisse or Chieftain IPA will be available for purchase in off-licenses.

Acknowledging the rising consumer demand for delicious, flavoursome craft beer in a canned format, founder of Franciscan Well, Shane Long, has spear-headed the move which demonstrates the progressive and innovative thinking which has underlined the success of the Cork-based brewery over the past 18 years.

Commenting on the launch, Shanesaid: “This is a very exciting development for Franciscan Well. Taste and quality are among our core beliefs and we always prioritise ways to ensure that these core traits are present in the beer we create. The decision to move to a canned format reflects the growing trend internationally, whereby more and more craft beers are sold in 330ml can format. This is something that has been prevalent in the U.S. and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case as we roll out craft in a can for beer-lovers here in Ireland, making our award-winning range of beers even more accessible and readily available.”

All brewing and canning will take place at Franciscan Well’s new brewery in Cork City. The brewery opened last year, allowing for operational growth and further expansion for Ireland’s leading craft beer brand, while staying true to Franciscan Well’s proud history and identity as one of Ireland and Cork’s favourite craft beers. The nearby North Mall brew-pub and home of Franciscan Well will be used an innovation centre, while remaining a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

This decision from the award-winning Cork Brewery is in keeping with internationally recognized best practice for freshness and taste, with cans providing superior product packaging quality and recyclability.
Yes. We can.

The introduction of the Franciscan Well can range also highlights Franciscan Well’s commitment to offering fans a more accessible and convenient means to enjoy the award-winning range in the comfort of their own homes. They protect and preserve the taste of the beer, which is considered a telling feature by the Franciscan Well brewers. They are also lightweight and portable, meaning they are easier for consumers to enjoy in more places and for bars and off licences to display. The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable.

“We are very excited about this latest innovation for Franciscan Well, coming as it does less than a year after the opening of our new brewery in Cork,” said Shane Long. “Since its introduction, craft beer in a can has proven extremely popular with consumers. It is a very handy, portable way of consuming the beer and one that preserves the taste better than any other. We are delighted to be able to offer consumers the chance to enjoy our award winning beers in an increasingly popular format in the comfort of their own home.”

In addition to the launch of its all new canned beer offering, Franciscan Well has also introduced a newly redesigned brand logo.

Shane continued: “The new logo more clearly reflects the provenance of the brand and its roots in Cork. The new identity and logo retains the strength of the previous logo, while emphasizing that this is very firmly an Irish beer which was established in Cork and which is still brewed there. We believe that the heritage of Franciscan Well is extremely important and it is something we are very proud of.

“The new brand logo positions Franciscan Well as an authentic Craft brewery from Cork, Ireland. The archway is a new devise that has been created to highlight a strong sense of place, that is welcoming and which captures the unrivalled heritage associated with the brewery founding site along with the welcoming aspect of our range of beers.”



*AC Nielsen ROI On-Trade MAT to end August 2016

Post based on press release


Sunday, September 4, 2016

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo. Visit to the Connacht Distillery

On Whiskey Trail in Mayo
Visit to the new Connacht Distillery
Connacht Distillery
Last weekend, after a drive from Donegal, we made it just  in time to take the 12.30pm tour of the new Connacht Distillery in Ballina, County Mayo. What else would you be doing on a Sunday morning!

Aside from a spanking new distillery, you need water, barley and yeast to make whiskey. Connacht get their water, clean water, from Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. Lots of iron and calcium in the water so it has to be demineralised before being used in the distilling process.

The malted barley, having come through the milling stage, meets up with the warmed water in the boiler tank. This liquid-y mix is called the mash and is put into the mash tun, another tank.  The sugar, from the barley, dissolves and is drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. The resulting liquid is called 'wort'. Lautering is the next process, in the third tank (the Lauter tun), and here the mash is separated into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain.
Now we are on to the three wash vats, all stainless steel. Here, the yeast is added and begins to act on the sugar in the wort, turning it into alcohol over a period of two to four days. This wash is low in alcohol, much the same as that of wine.

