In the morning we motored past the first of many Anglo-Norman Tower Houses of the 14th or 15th century. They represent yet another period of occupation of Ireland and seemed to me to be fascinating lumps of history, but our Irish colleagues almost dismissed them as, well, common really – not worthy of note.
At Cashel there is Cashel Rock, on which is a 12th century chapel in the Norman style,
and a 12th century round tower, only 28m tall (because its built on top of a high rock, so it didn’t need to be higher to give good long-distance views – to see danger coming and to communicate with distant neighbours). Between the two there is the remains of a 13th century cathedral with attached 15th century Bishop’s residential tower house.
On to Mitchelstown and the Eight Degrees Brewery, set up a year ago by Aussie Cam and New Zealander Scott who are in Ireland because they married Irish girls.
Their brewing kit was bought from the Carlow Brewery when Carlow expanded into their present premises – Irish micro-breweries are growing fast and expanding in number. Micro is becoming an inappropriate prefix for some, perhaps many. They brew four beers, bottle them all and sell in six packs of 330ml bottles.
We tried them all, and then a little more then they gave us an Eight egrees glass each and let us have a bottle of our favourite beer to take away. Now don’t go thinking that every tour will be so well treated – this was a first for Mia, a first for the brewers and a first for us. On the other hand the August tour will be pretty special as well – why not join it whilst there are still places (if there are!).
We moved to Cork, check into our hotel rooms and explore the town for a few hours before walking to out first Brew-pub – the Franciscan Well. On the site of an old Monastery, with an old monastery wall as one site boundary, and an ancient dipping well built into it. But the brewery is relatively new – 1998, set up by 3 guys, the original brewer being Russell Garrett of the Brooklyn Brewery. We heard this from our guide and present brewer Paudie Scully.
After 2 weeks conditioning, filtering to 1.1 microns, chilling and carbonating, the beers are kegged and delivered to about 32 bars, 11 in Dublin. At the moment they mash 11.5 hl at a time, and ferment in two 23hl tanks, but are soon to expand to bigger premises. Hectolitres seems to be the preferred unit of volume for these micro-breweries. Perhaps because eleven and a half hectolitres sounds more micro than eleven thousand five hundred litres?
The beers are:
Blarney Blonde – single malt, double hopped (Saaz and a.n.other), 4.3%.
Red Rebel – Biggest seller, 2% crystal malt, mildly hopped, 4.3%.
Purgatory Pale – Maris Otter malt, Admiral hops, not floral, malty, stored 3 months I think he said, 4.7%.
Stout – Dry and smokey, not chocolate, 4.2% (Murphy’s of Cork in style). Not one of Paudie’s favourites, ‘Why brew a stout to taste like one brewed by Heineken?’ he pondered. And we could have chorused, ‘In order to sell it to people brought up on Murphy’s’, but we did not.
Friar Weisse -Unfiltered wheat beer, 4.7%.
Paudie told us of his Home Brew Club based in the brewery. 12 members is ideal because they can finish a keg in an evening. Under his guidance they meet regularly to brew, and then meet regularly to drink. What a good idea.