We start May on the Destrier in the same way we finished that distant geological age of March in real life; at the Franciscan Well Easterfest.
As is customary with this sort of thing, the visit was brief and to-the-point, and on this occasion, meant that I found myself lingering for the entirety of said visit in the far corner of the garden-spanning L-shaped bar.
|I Am A Berliner|
Not to worry, though, because here is where I found UCC's Pilot Brewery, who only show up to this event every year, and they were pouring the perfect starter. I Am A Berliner is a delicious dark Berliner weisse that does give flashes of dark malt and milky smoothness to accompany an otherwise straightforward clean, lactic acid attack, with a bigger body than its joyous 2.9% deserves. Good stuff.
Turning to my left I got to try a Kinnegar special that has managed to evade me in the past and that I have renewed interest in, thanks to Yankee. In truth, White Rabbit has nothing like the drinkability of that beer but is an interesting sipper nonetheless, with big, coarse wheaty stuff opening for spicy, crunchy, herbal bitterness that tells of lupuline effort which, for me, doesn't reach any New World fruit expression fast enough.
Rotating to the right, I find myself facing Trouble Brewing's bar. Trouble have been churning out some seriously punchy hoppy stuff on draught for the past year or two and with a passionfruit lager on the go, appeared intent on continuing this theme at the festival. Last Crash it's called, and it immediately and unsurprisingly smells of sweet fruit juice; passionfruit, yes, but also a more-pleasant-than-it-sounds strawberry syrup and raspberry. It's light and fresh for all this, so it doesn't go anywhere close to the sort of sugary cloying effect you might expect from reading my notes. In fact, the finish turns with a tang to fullsome grain and slightly husky lemon bitters, gleefully mopping up any residual sugar and drying it out before it does anything it might regret. This is a refreshing fruit bomb, and not at all in the way that I expected from Trouble.
Now in the mood to stay at this section of bar, I go for Evil Robot, Trouble's American amber of the day, and I'm treated to a big American nose; sharp and zesty citrus to the fore but to taste it's a more round, slick and well-textured experience. What strikes me is the full on, intense and almost raw way in which this beer shows off its hops - this is green, bitter and leafy to go along with the juicy fruit, and while it isn't as sure-footed and expressive as some of Trouble's better recent output it certainly makes you stand up and pay attention.
Taken aback some, I return next door to the shelter of UCC's exclusively old-world stylings where I find one of my favourite styles under the name Gael Marzen Beoir. Ostensibly a Märzen, it pours pale yellow-gold and is utterly wonderful. To put it simply: clean straw with a touch of malty golden syrup sweetness before a bright, ever so slightly bitter finish. There's no clunky malt, no pillowy grain, no marshmallow doughiness, just a refreshing, respectable clean lager that could just as well pass for a very good (if a bit full) Helles. More satisfying, tasty stuff from UCC, and probably my standout beer of the day. I knew at this point I'd be back, but not before working up the ABV scale.
To that end I venture south to find Metalman's Spring saison brewed with lemon peel, thyme and pink peppercorns. If that sounds weird - yes, it is pretty weird. Not wholly unpleasant to be fair, but I prefer my saisons dry and thirst-quenching, not tasting like glycerine honey and lemon.
Beside this is the Metalman's new IPA, Ironmonger. A dark coppery red, this doesn't immediately look the part of my kind of IPA, a fear realised on tasting; it's heavily malty and quite bitter throughout, but lacks any meaningful hop expression. Disappointing from the brewer behind plenty of good hoppy beer.
From there to Whiplash, the new brand from Alex Lawes, brewer of good hoppy stuff from Rye River. Before we get to the hoppy stuff, though, Scaldy Porter. At 5.5% this shouldn't be as rich and thick as it is; blackstrap molasses on the nose with a big palate of coffee, dark chocolate and coarse, dry bitterness to finish. It's a sipper that's easy to appreciate but hard to love.
Easier to love is Surrender to the Void, a DIPA of 8.5%. It's got sweet and juicy pineapple and mango in spades, alongside bittersweet mandarin and orange skins - delicious. There's a savoury turn right at the finish and, while there's no real heat from the ABV, there's a slick, slightly sticky body that for me, discourages over enthusiastic sipping to get to that juicy centre. Still, very good stuff from a brewery (own kit to come) I look forward to seeing more of.
And finally, we finish where we began, back at the students' hangout with the UCC Pilot Brewery and their Season of the Witch saison. At 8.7% it's well above what I'd usally like for the style but thankfully drinks well for that strength. Still, there's a touch too much syrupy sweetness, while the wheaty, grainy body is just about right. Low esters and flashes of lemon add some spice to proceedings.
On that good, if quiet, note, it was time to call it a day.