Our guide now enthusiastically points to their three gleaming stills, which were made in Victoria, Canada. They have different necks which influence character and texture etc. The first tank is called Wash; the alcohol evaporates up the neck and leaves this tank at about 20% abv.

On then to the Feint tank where the process is repeated and the alcohol increases, this time to about 35%. The final, the third, tank is called the Spirit. Irish whiskeys are traditionally triple distilled. When the Spirit has done its work, the liquid, still clear (no colour) has an abv of about 70%!
Ballina last Sunday (28.08.16)
You’ve heard of flying winemakers. Well Connacht’s distiller Rob runs two distilleries in Pennsylvania and flies over regularly to Ballina. He also sources the oak casks which are charred and impart flavour and colour and in which the Connacht whiskey will be matured. The casks are made in Kentucky and are ex-Bourbon. All bottling is done here, all by hand.

Like many new distilleries, Connacht makes some white spirits to get the cash flow going while waiting the mandatory three years (and a day) for the whiskey. They are planning their gin and there will be some interesting botanicals included! The Poitin was due to be bottled the day after our visit but we did get a taste of their smooth Straw Boys Vodka. This wheat based drink is good and smooth, with a hint of  pepper in the aftertaste. The Straw Boys are a Mayo tradition, a sign of luck if they turn up at your wedding. “They are all about fun and getting the party going!”.

You will have to wait until 2019 to taste their own whiskey but in the meantime, they have been putting their own finish to a bought-in whiskey. It is called Spade and Bushel (after the tools of the trade) and is light amber in colour, smooth and sweet, hints of caramel and a “great after dinner drink”. No bother agreeing with that. Be careful with it though. One thing that sets this apart is that it is a cask strength whisky with an abv of 57.5%! It comes in a 37.5cl bottle.
The Straw Boys love a party
 When their own whiskey comes on the market, it will feature a rather special logo, a Celtic Dragon with a bunch of corn stalks in his claw.


There is another distillery starting up in Mayo, the Nephin, named after the county’s famous mountain. This is different. They are creating peated single malts made in a small Mayo village using locally grown barley, locally cut turf and triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills, then matured in unique casks handcrafted in their own cooperage. Must call there the next time!

My base for the night was the Grand National Hotel Ballina. They have a rather large bar and I was disappointed, considering the amount of breweries around the county, that they had no craft beer. Luckily, I spotted a Jameson Whiskey menu on the counter and spent an enjoyable hour or two sampling.


The new Connacht distillery. A new Greenway, from Ballina to Killala, starts alongside it.
The favourite was the Powers John's Lane Release at €9.00 a glass. The drop of water, the only other thing needed, was free! There is an abundance of aromas - don't stick your nose into the glass - just hover above it; it is full bodied, spicy and sweet and has a lingering finish. Think this is my new number one!

And if I can't get it, I’ll go for the Yellow Spot 12 Years Old, another single pot still whiskey, another smooth sweet customer at €9.50 a glass. It is complete from start to long finish with a distinctive sweetness at all stages. Sophisticated and complex they say. And it sure is. Reckon the Mayo distillery, indeed all new distilleries, have a fight on their hands. Perhaps, the best way to go about it is to avoid the direct collision and find your own niche.

Great for us customers though to have the choice!
Beers from the local Reel Deal
Aside from pulling a blank in the Ballina Hotel, craft beers, especially in bottle, were easy enough to find during this quick trip to Donegal Town and Ballina. Kinnegar Brewing and Donegal Brewing were available in The Harbour Restaurant in Quay Street in Donegal. And beers from the same two breweries were enjoyed over in the Village Tavern in Mountcharles. Last call in Donegal was the Olde Castle where the restaurant were offering their own beer called, appropriately, Red Hugh, and brewed in the county.

