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You’d like a craft beer? An Irish gin or whiskey? Live Music? A play? A Brew Club? Good Food (great choice and price)? Get them all under one roof at the outstanding White Horse at the western end (the final roundabout!) of Ballincollig. I remember, in 1966/7, seeing this as a stand-alone country pub with briars growing up around the hanging metal sign that proclaimed the name. Some changes since!
While on a visit there during the recent Cork Burger Festival, I promised myself I'd go back and check out the general menu, everything from a steak to a Vegetable Moussaka, from a Malaysian Monkfish Curry to Bangers and Mash. Not just any old bangers either, these are by Kanturk's Jack McCarthy, one of quite a few local producers supported by the bar.
Other suppliers include Eight Degrees and White Gypsy Brewing, Baldwin’s Ice-cream, Pana Bread, Badger & Dodo Coffee and all their burgers are made of local beef. And burgers aren't just for the festival, they have four on the regular menu including exotically named ones the General Cleburne and the Seoul Food Burger!
It seems to be a very popular spot indeed; we called in midweek on both occasions and the place was nearly full by 6.45pm. There are about 17 main course options, not including the daily specials on the boards.
My pick this time was the Malaysian Monkfish Curry: Monkfish medallions poached in a fragrant coconut curry with pak choi, ginger and lemongrass and served with steamed basmati rice. This was a warm creamy delight, aromatic and full of contrasting textures (€16.95).
CL’s Vegetable Moussaka was another warm and filling dish:layers of chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables, puy lentils and ricotta cheese steeped in a rich tomato sauce and served with pitta and hummus and a large salad with chunks of Feta as well. Took a while to get through that (12.50).
Of course, we did have two excellent starters as well, again from a big selection. Mine was the perfectly cooked Chilli Salted Calamari, “dusted delicacies with salad tossed in a Caesar dressing and roasted red pepper and tomato jam”.
CL too was thrilled with her opener: Chicken Satay Skewer (tender strips of Satay marinated chicken with a well dressed salad of carrot strips, peppers and onions). Both starters cost €7.50. Desserts - we didn't go there! - are mainly €5.95 and include Crunchie Cheesecake (a Friday favourite!), Creme Brûlée and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
And my craft beer on the night came from Tipperary. White Gypsy’s Weiss Bier is more or less a favourite of mine at this stage. No live music on the night - Saturday for that. But it has its own music venue upstairs with regular performances by local and visiting acts and here too you can get to see the occasional piece of theatre. Not too sure where the Brew Club hangs out in this many roomed venue - I may track them down on the next visit to this lively spot where the service is both efficient and friendly!
Made an early visit to the Franciscan Well Beer Festival this Saturday afternoon and took my chance to sample some of the newer brews before the crowds started to roll in on this sunny day.
Last year, the Lynch brothers from Mayfield’s Cotton Ball were on the outside of the ring; this time, Eoin and Humphrey were serving their own beers including their latest. This is called Indian Summer and is quite a lovely drink for the days ahead, a mix of lager ingredients and an ale yeast.
Not to be outdone, the now well established Eight Degrees also had new one on offer, the Full Irish, a strong 100 per cent Irish Malt ale. I've had a sneak preview of the publicity shots for this one. X is the letter that springs to mind! Think Full Monty!
Blacks of Kinsale were promising a surprise for later in the afternoon when a special set-up will allow them to add fresh hops (a new one called Equinox) at the very last moment to Kinsale Pale Ale. Can't get fresher than that. Try that and don’t forget to sample their Beoir #1
Beers from new Connemara brewery available at Bradley's, North Main Street, Cork.
Great to meet up with Jamie from White Gypsy and his innovative beers. Tried his lovely refreshing Wheat beer, the beer you need after walking round, Bavarian in style but Irish “engineered”. The 5.2% Pilsner isn't half bad either. White Gypsy are growing their own hops this year and are also hoping that more and more restaurants will offer a craft beer as an alternative to wine.
The gregarious Mountain Man was another brewer I had not met before and he explained that his Hairy Goat was an English Style IPA with a lowish ABV. Nothing low though about the ABV of its American cousin, the 7.5% Crazy Horse. Well worth a try.
Micro-breweries just keep popping up around the country and next up was JJ's from County Limerick. This was their first outing and the 4.8% Pils lager promised much, especially as this is their very first beer.
aAnd another newcomer, the 9 White Deer Brewery from Ballyvourney, was also making its debut. Gordon Lucey tells me their hops, including Amarillo, Cascade and Fast Gold, comes from all over the world but the "mystical" water is local as is the yeast. This will soon be on sale in 500ml bottles and watch out for other beers, including a stout.
Nice to chat with Caroline of Eight Degrees and also with Claire from Dungarvan Brewing Company. I always enjoy the Dungarvan beers and tried a couple this time: their wheat beer and their Comeragh Challenge Irish Bitter. Had a preference for the former but isn't that what craft beer is all about. Great to have the choice. Long may the craft revolution continue!
The Franciscan Well Festival continues until late this Saturday evening and is on again tomorrow Sunday with soakage provided by the on site pizza maker! Enjoy.
White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel, 8% abv, Bradley's, North Main Street, Cork.
The best craft brewer in Ireland? Heard
that kind of praise for Tipperary’s White Gypsy recently. Not too long afterwards,
I took a sup of this one. Wow!
It is mouth friendly, taste buds all
quickly awake. No shortage of flavours, even a little spiciness, but the very
friendly contact spells not excess but a smooth sophistication. Cool for sure
but also strong.
The whole package, including the 8% abv
and the 75cl bottle size, is aimed at food matching and White Gypsy says this
is "an excellent choice for grilled oily fish like tuna or salmon". Would
Dubbel is "now understood to be a
fairly strong (6 to 8% abv) brown ale, with understated bitterness, fairly
heavy body and a pronounced fruitiness and cereal character. Example: Chimay
Other White Gypsy reviews,
including the excellent Russian Imperial Stouthere.
American Pale Ale, 7.5%, 75cl bottle, €7.99 Bradley’s
Dark amber colour and a really bitter taste. Sufficient initial head soon reduces to a thin lacy cover. A really good balance of malt and hops (which they grow themselves). The bitterness doesn’t make your mouth pucker but it is obvious enough in the dry finish. Good body, made for food, and should perform ably at the table. Maybe that’s why I served it in a Reidel glass!
Tipperary Brewery White Gypsy, where Cuilan Loughnane is owner and brewer, intends this ale, one of a series of four beers, as a food beer and Cuilan says this is great with spicy dishes and grilled chicken. So you might well see it in restaurants in the near future and that would be no bad thing.