Ballina had started well enough with a couple of decent beers, the Irish Blonde amber ale and the General Humber French fusion ale, both by Mayo’s Reel Deel and both available in bottle in the upstairs restaurant of the lively Bar Square in Garden Street. And then came the blank in the hotel. The joys of researching. Still the whiskeys were a considerable consolation!
Killala, known to M. Humbert

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FX Buckley. Exquisite Steak in Dublin City

FX Buckley
Exquisite Steak in Dublin City
No shortage of beef here!


Ended up with James Joyce in Dublin the week before last.

Just name-dropping, really. I was in the FX Buckley Steakhouse in Pembroke Street, another Dublin institution, and had just finished an exquisite steak dish. No room for dessert but certainly room and inclination for their James Joyce cocktail made with Powers Pot Still Whiskey, Triple Sec, Rosso Vermouth and lime juice.

Francis Xavier Buckley opened his first butcher shop on Moore Street in 1930 and this soon became a well-known Dublin institution. Since then it was part of a natural progression to open their own steakhouses around the city and serve their famous beef from their butchers to your table. You’ll find them in Pembroke St.,  Crow St.,  Ryan's Parkgate St.,  Bull & Castle (near Dublin Castle) and at The Pub @ FXB Monkstown.

With large glass-fronted fridges behind me, I thought my 8 ounce fillet looked a bit lonely on the plate with its little pot of pepper sauce (30.00). Of course, I could have had ordered a larger size or more sides than just their Beef Dripping Chips. But is was perfect. Exquisitely so. Tender and full of flavour and big enough too, a succulent sufficiency. And those chips. Must be the best around!
Meanwhile, CL was tucking into her Six ounce medallions of fillet beef, served with spring onion mash, shallots, mushroom and red wine jus (23.00). With all the steak dishes, you can order extra sides.

The Irish “grass-fed heritage steaks” are normally Angus or Hereford but from time to time, they may have Dexter or Irish Moiled meat available. All will have been aged for 28 days by the time they reach your plate.

The only steak that features on the A La Carte starter list is the Fillet Steak tartare. There are some great choices here including Black Pudding Croquette; Carlingford Lough Oysters; Asparagus, poached egg and Hollandaise; Foie Gras and Duck liver Paté.
CL was delighted with her Kilkeel Harbour Scallops, served with a Buckley black-pudding, with crushed mint peas and hollandais (13.50). A terrific combination with, surprisingly, the peas playing a starring role.

My choice was the FX Buckley cured salmon blini, with chive crème fraîche and mustard honey dressing (9.50). Went through that one fairly quickly, I can tell you, very tasty indeed.

What to drink? We had been at a wine-tasting that afternoon so settled on beer in Buckley’s. The fact that they have their own ale helped. It was a nice one too though I preferred the large bottle of O’Hara’s Pale Ale. By the way, there is no shortage of wine here. It is a massive list with the reds in the majority, some very expensive, some very affordable.

And no shortage of cocktails either. When it came to making up my mind, I decided to stick with the locals and Mr Joyce. And I enjoyed his company very much indeed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Three Canned By Rascal’s. Each Beer Worth A Try

Three Canned By Rascal’s
Each Beer Worth A Try
Rascal’s Yankee White IPA, 5%
A bold Irish beer? Well, I think this cloudy wheat beer is more about balance than out and out bold! None the worse for that though. And it seems they agree: “Yankee White IPA has all the complex hop flavour of an IPA and is finely balanced with the bright flavour of a wheat beer.” A gorgeous balance indeed, a fine beer and Very Highly Recommended.

Rascal’s Big Hop Red, 5%
Lively, piney, zesty, they say. And so it is. It is also majorly hoppy for a red ale but again the balance is good as is the final result. That extra hop kick comes because the ale has been dry hopped and that has added zesty flavour as well as the piney aroma. Attractive in all aspects, this award winner is Very Highly Recommended.

Rascal’s Ginger Porter, 4.8%
The first thing you notice here is the can itself. It is not glossy like the others but has a kind of matte finish which gives you a good grip! This is a smooth dark ale and a pleasant one. They rate it as medium bodied. It has a pleasant caramel-bar flavour on the palate and in the finish. Not as creamy as a good stout but well worth a try and Highly Recommended.

Speaking of stout, just sipping away from a bottle of Lynch's Stout as I finish this. Quite like this one and quite proud of it too as it's made a few hundred yards away from me by the lads in the Cotton Ball Brewing Company and is of course available in the bar of the Cotton Ball itself on draught. Their Kerry Lane Pale ale was a gold medal winner in Blas last October.

I got my three Rascal's in Bradley’s (North Main Street, Cork). For other stockists around the country, please check here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Taste of the Week. Vienna Lager by Elbow Lane.

Taste of the Week
Elbow Lane Meeting House, Vienna Lager 5.4%, Bradley’s of North Main Street


Elbow Lane may have “breached” the German Beer Purity law here but when that extra ingredient is love, well it is easy to forgive! And this Vienna Lager, a collaborative effort with the famed Bradley’s of North Main Street, is a winner, copper in colour, rich in flavour, well balanced and with a pleasant smoothness all through. It is a seasonal offering, brewed for the festival on the horizon. You may need to move quickly to get your hands on some as it is a "very limited" edition.


Not only does the love come from Cork. Some freshly picked hop flowers from Elbow Lane's garden were added to the German Perle and Herzbrucker hops and the Munich and Vienna malt.

Three men are credited on the label: Michael Creedon of Bradley’s, Russell Garet the Elbow Lane brewer, and David Dempsey who came up with the name (after a lane near Bradley’s). I like the bottle too and its long neck. Now better head on down town and get some more of our Taste of the Week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Son of a Bun know their Beef. In the Pink!

Son of a Bun know their Beef.
From the Start, to the Finish in Pink!

Niall, with yours truly
Son of a Bun, the new bright and airy burger place in McCurtain Street, know their beef, their key ingredient. Niall O’Regan, who launched the venue last night, told me he is from Bandon and the beef comes from an Irish Aberdeen Angus beef herd near the West Cork town, via butcher Dan Maloney who has his own abattoir. It is minced onsite in Son of a Bun everyday.

“The Son of a Bun motto is simple: sourced locally, minced daily and cooked pink. We believe that pink is the best way to serve a burger – and we guarantee that once you taste our burgers, you will feel the same way too,” he added.

And it makes for a brilliant burger, one that is served pink (unless of course you state otherwise). It is moist and tender, full of flavour and absolutely delicious, no two ways about it.

And it is flipping big! Niall’s wife Amanda took us through the menu as the guests gathered and the music played under the ceilingless roof. There are almost a dozen burgers on offer: the Cheese, the Stack, the Chilli, the Black, the Skinny, the Veggie and so on, most at under a tenner.

The mighty Rebel
 “Everything on our menu - our sides, fries, dips and chips – even our desserts are all homemade and prepared fresh every day. We think that it is important to know that everything is carefully selected which is why our beef and chicken are sourced locally and our eggs are all free range,” she said.

CL couldn't resist the Son of a Bun Burger. This is the CV: six ounce hamburger, cheddar cheese, smoked streaky bacon, shredded iceberg, tomato, crispy fried onions and SOB sauce. Mega and fantastic, especially when you add a pot of skinny chips!

Me? Well I spotted the Burger of the Month and went for that. This power-packed Rebel is armed for the teeth with that sensational 6 ounce burger (pink, of course), American cheese, pickles, crispy fried onions, streaky bacon, jalapenos, and mayonnaise. And on the side, a dish of chunky cut chips. Mega stuff. Not a crumb of mince, of anything, left on either plate.

They have a few small things to nibble while you wait including Nachos, chips and dips, and the bowl of mixed olives (three different types) that we choose. And they have a decent selection of salads and sides as well, something for everyone.

Guilty, as charged!
 And if you’d like a pint of craft beer with your burger, then you've come to the right place. We enjoyed draft Franciscan Well, Chieftain for me, Rebel Red for her but they have even more in bottles (including Stag Ban and Black Lightning) and I also noticed bottles of Stonewell cider there.

Now for the guilty part. I'd better confess. We each ended up with a massive Knickerbocker Glory, layer after layer of cream, ice-cream, fresh fruit, fruit coulis and the cherry on top. Sweet dreams after all that!

Niall and Amanda established their first restaurant, Niall’s, in Bandon in 2002. That was followed by the opening of the Coffee Pod on Lapps Quay, Cork in 2006 and by the Coffee Pod on Winthrop Street, Cork in 2007.

Amazing how McCurtain Street has gradually emerged as a food street, established restaurant stars such as Greene’s and Isaac's and everything from coffee shops and tea shops, to subways and ethnic, and now the Son of a Bun, the new kid on the block, a beautiful noise emerging from where the famed Crowley’s Music Shop stood for decades.

Son of a Bun
29 MacCurtain Street, Cork
021 450 8738
Twitter: @sonofabuncork
Facebook: sonofabuncork
Open every day from 12 noon until 10pm.
Home cooking: Amanda and Niall

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Porterhouse Hop It Up. Taste of the Week

Porterhouse Hop It Up
Taste of the Week

The Porterhouse brewers have come up with a cool winner in their new Double Hopped Pale Ale which they've called Hopped the F**K.

The spin says “.....double hopped extreme pale ale”. “So hoppy it will poke your eye out” is another line I've been reading.

It was launched in Dublin last Wednesday and I tasted it last Friday in Porterhouse Cork and the only way extreme comes into the equation is that it is extremely good. And don't worry about your eyesight, the double hops and double alcohol have been handled very well and the beer is beautifully balanced. The attractive aromas and even more attractive flavours are all under control, no rough edges, all smooth and clean and a pleasure to sip. And the finish rolls on and on, a better finish than many wines, class in a glass. Very Highly Recommended.

I used the highly regarded and well established Brewdog Punk Ale (it also uses multiple hops) as a “control” here and the new Hopped to F**K beat it out of sight. I had started with the Porterhouse and, perhaps, the gulf between the two might not have seemed as large had I began with the Punk.

A variety of hops has been used.  Belma and Bravo, for a clean bitter character, Cascade and Centennial to add aroma, Simcoe and Citra to generate a hefty hop nose and aromatic character. With notes of mandarin, orange and citrus with some tropical fruits, Hopped the F**K is 8.5% ABV and deceptive in its strength, a firm fist in a velvet glove.

James Brown Brews Chocolate Orange Stout, 5% abv, Bradley’s of North Main Street.
Very pleasant stout, chocolate for sure and the characters morphs towards caramel at the dry finish. Maybe you'll find the orange - I didn’t. Excellent stout though, especially for a first try. It tends more towards the traditional than the label’s “off the wall”. Already a medal winner and recommended.

Monday, July 27, 2015

36 Hours in West Cork. Not that I was counting!

36 Hours in West Cork
Not that I was counting!


Baltimore sunset
I was thinking of Garrett Oliver, master brewer at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery, while I was eating lunch at Union Hall’s Coffee Shop last Thursday. Garrett related at the Ballymaloe LitFest how people, on first drinking one of his beers, tell him that it is so good it doesn't taste like beer. Garrett tells them, with some satisfaction, that what they have been drinking before is not real beer.

Well, here in Union Hall, our first call on our most recent trip to West Cork, I was eating real panini. I’m sure there are other good paninis out there but it is superb here, like nothing I've ever tasted before. It was packed with chicken, brie and pesto, all adding up to great flavours and terrific textures.
Panini
 The menu is short here as you'd expect but quality is high. And that is underlined with CL’s Quiche of Roast peppers, feta, Ballymaloe Relish. After that and a good cup of coffee we were on our way.


Having been in West Cork regularly, particularly this year, I were looking for one or two different things to see and do. West Cork obliged. Big time.


Graveyard on Myross Island
 After the Coffee Shop, we headed for Myross Island and found it. Drove up the narrow road to the graveyard which has terrific views over the Atlantic, including the nearby Rabbit Island. Next call was to Reen Pier where we ran into Jim Kennedy. He runs Atlantic Sea-kayaking and has his base here in this beautiful place.


We got some great views of it as we took the narrow road, rising up above the water, heading for a bridge that would take us to the other side and down to the peace and calm of Castletownsend with its distinguishing tree in the middle of the street, acting as a roundabout.

On the road above Reen Pier
 Baltimore was our destination for the night but there would be another stop or two on the way. First was the amazing Lough Hyne (the unusual seawater lough) and it was quite busy with many enjoying the sunshine, sitting around, swimming in the clear waters and others walking on the wooded hill above and getting fantastic views over the coast.


After all that activity, I felt we deserved a drink and knew just where to get it. On the way into Baltimore, we stopped at Casey’s Hotel. They have recently opened a microbrewery here and some of their Sherkin Lass Pale Ale went down a treat in the beautiful beer garden that overlooks the waters of Baltimore. They also do a red ale.


Rolling hills of West Cork
 Time then to check in at our accommodation. This was in Rolf’s. The Haffner family have been here for over twenty five years and their restaurant, where we enjoyed a terrific dinner at night, is well known. It is a great place to stay too, a fine and friendly base for the area.


In the morning, we were down on the pier, hoping to get a place on one of the boats going out to see the dolphins and, hopefully, a whale or two. But we had no luck. The lesson here is to book in advance.


Castletownsend
 So off we went to the Sheep's Head peninsula and stopped at the car park high in Seefin. We were almost sun-burned here a few months earlier but this day turned cloudy for a while and a strong wind greeted us as we climbed along the marked trail on top of the ridge. We got as far as the megalithic tomb before deciding to turn back. Not the best of days up there but still well worth the effort.


Down then to Old Creamery Cafe in Kilcrohane. This is a spanking clean spot with a menu of sandwiches, paninis, and salads and some home baking. We went for tea and some of that baking. I picked a Raspberry and Lemon Curd Sponge and those raspberries, fresh from the garden, were spectacularly juicy.


Courtyard garden at Rolf's
Refreshed now, we drove up the other side of this spectacular peninsula, heading for Durrus. Our stop though was at Ahakista to pay our respects to the three hundred plus victims of the Air India bombing disaster twenty years ago. Quite a few mementos, mainly wreaths, scattered here since the commemoration last June. Such a waste of life, such sadness.
Megalithic tomb on Sheep's Head
The sun was out as we headed over to Schull to see Walter Ryan-Purcell of Loughbeg Farm (now an open farm that you may visit). Walter, his wife and son, were up in Schull and we met them outside the Bunratty Inn, a gorgeous sun trap! Walter is well known in food circles and great to see the success Loughbeg is enjoying with their Oat Loaf. Look out for it in your local SuperValu.

Sweet! Old Creamery Cafe
 Down then to the pier and we were tempted by the fish dishes on offer at L’Escale but had a date in Rosscarbery and, after a walk on the path alongside the harbour in Schull, we headed for Pilgrim’s in Ross. Hadn't been there before, but is is easy to find as it is right smack bang in the centre of the village.

Ahakista's Air India memorial
 We were pleasantly surprised by the very high standard of the food here, a standard that many high class restaurants would find hard to match. We thoroughly enjoyed our few hours in Pilgrim’s before motoring back to the city.

Schull